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Monday, October 4, 2010

Fight Teacher Burnout

I misspoke when I said tomorrow on Thursday, but I will make it up to you today!

A couple of other interesting points from the Arne Duncan interview that I would like to discuss today and offer viable solutions. If a student has 3 good teachers in a row they will be a year to a year and half ahead of their peers, 3 bad teachers in a row they will be a year behind. 33% of teachers will be out the profession within 3 years of becoming a teacher and 1 million children a year are dropping out of school. Teacher burnout is one of the leading causes.

I believe that a classical education system would eliminate a number of the problems. Teachers have a new set of students 4-6 times a day and those groups change every year. So that means a teacher is going to see somewhere between a 100-150 students a day and only for 1 hour each of which according to government studies only 20-30 minutes of that time is actually being used to teach. That is going to be a lot of different personalities and issue to deal with for that teacher. No wonder they get burnt out. Instead a teacher, especially in elementary (formerly grammar) school should teach all subjects to the students. This would allow them to deal with 20-30 students through the day. They would be better prepared to deal with certain children’s issues because they would have a chance to form the teacher-student bond more effectively. It would also allow the child to spend significant time with an adult that would increase the chances that they would take their school work seriously. A true classical education setting would mix ages and grades to allow proper demonstration of skills from the older children to younger children. This is the ideal setting for gaining social skills as well, since people will eventually work with people from a variety of ages and not just people there exact same age. This leap is probably too much to ask the school system to do at this time, so I will refrain from that if they will go to the 1 teacher model that worked for so long.

This system would reduce the number of teachers burning out and decrease the number of drop outs of our school system. The issue with this system would be the “bad” teachers. If a child had one of those they would drop behind in every subject instead of maybe being good at one with a “good” teacher and being bad at ones with a “bad” teacher. While this may be a temporary issue the proposed system would reduce the number of good teachers leaving and would reduce the number of “bad” teachers because there wouldn’t be so many burned out. I don’t believe anyone in the teaching profession goes into it without good intentions of helping the children learn, so “bad” teachers are a product of our education system.

Practice, practice, practice is the motto of classical education. You cannot become good at something until you gain experience at it. A typical job takes 8mo-1year to learn how to do. So if we are turning our teachers over 33% a year due to drop out how can they ever get good at it? They have no one modeling how to be a good teacher. This turnover allows the “bad” teachers to stay in the system because the administration is just happy to have a warm body.

Rearranging of class setting and schedule to a classical model is an easy first step for the public school system to take in order to save itself and our country.

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