Thursday, March 13, 2008

INSPIRING FUTURE SCIENTISTS

CATCHING YOUR ATTENTION, AND INSPIRING CHILDREN TO STUDY SCIENCE AND MATH

My options today are dribble, dribble, dribble or to comment on hearings I watched last night until 12:30 a.m. I have the most uneventful and boring bedroom in gaydom. Okay, I will share my late night tv watching experience. Side note, when I was in NY this weekend my family was making fun of me because they all love going to Cherry Grove, a gay area on Fire Island. My last visit to Cherry Grove exposed me to a lesbian walking around naked with chains hanging from her nipple rings to the ring - well let’s just say south of the border. There were men dressed in black lace hissing at people as they walked by. And then, let’s just say the scene between Barny and Fred will stay with me until my death. My family and cousins were laughing at me because they seem to enjoy Cherry Grove, and I find it frightening. I must say they are a bunch of sickos. Sorry, I just get off on things - BUT I HAVE CAUGHT YOUR ATTENTION.

Bill Gates was being challenged to provide Congress with ideas to inspire children to enter the sciences and math. I was taken aback by the lack of thought he has put into the problem. He was incredibly briefed on the problem, but really had no real solutions. He had some great ideas on how to improve the instruction, but not on how to inspire children into the sciences and math.
I will submit the problem is the system as designed discourages children and adults from seeking careers in science and math. I will speak to the public schools in a minute. I know of an anatomy professor at UTB who appears to be lecturing from notes which are 15-20 years old. Many of his terms have become antiquated. His lectures do not match up with the text readings. He will assign chapter 4 to read, but the material he is lecturing on is in chapter 12. The problem is, he has changed textbooks, but not his lecture.

This type laziness causes students to become discouraged. They simply find it easier to study something else than science. UTB/TSC is desperate for Freshman and Sophomore instructors who can inspire our community to not only want to study science and math, but to succeed. Unfortunately, what is happening at BISD, only makes it all the more difficult to inspire students to study science and math.

Gates raised two issues. First, he said, highly qualified science and math teachers who are successful at teaching should be paid more than other teachers. I agree. As a social scientist myself, I must concede my skills rarely if ever contribute to job creation or innovation.
He also raised an issue with NCLB, which is never if ever discussed. I do not even know if Gates understands his proposal already is part of NCLB. Our Colleges of Education are a joke. Unless they are willing to change, it is time we shut them down. While working on my Masters in Education at UT Arlington, if anyone taught me a thing about instruction, I missed it. I did learn about the concepts of learning styles and multiple intelligence. No one appears to be teaching how to apply these concepts in the classroom.

NCLB allows all school districts, including BISD, to hire anyone with a Masters degree in their teaching field who has passed the state’s competency test in their respective teaching field. No training in education is required. I would hope that after 13 years of public school, 4 years of undergraduate training, and 2 years of graduate training, someone with a masters has learned a thing or two about learning. I could be wrong.

The unions are the biggest obstacle to reform in how we teach. They are about protecting bad teachers and the status quo. It is time we consider electing Board Members who support giving priority to candidates who have a masters in their teaching field and who have passed the Texas competency test for their teaching field. What we have now is not working, so why not try something new.

Back to the issue of inspiring children to want to learn science and math. Bill Gates raised the issue of the inter-disciplinary approach to science and math. This is not new. It is just not favored. During a 6 week assignment of teaching World Geography in Dallas, I mixed the use of "Around the World in 80 days" with 9th grade algebra. Weather and winds are something you study in world geography. When I went to the algebra teacher for help in mixing the two so that my students could learn how to calculate the impact of wind on the speed of a hot air balloon traveling between different parts of the world, I was told no help would be forthcoming. I incorporated the algebra on my own.

My idea allowed for engaging the students and providing a real world application of the math they were learning. The idea was rejected outright. This is the problem. We will never engage BISD students so long as instruction is done with hand outs, instead of hands on application. It is not a difficult concept to understand - it is just not favored.
I am curious how students would respond to applying their knowledge of math and computers to create a video game? I’m curious to how students would respond to combining physics and math to create a simple race car, or robots?

But then of course the handout is so much easier as a teaching tool than inspiring the student. Change will only come when we elect a school board which consists of people who have a masters degree and believe in taking advantage of the NCLB option of hiring people with a masters degree in their teaching field. People with a master degree in science or math will have a lot of experience in application of their respective fields of study. This is what we desperately need in our schools if we are to inspire our children to study math or science.

1 comment:

StapletonAndStapleton said...

Teacher unions seem in an awkward position. A teacher strike in most places is illegal and where strikes occur it is not an issue of stopping the manufacture of goods and profit, but the teaching of kids, which many in power do not much value, anyway. Organizing is very much hampered by law and politics.

So what can a teacher's union do? Handle teacher grievances, I suppose. Argue for some due process. But all of the concepts of joint action applying pressure to better working conditions are out the window.

Teachers are much in the position of public defenders. From time to time someone suggests a strike or boycott of the system, saying, "Without us no one can be tried." Of course that is not true. Before Gideon v. Wainwright, plenty were tried without lawyers.

The weakness of limiting the union to a particular trade is highlighted by these trades. Big Bill Haywood proposed a solution to this weakness.