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Scott Horstman
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Boring Science Teachers
      #5645064 - 01/26/13 08:19 PM

I wish my science teachers had taken a few notes from Richard Feynman.

http://www.wimp.com/explainedscience/


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llanitedave
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: Scott Horstman]
      #5645271 - 01/26/13 11:18 PM

Maybe they wrote HIM notes, suggesting he try 10-20-30.

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Scott Horstman
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5645286 - 01/26/13 11:28 PM

Naaa, they were too busy being boring.......... and expecting students to learn chemistry, geology, physics from reading text and doing work sheets while they sat at their desks pretending to grade papers the whole period.

This is high school I'm referring to BTW. I knew everything already when I was 18 anyhow so I didn't go to college. I decided to join the Army.

Edited by Scott Horstman (01/26/13 11:40 PM)


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gavinm
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: Scott Horstman]
      #5646162 - 01/27/13 02:26 PM

That's not teaching, it's lecturing

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Rick Woods
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: gavinm]
      #5646170 - 01/27/13 02:31 PM

Well, be fair: Taking up teaching as a profession doesn't make someone a good teacher. It's the difference between a house painter and a gifted artist. Sometimes you get both; but usually not.
This shouldn't reflect badly on those others who are out there trying, though. A set of skills isn't the same as gift. You use what you've got.


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MikeBOKC
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: Rick Woods]
      #5646219 - 01/27/13 03:00 PM

I have taught adjunct at the community college level (English and speech) for more than 20 years. I enjoy doing it (the money is not that significant) and I have some rules for myself which include being on my feet and engaged throughout the class. Some years ago between jobs I signed on as a substitute at the local public school district and spent a semester rotating through just about every class in the building, and I have to say I was appalled at the lackadasical approach to teaching I witnessed in probably two-thirds of the classes.

In class after class and subject after subject it was "read the text, do the worksheet, watch the video, repeat." These were not just lessons interjected for the day when there was a substiture, but the norm. I asked kids in class after class and they told me yes, they did this drudgery every day. One English class watched videos three days a week. The kids knew there was no point in actually reading Ivanhoe because they were sure to see the movie.

The few good teachers were obvious -- even with a sub on hand there were high expectations, challenging assigments and rigorous standards, and most of the students responded by working and learning. It became apparent to me that the teaching profession has morphed into a punch-the-clock, collect the pension workaday job for many. Of course some of the worst were coaches. But looking back 40 years to my own school days (in this same district) there was no comparison. We used to have teachers in most rooms; now they have drones.

If kids are no longer excited by science it is likely because they have a wholly unexciting teacher. Garbage in, garbage out . . .


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Glassthrower
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: MikeBOKC]
      #5646337 - 01/27/13 04:13 PM

In hindsight, some of my best and favorite teachers were science teachers. In particular, a Physical Sciences teacher in 8th grade made a big impression on me. Sadly, I cannot recall his name at the moment. He was also a beekeeper. He made science interesting and exciting. Lots of hands-on demonstrations and trips outside the classroom. In fact, some of things he did would be frowned up on today, such as the time he dropped a sizeable piece of pure sodium into a 5-gallon bucket of water.

Another favorite of mine was my Marine Biology teacher from 12th grade - Mr. Ted Adams. He was there for 21 years and passed away from cancer in 2006. He used just the right amount of humor (some of it very anti-establishment) that made cutting up frogs and fish seem like fun - in addition to teaching us things that actually "stuck".

My 10th grade Biology teacher Mr. Gumm was also a great teacher from the old-school vein. He was a task-master, but a brilliant teacher and I still remember his lessons.

I just hope the kids today still have some teachers like that around.


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Scott Horstman
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: Rick Woods]
      #5647826 - 01/28/13 11:05 AM

Quote:

A set of skills isn't the same as gift. You use what you've got.







I can't disagree but many of the teachers I had could have at least shown a little enthusiasm. Tough to expect the kids to excel if the instructor acts as if he doesn't want to be there.

The classes that were taught by motivated individuals and the lessons they gave regardless of subject are the ones I remember to this day.


