.. er for breast cancer. The 3 of them sat with the book and chose what bears they thought would sell and which would be more profitable for their cause. The principal valued their opinions as equals on the matter and you could see that this made them feel really good about what they were doing and, most of all, good about themselves. They, like the students in the earlier govt class, were so involved becasue they were encouraged. One could see by this interaction as well as many others that there was a great relationship between the students and the staff, everyone seemed more like friends, like one big team, all working together, unlike the traditional idea of education where the teachers are superior to the students. This teacher-student equality as well as the consistent encouragement is also very holistic.
My next venture was to Tottenville High School. The school in itself was enormous in size. The school was attended by 4,000 students. When I walked into the school in between classes, kids were laughing and disorderly. Not much different from my observation of The Francis School, only a larger setting and more students.
The school itself was in Grade A shape. I met with the dean of students for a tour of the school. I asked him what he felt separated his school from a private school and he gave me a similar answer to the principal of the private school. He explained that unlike a private school, they cant just weed out the bad seeds with students as well as teachers. He also explained that with 35 students to a class opposed to 15-20 in a private school, it is more difficult to establish a sense of control.
He also explained that in a private school, the parents place a much higher regard on their childs performance academically and socially because they are paying for it. He also explained that there is a tougher strain on teachers to follow guidelines because they must meet the requirements for Regents. Private high schools are not required to take these Regents exams. This allows private schools to be more flexible in their curriculum. I told him about my experience in The Francis School and the relationship the staff had with their students. I asked him if he felt this made a difference.
He said it did because this allows for more control of what is going on, but with 4,000 students and 200 teachers and staff, this is just not feasible. He felt that there were unlimited resources for students who wanted to do well there, but for the ones who didnt it was harder to give them personal attention. We walked around the school and he showed me dozens of vocational and technical labs. This school truly had unlimited resources, more than that in the Francis School. There were two huge gymnasiums, an outdoor football field, baseball field and track field. The schools had every type of sports team imaginable. The school had from computer labs, to an automotive lab, to a dental lab, to an actual supermarket where kids taking a business management class run and operate it.
These are just a few of many resources the school provided. There was not a career that comes to mind for which this school did not have a class. This school was much like John Deweys vision of education. This school was founded on hands on experience. This school truly applied the idea of using the hands as well as mind in education. Eventually the bell rang and I sat in on an American History and Government class. I was bombarded with the same questions as I was in the Francis School.
Socially, these kids were no different to me than the students of the Francis School. It was when the lesson began, I noticed distinct differences. The teacher got up and proceeded to write notes on the board and then just repeated it verbally. He had no enthusiasm and neither did the students. Some were falling asleep and others were talking amongst one another.
the class was noisy but their talking had nothing to do with the lesson. The teacher was frustrated and said if you dont want to learn, I dont care, just put your head down and be quiet. The class was saying that the lesson was boring and he said well I have to cover it for the regents. There was clearly no encouragement at all here. The teacher then continued to lecture these bored kids who did want to participate in the lesson at all. the bell finally rang, and they raced out of class like there was no tomorrow. This was a huge difference from my experience with the students in the American history class in the Francis School where all the class was interested and involved.
The students werent any different, the only difference I saw was that the teacher in Francis was able to get through to them and made them want to learn through her interactive and encouraging approach. Perhaps, the Tottenville teacher was not able to succeed like the Francis School teacher because he needed to cover this material in a set amount of time. He was not given the same freedom and control. Now here you have a school with unlimited resources for preparing students for future careers, but lacking the capabilities of unleashing each students spirit. Without a focus on the heart and soul it seems these resources are useless. Because of the control the Francis School has in many areas, it makes it easier to focus more on the heart and soul of each student, something Tottenville as well as public schools in general are neglecting. I am not trying to say that hands on experience is not important in education, but from my experience here I am learning that when a student is encouraged to put their heart into something, the rest will fall into place.
Like something as simple as the girls working with the principal on ordering the teddy bears. These girls were not involved in a business class and did not have this high tech vocational business lab like Tottenville, yet with some encouragement and teamwork they acquired the necessary business skills. This project started as a goal within their hearts and then trickled down to using their heads for the business decisions and received hands on experience for the procedure of purchasing. They did not need a lab to gain this type of experience. This leads me to believe if you encourage students to put their heart into something, they are more than likely to give it their best effort.
Either way they learn something from the experience. Although you cant make a student enjoy every class and everything theyre required to learn, if you encourage them to create their vision, they will do whatever it takes to get there. Even if it means succeeding in classes that are preliminary to their achieving their goal. Gaining control by knowing each student as an individual is possible to obtain in a public school setting. I believe this is the most important approach to a successful education.
I will apply this lesson when I myself will be teaching in a public school. I will make it my every mission to give individual attention to all of my students. Although I will have a lot more students, and this task will be difficult, it will not be impossible. It will just take more time and work. I will make every effort to focus on encouraging all of my students to create the vision.