I was reading up the beautiful blue pamphlet on provincial government spending entitled "Standing Strong," and in the education section I noticed that more "interactive white boards," also known as SmartBoards, and computers will be made available along, with other material things in order to "stand strong" in education.
It was the last straw to break the camel's back and get the "camel" to write to (the Advertiser's sister newspaper) The Compass.
What I want to discuss here can be summarized in a laconic manner as: "it is a bad policy to want to replace flesh-and-blood teachers with Vista-run SmartBoards."
Who am I to say it and why do I say it?
I have been teaching mathematics and physics for more than 25 years at all levels. I have got to know, through my own experience and the experiences of my fellow teachers, that education is a "human" activity and hence needs humans - teachers and students in this case - to act in the "play."The "props" are only secondary.
It is particularly true in the case of the three great Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic. Students that come from schools with small classes are in general stronger in their capacity to learn and in their attitude towards learning. They have had adequate experiences in interacting with their teachers. They are not hampered with the feeling of "standing out" when they want to ask a question or respond to one, as they usually feel in a large class.
Similarly, teachers do their best teaching with attention to every individual student and their talents, something often referred to as "tailored learning."
Fundamentally, a teacher-student friendship has a better chance of fostering in a smaller class than in a larger class; it is an important psychological basis for learning, as parent-son/daughter "friendship" is important for a harmonious life in a family.
I notice more and more that growth in government spending is measured in terms of the millions spent in buildings, in buying computers and the recent entrant, the so-called SmartBoard. Believe me; neither very friendly nor smart.
I would suggest that money is spent in having more teachers and smaller classes.
Many young graduates can be given part-time teaching in the guise of "academic teaching assistants" to sidestep the collective agreement clauses as a temporary measure; retired teachers can be invited to share the burden of our full-time teachers in the same manner - all to reduce the class sizes.
Smaller classes - about 15 - are most important for students in their formative years (up to about 18).
The miracles performed in smaller classes in terms of learning and mental health cannot be matched by new buildings, computers, calculators and interactive whiteboards.
Saving "money" in the name of rationalization (amalgamating schools) and through the process of keeping the class sizes large (between 35 and 40), and getting rid of/transferring teachers if the class sizes get smaller, are all detrimental tricks to play on the youth.
Newfoundland has always valued education highly as part of its joie de vivre.
New methods can be tried here. Let the mainland be; sauce for the goose need not be sauce for the gander.