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FirstSightModerator
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: gavinm]
      #5661344 - 02/04/13 09:24 AM

Quote:

That's not teaching, it's lecturing




Articulate, thought-provoking lectures *are* a valuable form of teaching. For example, a great many people find the TED series of lectures to be extremely worthwhile in expanding their awareness and knowledge of things they would otherwise not have been exposed to. For lectures to be effective teaching, however, they have to successfully engage most of the audience into actively thinking through the material presented, rather than simply passively collecting fact-tokens to be stored away in a notebook for a future test.

This is not to dismiss the value of teachers who are good at didactic methods of teaching, nor the value of teachers who are good at choosing and assisting with exercises designed for self-teaching by students through experiment and experience. However, teaching in this manner effectively and engagingly is as difficult as teaching through engaging lecturing. Too often, the "experiment and experience" winds up being little more than students plodding through workbooks, or laboriously plodding through dull "experiments" that teach students little except bureaucratic hoop-jumping to get the necessary token of academic credit to move on. The didactic (or Socratic) method is, in the hands of far too many teachers, simply a clumsy, awkward, dull technique to attempt (or simulate) engaged teaching or learning, used with poor sensibility about what sorts of back-and-forth dialogue with students is useful or engagingly interesting. In too many hands, it becomes little more than a mutually embarassing pop quiz about material the student has little sense or desire regarding its potential importance, except to give enough of an answer to get the teacher off their back for the moment. zzzzzz.

I'd VASTLY prefer to have Dr. Feynemann as my "teacher", even in a large lecture hall format, than the vast majority of teachers I've endured who try to employ "techniques" their college education departments considered "teaching", when simply being a good, truthfully accurate storyteller about whetever subject they're teaching, able to infectiously convey their own fascination with the subject-matter...is infinitely more valuable. The best teachers I've ever had are NOT that way because of anything they learned through educational pedagoguary, but rather because they are articulate evangalists of some subject they have strong native interest in themselves.


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gavinm
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: FirstSight]
      #5662044 - 02/04/13 04:02 PM

The original poster refers to High School. Adults who go to TED talks are already educated and are there by choice, therefore are already interested and engaged. High School students don't have that choice so require multiple methods to engage them at different levels. I'm not disagreeing with you about the shortfalls of many teachers, but you are bringing your educated/adult paradigm to the discussion. I suspect Dr Feynman would not be successful as a High School teacher in a modern classroom - you may like him now, but you're an adult with an interest. My students would find the video amusing and possibly learn from it, but not in the long term. Lecturing CAN be effective to a limited degree in a course where students have chosen to attend - physics is an example in many schools, science is not. They are their because they have to be and would be disengaged within 10 minutes of someone speaking at them.

Personally I agree and find many (not a majority, however) teachers about as exciting as watching paint dry.


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llanitedave
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: gavinm]
      #5662443 - 02/04/13 08:29 PM

Good point about the difference between high school and voluntary adult learning, Gavin. I'd just quibble that in many cases, even though adults can show up for a class fully engaged and willing to listen, a boring lecturer can quickly disengage them. The need to keep the source material interesting and involving for both adults and teens isn't necessarily that different. The real key is that the teacher is enthusiastic and takes joy in the material he/she is communicating.

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astromattical
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5662846 - 02/05/13 02:09 AM

I have absolutely no positive memories of my teachers in all of my education, but my passion for science is immense. Although my teachers were not enthusastic, I had friends that were and for some reason I just ate science up. I'd come home from high school and read all sorts of text books for fun - astronomy, marine science, physics. My dad also built many rubber-band powered airplanes, model rockets, and dug for shells at the beach with me when I was a kid.

School provided a foundation, and everything else on top of that was developed at home. It sure would have been nice to have an enthusastic teacher, but it isn't necessary. My son will be raised as I was, and I'm sure he'll be a geek just like his father regardless of his school environment.


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gavinm
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5662894 - 02/05/13 04:02 AM

Quote:

I'd just quibble that in many cases, even though adults can show up for a class fully engaged and willing to listen, a boring lecturer can quickly disengage them.




