Published February 14, 2020
I volunteer a considerable amount of my time at Skyline Elementary. I’ve been doing it for most of the past decade there and at Mountain View before it closed. As a volunteer there is a lot of information that I am not privy to that may explain and possibly justify some of the changes I’ve seen. That said, there are issues in our schools that I find disturbing.
In recent years, mental health professionals have been increasingly concerned with the impact of screen time on children’s social & psychological development. Educators everywhere can point to children whose obsession with screens and the content presented there negatively impact the educational process. I’ve certainly seen it over and over again in the students I’ve been supporting.
Education is a highly social activity especially in the elementary and middle school years. Educator’s have always recognized that it is necessary to have a solid knowledge of a student’s capabilities, deficits, and personality to successfully establish a learning environment for that student. Computer screens interfere with the essential relationship between student and teacher.
In addition to this basic issue with screens, the support needed to maintain networks and computers in a school environment is exceptionally high because the equipment itself is being handled by beings that lack the full understanding of what is required to properly utilize or maintain it. Kid’s break things. The number of hours sucked up trying to troubleshoot each student’s problems in dealing with technology is insane and often beyond the capabilities of teachers and students. In the time constrained world of education every minute lost to issues that don’t contribute to a child’s learning is time forever lost.
I personally have come to the conclusion that using computers in elementary school is counter productive. I’m not sure where they should be introduced but I am thinking high school would be where they would be most appropriate. Maybe limited use in the middle schools.
State and Federal education mandates often border on the insane. In their efforts to defend the individual, they created situations where the learning process of an entire class is interrupted by the forced inclusion of disruptive students. Yes, no one wants to harm a child, physically or psychologically. Yet the cumulative impact of disruptive students on the classroom is damaging to the rest of the students and creates an experience of disproportionate power for the disrupter.
Additionally, the burden placed on our educators to document disciplinary/behavioral issues/incidents has mushroomed into such a monumental bureaucracy that they are rapidly collapsing under the weight of it and it’s seeming inability to effect observable change in the classroom. We need a school district that identifies insane mandates, tells the public about them, and fights to restore rational systems.
People talk when they are at work and I hear a lot of distrust of the administration in our district. I’ve heard that there are more and more staff at the district level to little effect. No bureaucracy wants to be subjected to scrutiny. Perhaps the public needs to investigate some of the issues that lie at the core of this distrust.
I can’t help wondering what would happen if our school district could somehow create instructional classes that numbered no more than 12 plus or minus one or two students. We know from sociological studies that group dynamics undergo big changes when you cross certain thresholds. Individuals act out more as group size increases, promoting disruptive behavior in children whose needs are not being adequately met. The level of noise, off task behavior, etc in a class of 10-12 students is palpably different than a classroom with more than that number.
The essential ingredient in this is the amount of time and energy an educator can commit to each student. Engagement on the part of the student generally increases with the amount of attention that can be afforded them by their teacher. This is human nature. We might be better off instructing our children in smaller groups, and structuring their daily routine differently, mixing instruction, recreation, individual school work , and service opportunities supervised by suitably qualified staff.
For what it is worth, I’ve degrees in Psychology and Computer Science, I’ve been a therapist and a software engineer among other things. I even aspired to be an educational software developer. I was once nominated for a national volunteer award by the high school my daughters attended. I am unabashedly a supporter of education and a skeptic of institutions that toot their own horns too much.
I love the time I spend supporting students and teachers in the Ferndale schools. I am concerned that too much time is being taken away from learning time by efforts to push technology, testing, and unrealistic behavioral expectations inappropriately.
Let’s hope the public and the school district can come together and hammer out goals and objectives and a levy to pay for it that actually achieves those goals.
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