Friday, July 29, 2011

Avoiding the Summer Slide

By Sean Scarpiello

As August quickly approaches, students are realizing that summer is slowly coming to an end. With only one month left in their summer vacation, many students and parents are beginning to prepare for the beginning of the new school year. The aisles of stores are crawling with parents buying everything from notebooks and binders to calculators and protractors. Even though students have their school supplies, are they really prepared to return to school? During the last two months, students have had little mental stimulation. They have not practiced math problems or read a book since the beginning of June. How does this affect students and teachers during the school year and what can school districts do to avoid this problem?

The fact that students’ brains are on standby during the summer really hurts both the student and the teacher. Today’s students are not keeping their brains stimulated during the summer by revising the material they learned during the previous school year. This causes students to forget a lot of structured material for future learning. Therefore, teachers are forced to review past material in class which wastes valuable class time. If students arrived to school in September ready to go, teachers would have a much easier time with teaching the curriculum at a reasonable pace. Statistics describe that about 2.6 months of math material can be lost over the summer for some students. When teachers need to reteach this information to students in the beginning of the school year, it makes it difficult to stay on track. Because teachers use September as a review period, it is a struggle to finsh up the required lessons in June.

This problem is sweeping schools across the country and it is hard to come up with a simple solution to this problem. Some schools assign a required summer reading book. This is a great idea and can keep students thinking during the summer, but it is hard to administer. Some students get lazy and do not read the book because it is long or too boring. Only a select group of parents will actually encourage students to read the book, while others do not. A parent’s role is crucial to the success of their children in schools all over the world. If parents are not involved, then there is a good chance that students will not be fully involved either.

One other method of keeping students studying during the summer would be assigning work to do daily in a workbook. My parents had always encouraged me to do a few pages of math problems each day during the summer. The math was material that I had already learned and it was just practice so that I would not forget math equations from the previous year. Schools could create a similar workbook that is required to be finished over the summer. However, there is still the possibility that parents will not enforce the school’s requirements at home. Therefore, students would arrive to school in September at different levels because half the class did the assigned work and half did not. Parents should have their children practice math or English during the summer. It does not have to be a huge amount of time each day, just about twenty or thirty minutes daily. This time quickly adds up and it will give students an advantage when they return to school in the fall.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Something to Learn from Finland's Teachers

By Sean Scarpiello

Over the past few decades, Finland has done a great job at turning one of the worst education systems into one of the world’s best. One of the ways this was accomplished was by selecting better teachers. In Finland, one of ten people studying to become a teacher actually ends up being a teacher. All educators have Masters Degrees and teachers are held in high regard. Many other countries with flourishing education systems follow a similar trend. So could this be a way to improve the declining United States education system?

I think that teachers should definitely be looked upon favorably as professionals. Teachers have some of the most complicated jobs, yet receive little respect for their efforts. If teachers want to have more of society’s admiration, they need to step up their game. Districts need to be much more selective when it comes to choosing teachers. It takes a special person to be a teacher and many of today’s teachers just do not fit the mold of being a professional educator. If we can raise the bar and have a higher quality of teachers, respect will come naturally.

In my area where some teachers are making a little under $100,000 a year with full benefits, many teachers carry out the actions of a qualified professional. However, very rarely would I get a sense of true admiration for my teachers. It was hard to feel like my teachers were working for students and not for themselves. Sure, my teachers would stay after school if students needed extra help, but being a teacher does not stop there. A fantastic teacher will persist. A few times I found myself and some of my classmates leaving an after school study session even more confused than before. Even the teacher knew that the some of the students did not have a good grasp on the material as we left. This kind of performance as a teacher does not demand much appreciation.

Raising the quality of teachers in the United States would definitely aid in the quest to an improved education system in the United States. The sort of respect that teachers would automatically gain for themselves would also work out some of the other problems in America’s schools. For example, teachers that were held in high regard would run into fewer difficulties with some students who do not take school as seriously. Also, parents would play a larger role in their children’s education. Parents that received a note from the teacher would treat matters more seriously and push their children to succeed in class.

In general, a higher quality of teacher would improve the education system in the United States. Teachers would naturally be held in higher regard, much like education professionals in Finland and other parts of the world. Then, almost automatically, many problems would start to work themselves out and the United States could be back on the road to having one of the world’s best education systems again.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dropout Billionaires

By Sean Scarpiello

Today, some of the richest business people on earth are college dropouts. Take, for example, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Both had dropped out of college and were still successful. However, these days students are constantly being told to do well in school so they can go to college and be successful. But is it true? Do you have to go to college to be successful in life? Some entrepreneurs are paying students $100,000 to drop out of college and start their own business. So far, this idea has been promising. But does a college education always lead to success or is it better to drop out and work towards owning your own company?

Do you need a college degree to be successful? No. College is not for everyone and some people simply learn better outside of the classroom. There are people with careers regarded by society as being blue collar jobs that make much more money than people with college degrees. That is why there is no shame in having a less prestigious job like a mechanic or plumber and owning your own business. Some of these people find a lot of success in their field because we will always need people with the skills to fix cars, plumbing systems, and more.

This being said, society should not look at a college degree as the only key to success. There are ways of being successful without a degree. Society should reconsider looking at a college degree as increasing one’s probability of being successful. Some people graduate from college and think they will be making the big bucks, which is not true. Also, some college graduates may not work as hard and expect more money because of their degree. In this economy, a motivated electrician can be making a lot more than an incompetent lawyer.

Is it a good idea to drop out of college and start your own business or attempt to hit it big with an idea, just like many of today’s businesspeople had done in the past? No. Some people would definitely benefit from this, but not enough people would do well. The only reason Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and other college dropout billionaires made their money was due to their monumental ideas and persistence in working towards making these ideas a reality. Plus, most people simply do not have ideas as fruitful as Microsoft and Facebook.

Another reason to stay in school is to increase your knowledge so you can open your own business one day based on what you have learned. For example, people cannot dropout of school and open their own architect or rocket science business. Businesses based off of knowledge can also bring lots of success. Creating Facebook does not take a doctorate in Computer Science. However, running your own law firm does take several years of schooling. Most people need to realize that not everyone can own their own island like Fortune 500 CEOs. But there is nothing wrong with owning a few houses around the world or having a new Porsche in your garage. The best doctors and lawyers in the world will never make as much a Bill Gates has but they still contribute to society and find success.