Friday, November 5, 2010

Today's Random Thoughts

*One college professor writes that their teacher prep program is losing many of their brightest prospective history teachers because the students are skeptical that they'll have much over the content of their courses and turned off by the battering teachers take in the press.  I tend to be skeptical of those who claim that there's a seismic shift -- with every single person who's creative abandoning teaching -- but I don't doubt that there is some serious dissatisfaction among some and, correspondingly, at least a small amount of attrition . . . I would expect it more from early-career teachers than from prospective teachers, so I find this piece both somewhat surprising and somewhat worrying.  Since we seem to be focusing a lot of time and effort lately into proposals that will attract and retain better teachers, we should probably investigate these types of claims before deciding which policies to pursue (hat tip: EP).

*A note to all the worried parents and college students out there: what the student chooses to major in doesn't really matter all that much when it comes to earnings later in life . . . in fact, it might be better to study what one is passionate about than simply picking what one deems most practical.

*Speaking of worried parents and teenagers, this NY Times/Chronicle of Higher Ed joint piece has a graphic that demonstrates fairly well the rise in the number of colleges that high schoolers have applied to over the past 20 years, though they miss out on the most explosive growth -- people applying to 10, 20, 30, or more colleges.  When I was in HS, it was typical for ambitious kids from well-to-do families to apply to about 8 or so; my understanding is that it's now typical for kids at private and upper-class public schools to apply to 20 or more schools (which the common app and online applications have made much easier to do).  In one sense, this is a savvy thing for kids to do -- with ever-declining acceptance rates, why not make sure you have every base covered?  But, at the same time, unless they're getting fee-waivers, that's a lot of money we're talking about for college applications.

*A group of researchers at Cornell write about ways to redesign lunch lines that will result in kids eating healthier food.  I always appreciate it when people find little tweaks that cost almost nothing, but get big results by nudging people in the right direction . . . but I have to wonder if simply doing these types of things wouldn't be abdicating our responsibility to teach kids about nutrition and responsibility.  If they don't take chocolate milk b/c it's behind the white milk and don't take ice cream b/c it's in a covered container, that's good for today -- but what will they do when they go to the grocery store as adults?


Eve Proper said...

Well, there's not really anything healthy in school cafeterias. When schools have a dollar to spend per meal, what the kids get is a pile of refined sugar and fat.

Anonymous said...

Re: prospective teachers leaving the profession because of perceived lack of respect/media battery - v. true. I am one such former almost-teacher, and opted out after the first semester of my student teaching, as did others in my teaching program. Part of it was that schools seemed to be encouraging teachers who are more by-the-book than those who would be truly creative. Part was the heavy emphasis on testing brought about by NCLB. The testing itself was not the problem - I'm a proponent of assessment and data-driven instruction. It was the attitude of blame that accompanied many of the reforms of NCLB, both in the media and in society - this idea that the reforms were going to force lazy teachers to get up to snuff, when in fact most teachers are doing all they can and a few bad apples seem to be spoiling the barrel.

I went on to get a job outside of teaching, but I teach on the side for a private test prep company, where I continue to get excellent ratings and results from my students. There's no way I would consider going back into a public school with current attitudes toward the teaching profession. Too discouraging.

mmazenko said...

The history issue doesn't worry me too much, as the heretic in me often wonders if we are spending to much time on a lot of the history taught in high schools today. How many Civil War battles should we discuss? How many different blank maps should we have to fill in from memory.

The healthy choices issue is well examined in a great book by Cass Sustein called "Nudge." It's about how people can be subtly encouraged better, healthier choices.

In my opinion, whatever works.