Too right - the number of conferences I've been to with "professional" or "world-class" speakers that have bored the pants off me is not all that surprising.


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groz
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: gavinm]
      #5663567 - 02/05/13 01:06 PM

I dont think the TED lectures are a good example _at all_. Saw a clip on tv last nite, they are coming to town around here for the next couple of years. Wife and I were thinking, hey, that would be an interesting thing to attend a time or two. We changed our mind, when they mentioned the $7000 ticket price.

There is more selection criteria than 'just interested' when it comes that that audience.


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Glassthrower
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: groz]
      #5666236 - 02/06/13 11:25 PM

Only $7k a pop? Heck, I'll take 10 tickets and bring the whole family!

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Rick Woods
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: Glassthrower]
      #5666362 - 02/07/13 01:25 AM

That better include a soda, popcorn, and parking validation!

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Glassthrower
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: Rick Woods]
      #5667224 - 02/07/13 02:46 PM

It should include a Tak refractor for that kind of money.

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Scott Horstman
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: Glassthrower]
      #5667531 - 02/07/13 05:25 PM

At 7k a seat for that you'd think I'd be booked till 2030 for observatory installs.

Does it include a Carribean astronomy cruise?


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Matthew Ota
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: Scott Horstman]
      #5677964 - 02/13/13 04:29 PM

I had some good high school science teachers but the best science teacher I ever had was Issac Asimov through his books and essays.

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Glassthrower
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: Matthew Ota]
      #5680237 - 02/14/13 09:22 PM

Ditto what Matthew just said - Asimov inspired me about science more than any one factor.

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llanitedave
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: Glassthrower]
      #5680412 - 02/14/13 11:25 PM

I loved Asimov's science books. I wasn't quite such a big fan of his science fiction.

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russell23
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5681181 - 02/15/13 11:10 AM

As a science teacher let me share a few of the challenges in teaching science to high school students:

1. Packed curriculum. I'm a firm believer in the less is more approach to education. In other words I would rather cover fewer concepts in more depth so that they have actual meaning than to cover a huge range of concepts in such shallow depth that they become a string of memorized facts. Unfortunately - state curricula typically try to pack in way too much material - and then leave all of it subject to the state "standardized" tests.

2. Standardized tests. It is a significant challenge to teach any content laden subject - such as science - and not find yourself tailoring instruction to the end of the year state exam. Frankly, in the Chemistry curriculum I teach for New York state, there are too many things that might be on the test that I feel cannot be taught to the level of depth for any real understanding or I would not "get through all the material" (a popular refrain among teachers dealing with an overpacked state curriculum) students need to "know" for the state exam.

3. Math skills. When you teach a science - the reality is that many of the concepts are better understood if the students can handle some math. Unfortunately, the last 15 years has seen a big push to revise math curricula and make students learn concepts earlier than they are developmentally ready to learn. There is also less emphasis in the early grades on memorization of basic math facts. So when they get to high school science too many of them are not proficient enough in the basic math operations to really keep up with the calculation work that helps expand an understanding of science concepts.

4. If it is not Edutainment it is poor teaching. By the time students get to high school they've had years of intruction in which "fun" is the eductational objective. To be considered a good teacher we must be "edutainers". Now there is a certain amount of real need here. You're not doing a good job as a teacher if you don't "engage" most of your students in the learning process. However, by the time students get to high school they've spent years doing "projects" ( ie. meaningless powerpoints and coloring activities) and working in groups on "cooperative learning" activities, and listening to teachers apologize to the students any time they have to present material via lecture "Now I know this isn't going to be real exciting but we need to get through this."

And in that climate as a high school teacher you have to be a really good lecturer to engage your students - especially as a science teacher because science is such a content driven subject.

So I do understand the premise behind this thread - and some of the teaching approaches described in this thread are simply horrendous. I have my own examples. My daughter's have a history teacher that simply assigns questions at the end of the chapter of the book. He became so predictable that my daughters started doing the questions ahead of time. When he gave the assignment they would walk up and hand it to him as soon as he finished stating what it was. Pretty funny tactic on their part, but it hasn't changed his teaching strategies as my subsequent daughters have found out.

