If you want time, You must make it

Time                                                                                        Teacher’s News letter December 2009

The bane of our educational existence is constant and immortal. I have not met a teacher that has enough time. We serve our students Bell to Bell. Then even more time is used to care for our lab, prepare for the next day’s instruction and begin the fast paced cycle again. Our battle is dubious and our enemy is time. We may be able to cast out the demons of dumbness and raise our students to higher standards but we still face the constraints of time. Our students are not always aware of our challenge to deliver quality instruction in the time allowed. When I informed my students of the tasks we must accomplish in a semester they shrugged it off as my problem not theirs.

A few years back Dale Fasenmeyer of the PTEC CAP program in St. Pete Florida and now AYES coordinator for PTEC used the Chrysler Flat Rate Manual and the NATEF Task list to analyze the real time vs the curriculum time required to do the Steering and Suspension A4 course in the time allowed by the school system. What he found was that the flat rate to do the tasks in the course would pay over 400 hours to a technician in the dealership yet the instructor only has 150 hours to teach the course. Now Dale used common sense and grouped related tasks to figure time so don’t think he was not practical in his calculations. We talk of completing the course; following the syllabus and lesson plans, yet we know that some students just do not get it! Let’s be honest here and don’t drink the popular lemonade that says all children can learn. That statement is in many school mission statements but I feel it is too wide a brush to paint a picture of our classrooms today.  Now if you think that all children can learn you need to stop reading right now because I know I have taught many children to lead productive lives in our industry; yet some will be good technicians, some will one day own their own businesses, while some will be those that work hard but not smart. We won’t speak of the others, those that are not interested in learning. Well I will share this one with you!

I had a student a while back that  had a lot of behavior and motivation problems. I sent him to the principal and she asked him why was he here if he did not want to be a learner in my class. He said” I’m here for th’ wemens and th’ food!” He was 19 in the 10th grade, his mom was 33 and she was no help in the problems he caused. I think she became a grandmother before the year was out.

I feel that our education system needs to be a place where learning is constant and time is variable, not the system we have now where time is the master and learning is by the numbers. So many potentially good students are beaten down by subjects they will never use and are not taught the subjects with the relevance they need in a way that meets their learning style. Example: My wife teaches middle grades science and she asked me for some ways to teach the principles of electricity. I gave her loads of material to use and she protested she only had one and a half hours in the semester to teach electricity. Did you know that it is possible to leave middle school and never have taken a science class? Did you know that some students can get to the 9th grade having never passed a class in any subject at any grade level in our current system. Over 70% of middle grade students in some states are passed by this method. It is called social promotion.

Imagine a world where you as a student learn what you want when you want. I am getting way out of the box now and even say get rid of the box as it often hinders learning. I like the statement from Jeff Curtis at NACAT 2009 “Learning should be Viral” I will not bore you with numbers I can’t remember, but the largest population in our prisons are High School drop outs. What we are doing as a nation in education is not working.  Let’s imagine students that come to your class because they learn there, not that you teach, but that they know they will learn in your class/lab because you are the facilitator of the learning process. You open windows of opportunity and learning for them. Now you can’t raise the dead or walk on water but students know they will learn when they become stake holders in your class/lab. You enable, you inspire and you require the student to meet your standards. Our good students will thrive in this environment, our less than good or to be politically incorrect: behavior disordered, unmotivated students would not get it if you injected it into their vacant skulls. In 15 years of teaching I never figured out what to do with them. Maybe the proponents of the NCLB and “Everyone can Learn” theory of education will one day get their car fixed by a student that was socially promoted, only made the minimum passing grade in the shop classes and is now been hired to work at a dealership because the dealer can’t find enough qualified applicants that want to work with their hands in our craft. I wonder what they will say about the work that is done incorrectly on their expensive vehicle. Will they say ‘ Oh that’s alright, He is doing the best he can” or as my 3rd grade teacher said as she patted me on my shoulder “Bless your little heart” What she really meant was “You ain’t never gonna get this!”

Do not waste that most precious commodity on them “Time.”

Imagine the students online with a cutting edge curriculum that requires the student to interact and move the mouse to make things happen as they would under the hood. Not watching a video or reading volumes of text but very accurate technical graphics with learning the way students live/learn embedded in the lessons. Imagine the student online at home, on their phone, in the media center, the city library or at any time. When I introduced this learning style to my students they quickly adapted to it because I required the learning online as a prerequisite to the lab. My students will do anything to get into the lab/shop. I made it a requirement that they successfully complete specific lessons online before they can practice the task in the lab/shop.

Enjoy your winter break, spend time with your family. Sharpen the saw!  Here is an “Excuse Grinder” you can build if you have time. The excuse grinder will save hours in your class by grinding up student excuses quickly.    http://got.im/59861

You can do all this when you have time. I can show you how to save time in your classroom and lab.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

Sonny



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