I enjoyed your article about ten of the nation's leading teacher-preparation programs ("10 Leading Schools Silence the Critics: Innovative Teacher Prep," November/December 2007). I am familiar
with a few of them already and agree
with your assessments. They all, however,
share something in common: They are
connected either to large universities or to
established schools in larger metropolitan
areas. Either way, all are large and tend to
send teachers out into well-populated
I would like to call attention to the role
smaller institutions play in training
teachers in hard-to-place communities,
urban or rural. Small colleges all over
the country meet the needs of more
remote places the big universities won't
or can't touch. The University of Virginia
is excellent, but those graduates are few
and far between here on the border with
I invite you to explore how small colleges
are having an impact on the face of
education in our country's smaller niches.
Thanks for your review and for the
Foundation's excellent work.
Drop in on Dropouts
I just finished reading a very grim report,
the most depressing I have ever read, on
the Dallas Independent School District,
pulled from research conducted by Johns
Hopkins University. Then I read Edutopia
("By the Numbers: Dropout Data," November/December 2007) and found
only a brief mention of that report. That
was the only article on the dropout issue I
could quickly locate in your magazine.
Why don't you address dropout issues
more frequently? It is the central issue in
education in the United States.
In your Editor's Note (November/December 2007), you mention that
only one teacher out of every four you had were excellent, or at least
memorable. Let me do the math: For teachers, I had one each in grades
1-6 and six per grade in secondary school, for a total of forty-two.
Like you, I had three or four "worth remembering" teachers, but four
out of forty-two is hardly one in four -- closer to one in ten. Given that
our kids now have six teachers in elementary school, and seven teachers
per year during grades 6-12, that adds up to fifty-four teachers.
Assuming they have only four memorable teachers, the ratio drops like
a rock to one in thirteen or so. I assume you could still call that sad, but
I suspect pathetic is more like it.
Go Home, Teachers
I'd like to express my appreciation for
the excellent Editor's Note in the November/December 2007 issue. Having
taught for decades in private, public,
parochial, same-gender, and company
schools, and now in one of the largest
school districts in the United States, I
totally concur that the home visit is so
vital. Without the contact with the home,
we are seeing only part of the child.
Though some people do not understand
the words "home visit," the fact is
they are a very important tool for education.
A Question of Style
As parents, we often forget what it was
like to not know or not be interested in a
subject because it was hard for us then or
because we didn't like the teacher ("Mr.
Martin's Oopses: The Best Educators Have Struggled to Learn, Then Succeeded," November/December
2007). I have four kids (one each in college,
high school, junior high school,
and elementary school), and I've come
to understand that often when a child
"doesn't like" a certain teacher, it is actually
an incompatibility of learning and
teaching styles. Children want to succeed
and enjoy but can be easily deterred by
seemingly small obstacles. This article is
great inspiration for the lessons of working
hard and trying hard.
"How To: Reduce Your School's Eco-Footprint" (October 2007) was a great
article, but I'm looking for a solution for
recycling milk cartons. My school uses
about 300 4-ounce cartons a day. Even
my local municipal-utilities authority
couldn't recommend a place that would
take them. They are wax coated and
burn nicely. I can't believe no one wants
them. Any advice from your readers?
In the September 2007 Dispatches essay, "Unacceptable: Many Teens Aren't Emotionally Ready for College,'" author Jill Flury discussed the need for high
school students to learn skills to handle living independently for the
first time. She included the need for personal wellness, stress management,
financial health, time management, and social skills. I agree
wholeheartedly with Flury about the need for teaching these vital life
skills to all students, regardless of their plans.
Many such classes already exist in the high school curriculum; they
are generally part of the family and consumer sciences department. I
teach a class for juniors and seniors called Independent Living that
addresses all the issues Flury noted. When students ask what it's about,
I tell them, "It is everything I can cram into one semester to help you
survive living on your own."
A semester-long simulation project is part of the class, in which students
have jobs, checking accounts, bills, roommates, and the related squabbles.
They must be able to reconcile their checkbook to pass the class. When students
come back to visit, they usually ask me if we still do "that checkbook
thing" and then tell me, "I use stuff I learned in that class every single day."
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