5. Teachers as the scapegoat. There has been a belief in our society that failures in education rest solely on the shoulders of the teachers. The belief is that to fix education we must fix the way teachers teach. Certainly you can identify bad teachers, but that is only part of the puzzle. The bigger part is bad parenting. Why is it that whenever I get a student from family "X" they are "A" students and students from family "Y" are "F" students? It couldn't possibly be that the students from family X are expected to study for their classes and get high grades whereas in family Y the parents never read to their kids when they were young, never made education a priority, or even pay attention to what their kids are doing? No - it is always the teachers fault. Our policy makers keep thinking that they can fix educational results by making the teachers jump through more hoops to prove we are "effective" while never pressuring the parents to likewise be more effective.

Dave


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LivingNDixieModerator
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: russell23]
      #5681266 - 02/15/13 11:52 AM

One major problem I saw when I was in college was there is way too many people majoring in education but focusing on every subject but math or a science.

We have way too many elementary education majors and the like. But we can not get anyone to major in science or math education. I blame that on the low pay. Why should someone good at Math or Science go into teaching when they can be an engineer or scientist and make double or triple the money.

Factor in NCLB and one can see why young people like me changed from a science education career.


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Skip
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: russell23]
      #5681872 - 02/15/13 04:11 PM

Quote:

Our policy makers keep thinking that they can fix educational results by making the teachers jump through more hoops to prove we are "effective" while never pressuring the parents to likewise be more effective.




Dave, I couldn't agree more with this. But the reason for this is probably obvious to you and others. There is almost NOTHING you can do to the parents to make them have better parenting skills. On the other hand, you CAN do something to the teachers (threaten their jobs for example).

My wife was a high school science teacher for several years. At numerous parent-teacher conferences, when the student was underperforming, she would ask the parent(s) what were the consequences for the student having a poor performance record. In other words, what are you doing to correct the poor performance. Almost invariably the answer was a strident, "That's none of your business. Your job is to teach my child, I'll handle being the parent." after a few of these and some parent complaints, she was told by the administration that she stop asking this question of the parents.

She was a good teacher. But eventually the stress got to her, she quit teaching and went back to school and got her Doctor of Pharmacy. She is now a pharmacist where she has to put up with a lot less bad parenting and a lot less stress. Oh, and the pay is a lot better too! She is happier and as a result, I'm happier, although I do have to call her "Doctor" now. . Life is good.

Sometimes really excellent teachers make significant strides in spite of bad parents (or probably because of good ones). But usually it just gets worse. And the education problems in our country go on and on and on...


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llanitedave
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: russell23]
      #5682713 - 02/16/13 01:24 AM

Quote:

As a science teacher let me share a few of the challenges in teaching science to high school students:

1. Packed curriculum. I'm a firm believer in the less is more approach to education. In other words I would rather cover fewer concepts in more depth so that they have actual meaning than to cover a huge range of concepts in such shallow depth that they become a string of memorized facts. Unfortunately - state curricula typically try to pack in way too much material - and then leave all of it subject to the state "standardized" tests.

2. Standardized tests. It is a significant challenge to teach any content laden subject - such as science - and not find yourself tailoring instruction to the end of the year state exam. Frankly, in the Chemistry curriculum I teach for New York state, there are too many things that might be on the test that I feel cannot be taught to the level of depth for any real understanding or I would not "get through all the material" (a popular refrain among teachers dealing with an overpacked state curriculum) students need to "know" for the state exam.

3. Math skills. When you teach a science - the reality is that many of the concepts are better understood if the students can handle some math. Unfortunately, the last 15 years has seen a big push to revise math curricula and make students learn concepts earlier than they are developmentally ready to learn. There is also less emphasis in the early grades on memorization of basic math facts. So when they get to high school science too many of them are not proficient enough in the basic math operations to really keep up with the calculation work that helps expand an understanding of science concepts.

