Monday, December 1, 2008

The Wire

Despite a heavy academic workload these last few weeks of the semester, I have been finding, or rather, refinding, a good way to relax: The Wire (and How I Met Your Mother, but that's for another post).

For those of you unaware of this masterpiece show about the systems of the city of Baltimore, well watch it. I could extoll its many virtues for a very long time, but again, that's for another post.

This time around, I was brought in particularly by Season 4 which focuses with the school systems of Baltimore and the lives of middle schoolers. Though the focus of the school scenes are these students, ample time is also spent on the various teachers, especially one new teacher who will be unnamed due to spoilers. Anyways, while watching this season I noticed a lot of things about what is and is not effective in such a classroom/system.

A form of tracking happens at the school and is shown as being fought by the administration, but allowed by the parents. Now this tracking did not involve giving worse resources to worse students, it involved giving worse students different goals. This in many ways reminded me of my field placement in a special education classroom at Goshen High School, those kids were not given less attention or resources, but they also were working towards being able to live and find a job whereas most general education classrooms are working students towards higher education.

This sort of tracking seems very beneficial for both sets of students. The trick is such a system of tracking requires more faculty and staff and could only work if the parents and students agreed to being tracked towards vocation instead of towards college. Now of course this was in a television show, but I thought it would be a beneficial idea could it be implemented well.

Throughout the season the new teacher struggles. First he has to keep the students from being violent, he attempts a token economy, social contracts, and several other forms of behavior modification. In the end he more or less settles on changing the curriculum to foster rapport building between him and his students. After a time of this he transitions back into the normal curriculum. While I think this was a little extreme, it illustrated well how important rapport is and how creativity and flexibly is also key to teaching effectively.

The trick with rapport is that sometimes personal attachments can become too strong. Near the end of the season this new teacher struggles with several students being socially promoted to High School. He argues with the administration that the students are not ready yet, to which the administrator replies that the goal is to help as many students as possible and that the teacher needs to keep in mind that next year there will be a whole class of students who needs him as a teacher just as much.

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