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The Teacher's Attention: Why Our Kids Must and Can Get Smaller Schools and Classes

Garrett Delavan

Publication Year: 2009

The Teacher’s Attention is a fresh take on relationships in schools. Looking beyond our obsession with raising test scores, this book recognizes that education is a key partner in raising children. Garrett Delavan contends that allowing students, educators and parents to navigate a smaller number of relationships—a concept he calls "relationship load"—provides many benefits, including a better chance at achieving equal access to a good education for all children.

Delavan shows how class size, school size, and longer-term student-teacher relationships are all equally critical components for educating our children ethically and successfully. After examining these proposed reforms in detail, Delavan also considers counterarguments and provides a detailed projection of costs and savings, putting to rest the assumption that smaller classes and smaller schools are necessarily more expensive. Finally, the book discusses possible steps toward implementation, showing how the author's proposed reforms are remarkably practical.

Published by: Temple University Press

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Introduction

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pp. vii-xiv

In Philip Jackson’s classic study, Life in Classrooms, he writes, “The crowds in the classroom may be troubling. But there they are. Part of becoming a student involves learning how to live with that fact” (1990, p. 19). Class size is easy to take as a given of schooling if you’ve always taught or seen classes of relatively equal size. That’s not my experience. I’ve taught ...

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1 First and Foremost

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pp. 1-39

There are many good (and bad) ideas for changes in schools; I am convinced relationship load ought to be addressed first and foremost. For some it’s a radical argument; for others it’s a tired argument, supposedly long since shown to be simplistic. If you’re skeptical, please read ...

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2 Getting the Crisis Right

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pp. 40-53

Beneath the educational policy in the United States is an underlying philosophy that runs counter to a balanced, relational view of human existence. Nel Noddings, one of the best-known philosophers of education in the United States, refers to it as “the relentless cultural press for separation” (1989, p. 214) and “the orientation characterized by hierarchy, specialty ...

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3 The Racial Relationship Gap

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pp. 54-60

Just as academic achievement is not equitably distributed across races, relationship load is not equitably distributed. A major factor in the achievement gap is that students of color tend to be placed in schools that are “understaffed and overpopulated” (Williams and Land 2006, p. 583). Consider the four aspects of relationship load as experienced by two racial groups who tend to experience less school success. African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be in large schools and ...

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4 Defining the Harm: Adult Attention Deficit

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pp. 61-77

Th e reasoning in this proposal is grounded in the understanding that the two overarching needs perceptible to children in their relationship to adults are autonomy, that is, getting to do what they want (explore the world, seek pleasure, play) and attention, that is, getting help from caregivers when they’re hungry, bored, unsure, lonely, afraid, hurt, and so on. Support ...

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5 The Four- Piece Relationship Load Solution

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pp. 78-102

The Sephardic thinker Maimonides grappled with the issue of class size in the twelfth century (Achilles 1999, p. 22). In 1693 John Locke argued that private tutors were preferable to schoolmasters in their moral influence because a tutor “was likely to have only three or four children to supervise, compared with the three or four score of the schoolmaster” (Heywood 2001, p. 160). Relationship load in education is hardly a new topic, yet it continues to be seen as secondary to fake- ...

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6 The Core of the Relationship Load Effect

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pp. 103-115

Here I want to highlight the reasons teachers cannot be as caring or effective in large groups as they can in small, nor can students feel as cared for or as capable. More evidence could be marshaled to support what I say here, and many more effects of relationship reduction could be similarly supported, and I hope to do just that in a later volume....

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7 The Counterarguments

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pp. 116-126

Th ese are mainly arguments against class size reduction in par tic u lar. In Chapter 5, I dealt with the arguments against smaller schools and teacher continuity, showing that class size reduction would solve all the legitimate ones. As argued there, if people can be convinced to invest in class size reduction, then adding on school size and teacher continuity would be a minor additional ...

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8 The Costs and Savings

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pp. 127-144

In the German fairy tale, the Pied Piper didn’t get paid when he led the rats out of town by playing his inviting music. In retaliation for this, he led away the town’s children with the same music, never to be seen again. If we don’t want to lose our own kids, then we also need to pay the piper. This chapter examines whether that payment will be all that large in the long run. It challenges the most prevalent counterargument, demonstrating that the proposal is at worst cheap and at best free. I’ll start ...

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9 Implementation at the School and District Levels

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pp. 145-162

The role school and district administrators can play in helping to solve the real crisis is to increase teacher continuity, bring down school size, and facilitate parent-school relationships. As well, they can reduce class size significantly within the current bud get constraints by reducing separation of programs and specialization of teachers. The major barriers to helping kids at this level will be the following: ...

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10 Implementation at the State and Federal Levels

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pp. 163-177

The key contribution of state and federal decision-makers would be to coordinate and fund the critical piece of grouping size reduction: classes of twelve. They can also be critical players in ensuring more funding equality across local school districts and that the largest schools, and those with the most poverty and racial stigmatization, get priority in school and class size reduction. Again, what follows is not a binding prescription. I want to show that the proposal can be done, not to ...

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11 Help from the Private Sector

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pp. 178-179

Thus far we’ve principally talked about how the public sector can reorganize to meet the challenges of the real nurturance crisis. The private sector also bears responsibility for the problems and the solutions. The most obvious area is the overworking and underpaying of the parents and community members and the subsequent effect on their A package of policies that includes generous paid parental leaves, reduced work hours for parents, better pay and benefits for part- ...

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12 Implementation at Kid Level

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pp. 180-184

I will wrap up the book by bringing it back to where the students are— in their homes and classrooms. What follows is a short selection of how teachers and parents can maximize school’s potential impact on the nurturance crisis. I keep it short because it’s been generously elaborated elsewhere. What’s most oft en overlooked, of course, are the real constraints placed upon teachers by relationship load— decisions almost en-tirely out of the hands of teachers. Let’s begin by addressing parents and ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 185-187

When I entered high school as a ninth-grader, the school was bursting at the seams. It was the same year a neighboring high school was being closed down, and the other three were accommodating its students. Accommodated is not how I felt among the more than two thousand other teenagers. I became overwhelmed and disconnected. I began to skip classes and stop doing homework. By mid-year I’d succumbed to clinical depression. I was more fortunate than I ...

Appendices

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pp. 189-196

Notes

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pp. 197-201

References

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pp. 203-218

Index

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pp. 219-226


E-ISBN-13: 9781592138951

Publication Year: 2009