4. If it is not Edutainment it is poor teaching. By the time students get to high school they've had years of intruction in which "fun" is the eductational objective. To be considered a good teacher we must be "edutainers". Now there is a certain amount of real need here. You're not doing a good job as a teacher if you don't "engage" most of your students in the learning process. However, by the time students get to high school they've spent years doing "projects" ( ie. meaningless powerpoints and coloring activities) and working in groups on "cooperative learning" activities, and listening to teachers apologize to the students any time they have to present material via lecture "Now I know this isn't going to be real exciting but we need to get through this."

And in that climate as a high school teacher you have to be a really good lecturer to engage your students - especially as a science teacher because science is such a content driven subject.

So I do understand the premise behind this thread - and some of the teaching approaches described in this thread are simply horrendous. I have my own examples. My daughter's have a history teacher that simply assigns questions at the end of the chapter of the book. He became so predictable that my daughters started doing the questions ahead of time. When he gave the assignment they would walk up and hand it to him as soon as he finished stating what it was. Pretty funny tactic on their part, but it hasn't changed his teaching strategies as my subsequent daughters have found out.

5. Teachers as the scapegoat. There has been a belief in our society that failures in education rest solely on the shoulders of the teachers. The belief is that to fix education we must fix the way teachers teach. Certainly you can identify bad teachers, but that is only part of the puzzle. The bigger part is bad parenting. Why is it that whenever I get a student from family "X" they are "A" students and students from family "Y" are "F" students? It couldn't possibly be that the students from family X are expected to study for their classes and get high grades whereas in family Y the parents never read to their kids when they were young, never made education a priority, or even pay attention to what their kids are doing? No - it is always the teachers fault. Our policy makers keep thinking that they can fix educational results by making the teachers jump through more hoops to prove we are "effective" while never pressuring the parents to likewise be more effective.

Dave




I can't find anything in here to criticize. Except a minor quibble on point #3: The push towards reducing the emphasis on basic arithmetic competence in favor of premature advanced concepts goes back a lot further than 15 years. It caused me fits when I was in elementary school back in the 1960s.

I nearly always agree with arguments that teaching critical thinking is better than rote memorization. Except when it comes to basic arithmetic. I think being able to rapidly parrot memorized times tables and the fundamental numerical relationships early on lays the foundation for being able to understand them in greater depth later. The numeracy needs to be established early, but the capacity for truly critical and analytical thinking doesn't develop until the brain matures a bit more.


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nighty
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5682955 - 02/16/13 08:30 AM

The posts by Dave, LivingNdixie and IIanitedave have it pegged.

As a science teacher I see one other factor. Some science teachers are just boring people. I am considered weird because I enjoy science and have hobbies that involve science. I have built a physics course around the projects in my workshop. We use the textbooks as weights or props for ramps. I can do this because 12th graders are not state tested where I teach. I fly multicopters to get students thinking about forces.

I was the only science teacher in my masters education program. Most of the professional development I have experienced was ruined by the uninterested teachers.


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FirstSightModerator
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: LivingNDixie]
      #5684434 - 02/16/13 11:28 PM

Quote:


Factor in NCLB and one can see why young people like me changed from a science education career.




What does "NCLB" stand for? Presumably not "No Clue, Little Boy". (OK, that whas just a wild, churlish guess. What does it really stand for?)

EDIT: DUH! NEVER MIND. I recognized what it really stands for a minute after I posted the above. "No Child Left Behind". Except I still like "No Clue Little Boy" better as an answer.


Edited by FirstSight (02/16/13 11:31 PM)


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Scott Horstman
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Re: Boring Science Teachers new [Re: russell23]
      #5685498 - 02/17/13 04:40 PM

Quote:

never pressuring the parents to likewise be more effective.







It is a sad fact that too many parents aren't their kid's primary teachers. Whether because both parents are working 12 hours a day or because they just really don't get the responsibilities of good parenting, too many kids are left totally at the mercy of the state and the luck of the draw if they have good caring teachers at school.


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