SOME THOUGHTS ON THE PROBLEMS WITH TODAY’S EDUCATION
Recently, Ontario had 20,000 education workers on a full system one day strike. There are 2,000,000 students. This ratio is 10 students per educator. I know this is very simplified, but surely it is possible with this complement work out a schedule with class sizes somewhere about 25 (and definitely not more than 30).
Our tendency is to look at the teachers and their unions to fix the problem. Give up this take less of that. The rank and file teacher may need to make changes to improve education, but what about management?
Surely Management could develop a schedule that would
I’m showing my age now, but when I was in school (between 500 and 750 students when I was there) we had a VP who developed a weekly schedule with some complexity. Our day was eight 45 minute classes plus a lunch. Near the end my time in HS, the lunch period shifted a bit so that a 9th class could be inserted. Students (and I assume Teachers) got either one or two lunch periods depending.
Our schedule was built around appropriately allotted time. Shops, Labs etc. would have two periods while math and languages would normally be one period (but for languages a couple of times a week you could get two classes per day). This schedule as mentioned was created by a knowledgeable person by hand.
A number of my relatives were teachers; we used to take on any controversial topic at family get togethers. We never got on “oh I have too much work to do” “there isn’t enough break time” which led me to believe that there was enough non-teaching time in the day to allow quality education.
Sometime in the 70s, the semester system was introduced. Students would take three hour and a half classes per day and get one off. This was the time of two bit computers. This simplistic schedule (actually one four period day just rotated for a 4-day cycle).
Our laptops today have way more computing power and surely someone can develop programming that would permit a school to get off this simplistic 2 bit schedule. It is known that subjects like the maths, keyboarding, languages would benefit from a full year of instruction and reinforcement (with a semester system, there can easily be a year between math courses). Classes such as gym, labs or shops; however, seem suited to longer sessions.
You often hear, “our school is too small to have XYZ course.” Many teachers are hired as a percent of a full time teacher. If these part day could be better utilized, the small schools could get many of the specialized courses. School boards (ie management) could designate a number of similar area schools as a group. These groups could then retain one specialty teacher who would be scheduled to teach their particular course in all the schools within the group.
Innovative enlightened and adventuresome management could ease problems by using modern methods to schedule and assign teachers to classes to improve.
Union Management / Hierarchy
I was chatting with a high school principal and vice principal from different schools. When we got to scheduling they both shuddered at any change that would involve teachers making any change in the present system.
It seems that school middle management does not believe that and innovation involving a change in 50 year old working rules is possible because of Union strength
During the “Mike Harris” school labour disputes, I was (for a very short time) on the picket line with a friend. This person was a respected teacher who gave substantial time to one of the less touted extracurricular activities. My children considered this person one of the good ones.
We had an interesting wide-ranging chat. One of the warnings I received was to lower my voice near one of the local union reps. If what we were talking about was perceived to be contrary to the Union’s position(s) there could be repercussions. I am not at all connected to the media; my friend was picketing. There should not have been any fear.
The work year.
During my entire working career, I was paid for 35 hours per week, I put in at least 45 hours each and every working week. It was just part of the job. However, for argument, lets say a normal working week is 40 hours. There’s a lot of hype about how much people work, but most of us who get to the “white collar” level get holidays, vacation and often sick time.
White Collar workers
52 work weeks at 40 hours = 2080.
Less 4 weeks vacation, 10 stats and 5 days sick = 280 leaving the total white collar work year at 1800 hours.
Teachers work year
Most teachers have a 180 day contract teaching year.
At six hours class and prep time (the four hour and a half period day) this is 1080 hours per year. A typical teacher would have to work and additional 4 hours for each of the 180 work days to equal the total time spent working per year by a typical white collar worker. Many will say that they do the extra work during the day. Get in early and leave late and extra time with clubs and teams would probably utilize one of these hours. Let’s say a teacher has to work 3 hours outside school hours each and every teaching day.
This is just to illustrate that there are at least some teachers whose schedule should be able to accommodate a reasonable (and negotiated) alteration in where these makeup hours are utilized.
The unsuitable teachers
Again after discussions with some current teacher friends, a poor teacher is just about impossible to let go. From what I understand, everyone knows who these individuals are. If someone is not suited to teaching and does not quit, that person needs to be recognized warned, offered appropriate assistance, etc., but when found truly deficient let go.
There are many acceptable types of teachers.
• The interesting, knowledgeable, exciting teacher who also makes the time for extracurricular activities.
• The knowledgeable but slightly boring teacher who at assists in extra activities
• The so-so teacher who truly works at the craft and whose students meet expectations, and
• Many other teachers between that life long memorable person who triggered your passion for life long learning through the OK instructor who got you through a course to those who shouldn’t be there.
There is a Union duty that gets in the way of removing those who shouldn’t be there, the duty to defend. Surely someone not suited at all for a position should not hold that position. I’ve been through dismissal cases where the local members of the union recognized the seriousness of managements case and switched from “defend” to “let’s get the best termination deal possible.” Neither side was really happy, but both had done their part. The Union worker had a cash settlement and management didn’t have the disruptive worker.
Surely the School and Union management can develop a more efficient schedule than 4 classes per day rotated, a workable rotation of specialist and fair, dispassionate means of removing unsuitable teachers from the classroom all which would go a long way easing educations dilemmas