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January 1, 2010

Over Christmas dinner with family, I had a great conversation with my brother-in-law, who works for a school district in New York, on the subject of “classroom management,” which he referred to as “at the heart of what we do.”  That struck me.  Crowd control is the focus of school?  My sister-in-law, fresh from teacher training and entering her student teaching semester, framed the paradox of trying to teach 25 teens a math lesson in 45 minutes, while policing disruptions and also offering “individualized instruction” to each pupil per current pedagogical theories…five periods per day.  Is that even possible?  Utopian notions of school must be adjusted to reflect reality, and success must be measured in degrees. 

In a car’s engine, only 15% of the energy in the fuel is actually converted to forward motion.  The other 85% is lost in the transaction.  Thinking back on my own high school days, this formula probably applied to all the information pumped into my brain. But for some kids, like my niece, the power yield is much greater.  She is a leader among her peers, on the honor roll, a four season sports star, and her teachers love her.  This is a kid who is riding on rocket fuel in the public school system, and good for her!  A 50skatekid trip would NOT maximize her potential.  More evidence that no single educational recipe can fulfill the needs of every kid.

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