I know I can't speak for every school system in the United States, but I can speak for mine
I feel there's a big problem with the schools in my town: most of the teachers don't know how to be original. I have five teachers and each is different. They all have their own teaching styles, which can be narrowed down into two categories: traditional and non-traditional.
I'll start with the traditional teachers. My U.S. history teacher is a nice guy. He's the kind of person you would like to have as a next-door neighbor. He has a great sense of humor, and he's street-wise enough to know when his students are poking fun. But I can't stand his class. Normally, I'm a student who averages about 90 in every class. In his class, I usually get 70. The reason: his style of teaching doesn't agree with me. He is one of those teachers who does nothing but stand up in front of the class and lecture (all day long). Sure, he tries real hard to spice things up a bit. He gives reports every week where we have to find an editorial in the paper and write our own editorial in response. He claims it serves to make his class more fun by giving us a chance to pick what we want to do for a change. But if he really wants to make class more fun, then why doesn't he try something new? Why doesn't he try to use some of the new teaching methods that are available to the modern teacher? Simple. It's too much work. It would take too long. It's too hard to break out of this mold that has worked in the past.
But I can't say that all of my teachers are "Stand-and-Deliver" type that bore me out of my skull. No, there are teachers who have the courage to say, "I'm not going to do what they want me to , I'm going to do something different. I'm going to have fun with my class, because if I'm having fun, then chances are, they are too." Case in point: my French teacher. She is an absolutely psychotic person. She is bubbling over with enthusiasm for the language. She even has a bumper sticker on her wall that says "Enthusiasm is contagious." And she's right, enthusiasm is contagious. But the best part is: I like the class. And the reason is simple: she makes it fun to learn French. She doesn't just present a new lesson on grammar every day, then make us do homework out of the book. French isn't a written language, it's an oral language, and she knows it. The first ten minutes of our class are spent on "Les Annonces" (announcements). Anyone can talk about whatever s/he wants. And if that person stumbles over a vocabulary word, my teacher is right there with the word. But, not only does she help that person with the word, she writes it on the board so that everyone knows it. And then we have this class vocabulary on our tests. But it's more fun because you know that those words are words that you want to know, not just the words that they think you should know. Some examples:
Une abeille morte -- a dead bee
pomme frites>- French fries
cornemuse - bagpipes.
Not words one would normally learn in French class! But not only does she make French fun, she makes it interesting. We have a language laboratory with audio tape players and a VCR. We often go there to hear sections of a long drama called "Suivez la piste" (Find the Trail). It's a mystery/drama about a crooked president who buys and sells capsules with some unknown object inside them. Of course, in the end, the hero gets the girl and defeats the evil, mad scientist, but we haven't heard the end yet , so we don't know how. But that's just one of the fun things that she has us do. Sometimes we read stories she photocopies, and then we do a little skit in front of a video camera using vocabulary from that story. Then we get to see the tape. In the advanced French classes, she shows French movies and has her students read French novels. In other words, she doesn't just use the same old boring routine , she spices it up with all sorts of interesting items.
My parents keep telling me that I'm going to have to live with the traditional style of teachers because I'll have them in college, and I'm ready for that. But in the meantime, it's nice to know that there really is something happening in the school system. It's people like my French teacher who let me know that someone, somewhere, is fighting to break the mold that binds both teachers and students into a boring old routine. It's nice that I get to grow up knowing that eventually my children might be able to go to school and truthfully say, "I had a really good time in school today" , often. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.