To the Editor:
I teach at a small community school in Afton, Va. Recently at recess (that time of day children can run around unfettered by adult intrusion), three boys made a kite. I was sitting in my room, catching up on some work, and the boys hustled through to show me their efforts.
They showed joy in building, based on using a classic design and simple materials: paper, dowels, Scotch tape, duct tape, and twine.
I followed the boys out to the field and watched as they ran with their kite—one holding the string, one holding the kite, and one running alongside with a stop watch. It was beautiful.
I wonder how Theodore R. Sizer would react to the story of Barb Wagner, an English teacher at Clackamas County High School, in Oregon, whose workload was described in a newspaper article last fall. She teaches 215 students. If she assigns an essay and spends only 10 minutes grading each one, that adds up to 35.8 hours. Untenable.
What would John Dewey say to students having to walk silently in single file to their 35-minute-long, once-a-week music class, which occurs on a six-week rotation at a school near me?
What is education, and where is it heading? I have more passion than answers, but I am asking questions and looking for solutions.
In the meantime, the kite-makers give me hope for education.
North Branch School
A version of this article appeared in the March 05, 2014 edition of Education Week as On the State of Education Today, What Would Dewey, Sizer Think?