One of the topics I wrote about in my essay, A Brief Discussion of Education, was the concept of redefining homeroom. These ideas are in many ways just suggestions. They’re good suggestions, but they shouldn’t be implemented by force. Above all else, school choice should drive changes in the education system, as educational decisions should be bottom up, not top down. And this discussion on homeroom really highlights that idea, especially in terms of education planning.
A number of students with special needs have individual education plans. These plans are blueprints for the education path of the student. Usually the plans are written as a collaboration between an evaluator and the parents of the child.
The idea that only so called special needs students have such a plan suggests that all the other students in the world learn at a uniform pace. But this idea is nonsense. We have volumes of theory and evidence which suggest otherwise. And so, I think every student should have an individual education program. But in order to make evaluations about students, they need to be observed in detail. And for that, I think homeroom is best.
A homeroom teacher would have the most interaction with the students, out of anyone, except for the parents. And the homeroom teacher could evaluate the student, communicate with the parents, and align the education plan to the students’ needs.
Topic Based Education
A lot of countries are shifting from subject based education to topic based education. Honestly, I think the pendulum has moved too far in that direction, for those countries. Subject based education is important for a number of reasons. Even though I argue that subjects are themselves arbitrarily constructed, they provide a way to compress information into easy to manage and understand components. The bulk of human knowledge and understanding can become overwhelming if we don’t try to compartmentalize it, to an extent. It’s also nice to have, as the teacher of a subject, someone who specializes in a given subject. It’s hard to be an expert in everything.
That being said, we’ve gone too far, and knowledge is overly compartmentalized. We can no longer see the connection between different subjects and topics. This kind of behavior is quite apparent in academia, where different fields of research sometimes have totally different views of the same question, completely ignoring the theory and evidence from the other field.
At the end of the day, what we really want to do is answer questions, and doing so requires a broad understanding and an ability to integrate information from multiple domains of knowledge. So topic based education is crucial. And again, I think that this is where an integrated homeroom comes in handy. The homeroom can be a place where students take all of the subject matter that they’ve been learning, and ask general questions and integrate the information in meaningful and dynamic ways.
Philosophy and Learning Through Play
However, in order to really integrate various domains of knowledge, in order to nurture the love of learning, a solid foundation in philosophy is needed. Philosophy nurtures the love of learning. It’s literally in the name. It also helps us learn to question our own understanding, and thus further our intellectual growth. Philosophy is the perfect integrator for various subjects and teaching it early on is necessary.
But learning also needs to be fun. And I think for the first few years of education, at the very least, most if not all learning should be done through play. Perhaps LEGO is somewhat biased on this issue, but they’ve put together a wonderful review article on learning through play.
There are tons of games available these days, that are designed to help with education. I’ve backed a few campaigns for such games in Kickstarter, including Robot Turtles, which teaches young kids the theory being programming, and Q’s race to the top, a game that helps build social skills.
Though I’m also a huge fan of Dungeons and Dragons, and other related games, which are perfect for older children, and adults. Dungeons and Dragons requires a lot of skill to play well. It requires acting skills, an understanding of economics, politics, and strategy. Players need to be able to work together, and so it requires social skills. The Dungeon Master especially needs social skills, including group leadership skills, as well as storytelling and writing skills.
Playing a lot of games in homeroom is one way to build community. Being responsible for the homeroom is another. One idea that I’d love American schools, and all schools, to borrow from Japan, is the responsibility that students have towards their homeroom. They’re responsible for organizing events in the homeroom and keeping the homeroom clean.
Homeroom is a community, in Japan. In the United States, when the bell rings for the next class, the hallways are flooded with students, running around trying to get to the next class. Who thought of this setup? In Japan, teachers move from classroom to classroom. Isn’t that so much easier? I think so. It also means that students get to be with each other all day, and interact with each other. Or at least they have the potential to do so.
Are children just miniature adults? Not quite, but in many ways, we need to treat them as such. Why? How can a child learn to be an adult, and act properly around other adults, if the only time they interact with adults is when they’re being told what to do? And that’s really what happens in most school environments. It’s only after children get out of high school that they start to learn how to be adults. That’s absurd. It’s too late by then.
I mention this issue in social media isn’t to blame for the post truth phenomenon. A homeroom is a perfect place to allow children to act more like adults, including providing them with responsibilities similar to that of an adult, and interacting with the homeroom teacher(s), in a more equal fashion, allowing the children to have discussions with the teacher, as well as each other, rather than just listen and regurgitate.
The Homeroom Coordinator
Obviously I mentioned a lot of different aspects of homeroom, and the person, or people, who run a homeroom would be far more than just teachers. They would be homeroom coordinators. They would be administrators. They would be evaluators. This job would require a lot of training and years of experience. And it the pay that the homeroom coordinator receives should be commensurate with the responsibilities that they hold.
Because a homeroom coordinator is a job that requires experience, I think the best way to get that experience would be to have an assistant role. There would be a primary coordinator, and an assistant coordinator, in each homeroom. Part of my desire to see this kind of setup comes from my view that on the job training is necessary. And I don’t mean a few weeks or even months here and there. Homeroom coordinator is a job that will require years of experience.
The development of a true home room, as well as a coordinator position to oversee the homeroom would allow for a great deal of improvement. The goal is to turn school into a community of children, who engage with one another, and with adults, in a more natural way, and who acquire the skill to learn, and the love of learning, rather than simply the ability to regurgitate what a teacher says is the correct answer.