Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Here's to the future for the dreams of youth

Third day of Teacher Week.

Today we continued to work in our rooms.  As with K, there is a lot of labeling of cubbies and folders and so forth.  But there's less of it, because in third, the kids have to buy a lot of their own school supplies.

Another difference is that in K, I was entirely self-contained and, while we all studied the same units, the teachers didn't necessarily run their classrooms the same way.  So, for example, most rooms had one or two jobs for the kids; I had six daily.  In this new team, apparently we're all intent on running things the same way (even though we don't always agree), so there are two jobs for the kids per week.  I'm the new guy and I need to understand the system better before I make waves, but I'm a big believer in having jobs for the kids (they teach responsibility, and the kids love doing them).  Maybe at some point in the future I'll be able to just go ahead and do it the way I think it ought to be done, and let the others do what they like.  Not this year, though.

At lunch, the faculty watched a presentation by a marketing and branding expert who had been brought in by Prestigius to measure what parents and alumni like about the school and what they want to see more of.  Apparently, a lot of them think of Prestigius as nurturing and flexible, and would like to see more academic rigidity and high standards.  But you know, people don't always know what they want or even what they have.  The school is academically strong; it may have a philosophy of nurturing and an explicit eschewing of standardized testing, but it's really got high standards.  A good percentage of the respondents characterized the school as "Montessori," which is wildly inaccurate, and shows you how deep the typical parents' understanding of pedagogical principles is.  (How can we be both Montessori-oriented and lax, anyway?  Montessori is nothing but repetition and rule-following.)

The marketing guru had some interesting things to say about how people take surveys.  For example, just because someone ranks a quality as lowest in importance, it doesn't mean that they objectively feel that way in general; they may be comparing the quality to other things they rank higher, but still value that quality for itself.  One of the traits that got lowest marks for importance was "tradition."  But if parents are sending their kids to Prestigius, they must value tradition to some extent.  So it's important to read opinion surveys correctly, and also to realize that some people aren't very good at knowing what it is they want.

That's got to be true; if you relied on surveys, you'd think parents wanted their kids to do homework all night long.  But if you ask them, they hate the idea of more homework.

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