THE IDEAL CLASSROOM STRUCTURE
The education system in the United States is completely confused; I do not think that any attempts to modify the current system will ever work. Deborah Tannen also sees this problem. She sees the disorder lying in a gender gap, miscommunication between sexes, and a battle between man and woman in the classroom. Tannen thinks the current curriculum can be successful if we only work out the few kinks between the male and female learning process. I disagree, I believe this country needs to completely reevaluate and rebuild education from the bottom up. The solution will not involve sorting gender or tougher standards. We do not need to make students take tests to try and figure out what subjects are considered problem areas (as Massachusetts has decided to do), though this could arguably lead to some basic improvement. We must reconsider everything we think we know about what children ought to learn, and especially the methods used to teach this material to them.
Instead of forcing facts and figures on students and separating subjects with bells, why not connect ideas and integrate these areas of interest. Lets completely engulf and engage students in learning, here is a typical day in the ideal classroom:
Mrs. Smiths fourth graders are learning about redwood trees. Her classroom has one big circular table, and this morning it is covered with the magazine cutouts and photographs of redwood trees that the students have been passing around and discussing. There is a scale model of an average redwood tree next to a house, built in art class using Popsicle sticks and glue. Mrs. Smith asks questions about the size of the tree compared to the house. In the real world, the house is thirty feet tall but on the table it is only four inches high. The boys and girls can figure out the height of the tree involving their unit in math on multiplication and fractions.
Next, Mrs. Smith brings out some construction paper and paste. Before they begin cutting out and designing their own redwood trees, the students watch a short movie protesting deforestation. They are asked to think about the dangers of cutting down so many trees and write short essays and poems about their ideas.
Now the class is outside around the school looking at trees around the playground. They can even make rubbings of the bark on different trees. Mrs. Smith shows the children where Redwoods are located on the map hanging on the front board. They read The Giving Tree to the first-graders. They learn about how to determine the age of a tree. Any confusing vocabulary words are assigned for homework. Any questions raised can be discussed while listening John Denver or something.
It is not impossible to integrate subjects like this. A classroom can be like a community. Everything doesnt have to be debated or discussed, there does not have to be tension between students of opposite sexes; there are so many different techniques for learning that they can all be approached. Hands on activities, arts and crafts, music, math, language, every child will have a chance to learn the way that works for them.