Thursday, December 4, 2008

Now That's Innovation

The classroom has always been a traditional concept where kids sit in rows, raise their hands before speaking, and take pop quizzes before hopping on the bus to head home (not to mention rancid lunches and hanging off the monkey bars on the playground). Reality is somewhat different than perception, especially if you've managed to pull your head out of the '50s.

Take Tom Farber, a high school teacher in California who recently started selling ad space on his exams to raise money to pay for the cost of paper. This ridiculous sounding story, which is on in an article titled Cash-Strapped Teacher Sells Ads on Tests, has received praise from both within Farber's school and from the community.

What Tom Farber has done is creative problem solving, with a little bit of tongue-in-cheek nose-thumbing at the legislators in California who are responsible for setting the education budget, which can't even afford teachers as much paper as they need for copies (a budgetary crisis that is also a reality right here in Southern New Mexico, where failed budgets are becoming the norm).

I mention this because it is another example of teachers, faced with obstacles, finding innovative ways to deal with the many issues that surround education and influence what happens in the classroom.

I believe that public schools are largely mismanaged, outdated systems that simply do not put students first. This includes curriculum decisions, money management, and the focus and perspective of administration. Of course, high stakes testing doesn't help, and some of the current issues that face public education are direct results of this fact. True innovation takes place all around us, usually in the midst of traditional instruction and educational programs that do not serve students directly. I wanted to mention this ads on tests thing because it's funny, a little ironic, and because I felt like it, so enjoy.