It’s just after 9 pm on Friday night. Normally at this time, I would be sitting in a restaurant, ordering a drink, and waiting for Geoff to meet me after work. But because the Taiwan government couldn’t possibly conceive of paying us for even one minute spent out of the office, I have to go to work tomorrow. My Friday night has been stolen from me. I have my normal Friday time schedule for tomorrow as far as the clock is concerned, which means I have to clock in by 8:10 and can’t clock out until 5:15. I do not have to teach a single class or talk to a single student. I just have to show up and sit there. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why this is necessary. To be fair, this is still preferable to the original scenario which has us repeating the Friday teaching schedule two days in a row, which for me means teaching seven periods in one day. That’s a lot for Taiwan.
It seems that so much about schools just makes absolutely no sense. Most schools still operate on an industrial era factory model, even though we live in a post-industrial world. We ask teachers to give each student an individualized education, and then assign those teachers 180 students or more. We can’t decide if we want students to be independent or obedient. We want them to use technology, but then we ban electronics from the classroom. Schools insist on honest formative and summative assessments on the one hand, and then tell you that you can’t have a higher than 5% failure rate on the other. Administrators say they want reform, and introduce new program after new program without giving them time to work, but the whole institution is hopelessly trapped in an early 19th century model.
I don’t have the answers. The only thing I believe will work is to have education on a much smaller scale. In my perfect school, class sizes are under 20, teachers work in close collaboration on integrated and interwoven curriculum, and students have much more control of their learning. They are taught from an early age how to assess and evaluate their own needs and interests as a learner and given opportunities to explore a theme through the eyes of a broad array of subjects. Learning is largely hands-on. Teachers are guides and mentors rather than cat herders. Is this practical? Well, probably not. I said it was an ideal. But wouldn’t you love to be a teacher or a student in a place where you could make your own discoveries and ask any question you wanted. Your opinions and learning styles were validated. Sounds good, right? Let’s make it happen.