The One Good Thing About Education Classes

I’m taking two this summer. Not by choice. No teacher takes them by choice. They are by and large worthless, and no one except education professors and bureaucrats thinks otherwise.  They are either filled with things you already know (What, puberty is often an uncomfortable time for young teens? I’m stunned, really) or useless theories which are really nothing more than complex names created to make simple things sound difficult (It’s not a chart comparing the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution, it’s a semantic features analysis) or the same crap you heard in the last education class you took, and in the one before that, and in the one before that (Bloom’s taxonomy, anyone?).

There’s exceptions, one I’m taking this summer has actually been helpful. Not coincidentally, the professor has dedicated twice the class time to practical teaching strategies as she has to vapid theories. But usually these classes are a huge waste of time.

One thing they can do, though, is remind you of what it is like to be a student, and how frustrating it can be. Here’s three examples from this summer:

First, one of the two profs talks non stop from the start of class until the end two hours later. I’m a good student. I graduated in the top ten per cent of my law school class. But even I have a hard time making myself pay attention for that amount of time. I know the middle school kids I teach can’t listen to lectures for more than ten minutes. But this is a big experiential reminder of that fact. You have to break the class period into distinct sections if you want to hold their interest.

Second, that same prof gave us a big writing assignment, but little direction about what he wanted until the day AFTER he collected them. In class the day after the papers were due, he mentioned that he’d graded several papers, but that they were all missing important points. Then he explained “What I was really looking for was . . . .” Gee, thanks. Would have been nice to know the expectations BEFORE the assignment was due.

Third, the class I like is about reading strategies that help kids comprehend what they read. It’s mostly good stuff, and very helpful. So what was our final? Develop our own strategy? Model one for the class? Write a paper about a topic we covered? Nope. It was to write a grant. Huh? That has nothing to do with the subject we studied, nor did we ever discuss grant writing in class. It’s totally irrelevant to the topic and we were totally unprepared for the assignment. But it’s a huge portion of our grade in a class about reading. In other words, this final is totally useless for assessing whether we learned what we were supposed to learn in the class.

Those things are all really aggravating, and a big motive to avoid the same mistakes with my own students.

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