Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Higher Education?

In my quest to find new literature to create lesson plans, I stumbled upon the book "Higher Education? How colleges are wasting our money and failing our kids and what we can do about it" by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus. They are both professors at Queens College. It is a comprehensive view about the enormous amounts of money Americans spend on higher education and how we are really not getting our money's worth.

Aside from the catchy title, I was drawn to it because it was written by two professors from Queens College. During my classroom observation assignments I was placed in several classrooms with other college students, a few from Queens College. I found the Queens College students had a really good grasp on classroom management, lesson planning and pedagogy in general. Many of my fellow students from the private grad school I attended seemed overwhelmed with the whole field experience requirement. Many of us felt we were not ready or prepared to face the challenges of the classroom. We all seemed to have so many questions. I found the students from Queens College were very confident and seemed to have less questions. In conversations with my classmates, they observed the same. I thought it was interesting that many of us thought by going to a private school we would get a better quality of education. This seems to be the mentality of many Americans in general.

"Higher Education?" brings to light many issues in colleges today. All too often teaching assistants and grad students do the work of professors. Everything from teaching classes to grading assignments so professors can have more free time to do research. The sad thing is, some colleges demand that professors complete a certain amount of research, published papers, books etc. in order to get tenure and climb the "college ladder." I found this disheartening. I want to be a teacher so I can teach. I want to know my students and be a part of their educational well being. I wonder if these professors are just burnt out or don't want to be in the classroom anymore. When you get to a certain level of education are students not the main focus? For education to improve we must be committed to the classroom not disengaged. Thankfully, many of my fellow grad students share that philosophy. We are becoming teachers because we want to make things better. Hopefully we will hold tight to these principles throughout our teaching careers.

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