School: To suck or not to suck, that is the ...I like classes in which I am interested in the subject, and I learn things that interest me at the time. If the objective is for students to learn, they must be interested. The question is how to get them interested.
The classes I like are taught well and interesting. In my opinion, there seems to be a direct correlation between quality and level of enthusiasm of the teacher and how successful the class is. An example would be Advanced Math. That is a regular class; any sophomore who has taken Geometry in the past or concurrently can take this course. There are a few students in that class who were already motivated and very strong in math. The teacher is enthusiastic and tries to get the kids involved in the math meets. He tries to pull all the average students up to the level of the already strong math students. I think almost everyone received either an A or a B in that class the first semester.
The teacher must also value the students' ideas. They have to realize that we are just "small adults" and that we will be running the world in a few years (heaven forbid).
One of my least favorite classes is a fully outcome based class in which there are a mix of sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The teacher is very vague; he doesn't explain what we are supposed to do well. He is trying to get us to use our imagination to find out things about chemistry. It would be more effective if he would first get us interested and excited about the subject and then let us loose to find out things on our own.
I feel I am strong some subjects because I am interested in those subjects out of school. If I want to find out more about something, I can use my computer to broadcast a message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world, and at least one of them will probably reply with the information I wanted. This could be applied to improve the school by setting up a group of professionals in the community who would be willing to answer questions and help students broaden their horizons when they wanted to find out more about a subject in school. There are many more resources available in both of these examples than are currently available in the isolated high school environment. The teachers who bring the outside world into the classroom seem more successful at interesting the students.
Kids who are lectured at for an hour will probably not learn as much a group of kids who first were somehow inspired to do some research on a subject and then applied their knowledge to problems or experimented to experience it for themselves.
I think a philosophy course would be good because it would give students an opportunity to develop their own ideas and discuss them with their peers. I got this idea from our discussions in literature class; if I had the power, I would add this class to our curriculum. Students would have to take an active role in this class.
I think an improvement over O.B.E. and the current mix of methods of teaching the individual teachers use would be the creation of an environment where students could go ahead at their own pace, with the ability to find out a lot about any subject they find themselves interested in, having been introduced to a broad or even specific topic. Within this system, there wouldn't be classes as they exist now; students would have access to vast libraries of information not currently available at the high school level. If a student is given only a freshman math book to learn from, chances are she will only learn freshman math. Give that student resources available to adults outside the high school microcosm, and her learning will be unlimited.
Given an environment that includes an enthusiastic teacher, who is respectful of the students' ideas, resources which are high, by professional standards, and teenagers who are conscious and aware that they have power over their lives and education, a high rate of learning will exist.