Debunking Myths About Combination Classrooms

Debunking Myths About Combination ClassroomsHave you heard of the combination classroom? If not, then it may be just a matter of time before it debuts in a school near you. With education budgets tighter than ever, these types of classroom environments are becoming more prevalent. So just what are they, exactly? Combination classrooms, also referred to as multi-grade classrooms, are those that accommodate students of different ages and grade levels under the instruction of a single teacher. Most parents panic when they learn of the possibility that their child may be put in the same classroom as children older or younger than them, but research has shown that there’s really no reason to fear. To put those worries aside, let’s examine and debunk some of the myths surrounding combination classrooms.

Myth 1: The teachers aren’t qualified.
In reality, principals typically recognize the increased challenge that a combination classroom poises and, as a result, choose the most experienced and qualified teachers on staff for these positions. Furthermore, these teachers often receive extensive training in order to learn the best practices for effectively managing the multi-grade classroom.

Myth 2: The teachers are overwhelmed.
Any teaching job can be overwhelming at times, but combination classroom teachers usually get more planning time and fewer duties outside of the classroom. Many of these teachers even have their own classroom aide to help ease the burden.

Myth 3: Students don’t perform as well academically.
Studies have shown that students taught in multi-grade  learning environments perform just as well—and in some cases, better—than students taught in a traditional classroom environment.

Myth 4: Older children won’t be challenged in a combination class.
Older children in combination classrooms not only receive grade-level instruction, but they also retain prior knowledge better since they often teach these skills to younger students in the class.

Myth 5: Children in combination classrooms don’t do well socially.
Although some parents and educators alike have expressed concerns that children in combination classrooms miss out on the social benefits gained from interacting with their same-age peers, studies often reveal the opposite. That is, research has shown that students in these types of learning environments not only get along better with one another, but also form more satisfying relationships with their teachers since they usually remain in the combination classroom for more than one school year. Advocates of the multi-grade classroom argue that the learning environment actually promotes enhanced social skills since it more accurately mimics the type of social situation a student will likely encounter in the “real world.”

The results of research conducted on combination classrooms thus far are quite impressive, and if studies continue to yield positive findings, then these types of classrooms may become the norm in the future. If you’re interested in finding out more about multi-grade classrooms including how and why they work, I’d highly recommend you check out The Multigrade Classroom: A Resource for Small, Rural Schools. It’s full of information for parents and teachers alike.

Keeping the Spark of Creativity Alive in Education

Keeping the Spark of Creativity Alive in EducationDo your kids come home talking about how boring school is? Are you worried that most of what they’re learning is either rote memorization or standardized test material?

You’re not alone, and unfortunately, your fears may not be entirely unwarranted. While schools do stress the importance of teachers leading students beyond knowledge-level concepts into higher levels of thinking, there’s still the pressure of preparing kids for high-stakes testing, and this isn’t always creative or fun—for the student or the teacher. Plus, teachers are often overloaded with responsibilities, from managing overcrowded classrooms, teaching an increasingly rigorous curriculum, and sponsoring extracurricular activities. Whether you’re a student or a teacher, feeling overwhelmed can be a creativity crusher!

Luckily, you don’t have to stand by hopelessly while your child’s imagination and enthusiasm for school dwindles down to nothing. There are things you can do to help both your child and his or her teacher!

Donate.
I don’t have to tell you that school budgets are tight these days. Many times, teachers have to dig into their own pockets to buy supplies for the classroom, and on a teacher’s salary, these pockets aren’t very deep. If your child’s class seems to be doing less and less creative activities, it could be a matter of funding or supplies. Many online charities have sprung up that make it easy to help classrooms in need. Help a teacher post their request on a site like DonorsChoose.org. Email your child’s teacher and let her know that you’re willing to donate either cash, materials, or time. Think you have nothing to give? Think again! You’d be surprised at what a teacher can do with empty milk jugs or paper towel rolls. Who knows? These throw-away items may just spark her creativity, and guess who benefits? Your child! If your teacher needs a little nudging, or if you want to try some recycled craft activities at home, check out these ideas.

Advocate.
Schools all over the country are cutting some of the very programs that have the most potential for sparking your child’s creativity. If we keep heading in this direction, music and art classes may soon become a thing of the past. Again, you don’t have to stand by idly, though. Let your school administrator, district superintendent, and state board of education know how you feel, and encourage other parents to do the same. Think that’s not enough? Consider starting or joining a cause to keep the arts in public schools.

Participate.
Of course, you can’t rely on the teacher alone to keep the spark of creativity alive in your child. It’s important that you do your part as well. Whether it’s by reading fun, age-appropriate books with your child, doing a craft project together, or simply talking about something new that you or your child has learned, you can make a difference in how your child perceives learning—for the long term!

Do you have ideas for keeping creativity alive at home or in the classroom? Please share them in the comments section below!