Set up: I went to a public high school in the Midwest, with about 250 in my graduating class. There were (at the time) two high schools in the city system roughly the same size. Mine was the “inner city” school – not very rough, given this was a small Midwestern town of about 50,000 or so (besides this was in the 80’s before we started shooting each other at school). So it wasn’t like an urban high school in downtown Detroit or anything. Be that as it may…
Bad Story: I had an excellent Chemistry teacher, who was a complete goofball. However, I never understood a damn thing she tried to teach me. To this day, my definition of a “mole” is: “a small furry woodland creature residing in North America.” I was a mostly A student and consistently pulled C’s in Chemistry, only because my lab partner not only let me copy his labs, but he wouldn’t even let me touch the experiments. (I blew one up once!)
Why could she not get through? I am spatially oriented. She taught using methods which reached all the left-brained analytical, abstract thinkers. For us creative, visual types there was nothing to relate to. I couldn’t get the hang of all those damn chemical formulas because I couldn’t PICTURE them. Once she brought in one of those molecule models with the dowel rods and the colored beads connecting them – Blammo! My concept of chemical reactions improved considerably.
I had the same issues with the math teacher – and I went all the way up to Calculus. (And barely skimmed by.) I struggled and struggled with the math, because I can’t picture what the fuck (hey, it’s the Pit!) “x” looks like. (Solve for X? X is a damn letter! WTF?)
Conversely, I did excellent in Geometry and Trigonometry – they’re both very visual. All I had to do was draw the shapes in question and I could whip right through those exams. So bottom line: many teachers do not think to change their approach for those having trouble. I think after college, teachers forget that kids learn in different ways and most do not want to take the time (or are not able to take the time) to find another way of explaining things so that we art-freaks of the world can graph a damn curve. And yes, BTW, I have actually had occasion – as a journalist/writer/editor – to solve for X in Real Life, for my Real Job. And I did apologize to the math teacher for insisting she was an idiot for trying to teach me something I would never use. I was wrong. I used Algebra in everyday life. Who woulda thunk it?
Good Story: I had the best journalism teacher in the world. She taught me everything I needed to know to become a journalist before I got out of high school. I majored in Journalism in college and found myself completely bored by the end of my junior year – I still hadn’t learned anything she hadn’t already covered for me. We produced a little school newspaper, so I got the hands-on, visual aspect and I also took the classes to get the book-learning theoretical part of things. She made me work – hard – but I feel confident that I’m pretty damn good at what I do now as a grownup and I owe it all pretty much to Mrs. Kay who saw that I had talent and took the time to help me find ways and resources to develop that talent. She gave me not only the foundation of knowledge, but took the time to build my self esteem and confidence at the same time. I’ve written to the school board and the city newspaper to publicly thank her – believe I nominated her for teacher of the year a few times. She rocks! (And is still teaching in that same school!)
All those teachers I mentioned above- same school. And, I find it interesting to note that, on every single standardized test I ever took, I scored higher in science than in English and language skills (which were pretty high to begin with). For example, on my ACT (sorry, I didn’t take the SAT) I scored 31 in science – the top score score is 36. In the language section, I scored somewhere in the high 20’s – maybe about 27 or 28? (It was a long time ago.) I don’t remember the other portions, although I do know my math score was the lowest, but still above the national average. Not that any of us care about my stupid ACT scores.
My point: throughout my 13 years in American public schools, it was never pointed out to either my parents or myself that I have a knack for science. I am a girl, so therefore, I was guided onto a path emphasizing my language skills, rather than anyone considering development of my science skills. I was scared away from medical and scientific professions because of my inability to count to 20 with my shoes on. (You can’t get through the math. Why don’t you take “Yearbook” instead of “Physics?”)
My Other Point: I think that the quality of education in private schools, vs. charter schools, vs. public schools are all basically comparable. There are so many other factors involved, that I don’t think any real conclusions can be drawn based on the school systems themselves. Some factors I think, that drive how rewarding the educational experience for the students:
- How much effort the student is willing to put in.
- How involved the parents are in their childrens’ education – and do they continue the education process at home, or merely flip on the tube when Jr. gets home?
- The budget for the school system - sometimes suburban schools get better funding than inner city schools. And private schools are far better funded. It’s not the only thing… just one of the things.
- IQ and maturity. I’m sorry, but the ole’ genetic crap shoot has to come into play here. By that same token, I’m going to cite race and religion as well – we all know those standardized tests are geared toward white kids… or are they? That’s another thread I guess.
- I had a number of teachers who went to college and majored in education in order to dodge the draft in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Needless to say, teaching was not all that important to them. So I have to say that I think teachers are all unique to each other. I would not generalize that all the good teachers work in suburban schools because the pay is better or choose to work in inner city schools because they can affect more change there. I think it’s all about the teacher as a person and what motivated him/her to go into education in the first place. And how much effort the teacher is willing to put in to educate her/his charges.
Final assessment: you get out of your educational system whatever you, your teachers, your community and your parents are willing to put into it. The question is: what have we been putting in? Garbage in-Garbage out? Not my place to judge…
Hope this helps you with your paper. Seems I’ve written it already for you!