Saturday, March 04, 2006

The best way to learn?

My stepbrother Jon is a math teacher and department chair at a charter high school in LA. It's alot like "Stand and Deliver", with the teaching calculus to students others give up on etc., except with a freckled 25 year old in front of the class.

He emailed me a reflection on his teaching experience:
I have many times casually generalized teachers as bad students. I mean bad at least in our current post-grad classes, specifically regarding behavior in the class. Poor listening, over-reliance on personal anecdotes as absolutes, and usually asking low level questions (if any at all), are all common. Why? Were these teachers that I have observed always like this, or was it part of becoming a teacher that made each this way?

That jives with my experience. I participated in a sorta-democratic school restructuring process while in high school, with most other participants being teachers, and they were the most dismayingly stupid people I've ever encountered. Some exchanges were straight out of the town hall meetings in The Simpsons. I swear to god this is verbatim:

Angie, student: What do people think about the idea of making classes 90 minutes long?

Peter Trachtenberg, parent: Well, schedules like this have a mixed track record. But if we look at the experience of schools similar to us in demographics and funding, I think we find it is successful more often than not. For example--

Ms. Rafferty [cutting him off]: If classes are 90 minutes long, there will be no less than one thousand students roaming the halls at any one time!

Mr. Roddenberry: One thousand!? That's nearly... [shouting] that's nearly fifty percent!

[chaotic shouting ensues]

Ms. Lowell: Over my dead body! Over my dead body!