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This is behind the classroom door a series of discussions produced by WFIU Af-Am and the College of Education at Northern Illinois University and distributed by the national educational radio network. Our topic for this program is significant differences between elementary and secondary schools. Here is the modern writer Dean Robert F. top. This is the fifth of a series of informal discussions involving Northern Illinois University and ministers from the College of Education. When title is series behind the classroom door and we hope to wring out from our experience some preparation some ideas about. Education and its various problems and issues that may be new to some of the listeners. This fifth present ation is entitle significant differences between elementary and secondary schools and we chose this because it's entirely
possible that major mistakes can be made in the understanding of parents and their handling of their children as they move from the elementary grades through the secondary schools. We know for example that parents are very enthused about PTA during those early years but very soon they taper off. The parents don't attend PTA Jand seem to turn the students off on their own. Well there are significant differences to the child and there are different differences within each of the schools even the names are confusing. We still have some people using the old term grammar grammar schools which goes way back in the history of our country. Elementary school and secondary school is the proper terminology modernly speaking only for refer to grade schools as elementary schools and actually they may be a number of different formations.
Dr. Lloyd Leonard head of elementary education at the university. Would you mind reacting a little bit with regard to what is the essential difference between elementary schools and secondary schools as you see it. Thank you Dean top. I suppose one of the most significant differences is the degree of departmental ization or specialization found in the elementary school and in the secondary school. When you mean no departmental ization what difference does this make in the life of the child once his routine like. Well for example most girls that I know about have what we call self-contained classrooms at the kindergarten level and primary grade level and many of them are most most of them at the upper grade levels too. However as you know in many junior high schools and in all the senior high schools that I know about they are more
specialized in other words they'll have one teacher teach one or two subjects. A child for example will go for a 45 or a 50 or 55 minute class period to biology or unless they are sued by a junior high degree. The difference then to the child lives instead of having essentially one teacher maybe with a music teacher or a specialist or a physical education teacher. You mean him six or seven different teachers in this room. That's correct. This has been a controversial issue in elementary schools for many many years. It's there's an interesting history behind this back about 40 50 years ago in this country. Many elementary schools were especially in large cities were highly departmental isor specialized and there was a period of years that this off contained classroom was advocated by a specialist in elementary education self contained in the one teacher one teacher was responsible let's say for the children all day however she might have assistance as you say in
music in art possibly in physical education don't go in there sometimes the music teacher came into the classroom rather than the children going out to the music room. That's correct. However there's one thing I'd like to mention and that is at the present time. There is pressure let's say and the trend back to more specialization L at the elementary school level probably for different reasons today than then 40 50 years ago specialisation on the part of the teacher. That's right and where the child would have several teachers or a child would leave probably leave his own classroom and his whole let's say his home room and go to another room for math for reading for social studies for science. I wonder I wonder once back of this move. Personally I'd need to see it happen in the primary grades of primary grades or kindergarten first second and third I think we agree on that. Neither the Greens who are the youngsters just finding his way. He's acquiring all the disciplines of taking turns
and sitting down those are the basic things to learning. But it seems to me that we can go too far in this. How do you come up for the fact to Dr. Lerner that there seems to be a trend toward department was a shoe or specialization by teachers. You know in the upper elementary grades at least I suppose there are many reasons for it. I feel that one probably is the explosion of knowledge has taken place in recent years. Perhaps another one is a trend for specialization outside of the school is as well as in the school in other words our whole society is becoming more specialized whether it's a doctor or the dentist or no matter who you go to. You find more specialization and that trend I think is it's a moving into the schools too. Dr. Leonard I would like to point out that there is a great impact on the child as he moves from the elementary
school where there is a great deal of self contained classroom type of organization. When a child knows into the the high school he is faced with and tire a new type of surroundings in the elementary school he met mostly with one teacher. Throughout most of the day but when he got into the secondary school he moves from class to class and he had this large amount of freedom be between classes you know. Lot of a lot of change to attitudes prevail among the teachers and the atmosphere in the school to nearly Grange of course the teachers concerned about the self-concept of the child he doesn't want to destroy his confidence in himself and of course those little kindergarten youngsters coming to school have a wide range of individual differences. Some have
high IQ some not so high. Some have a lot of security. Maybe their parents are taking them places and even introduce them to the schools. But as they move on up through the elementary schools there's a continued attempt to have them face up to the discipline of work. But it is a kind of a shock isn't it. Dr. Laughlin when they move from let's say sixth grade in a Course we ought to mention that elementary school might be a kindergarten through sext or it might be a kindergarten through eight or it might even be in Kindergarten through seven depending on the school districts use a building sometimes they establish a junior high school that has an odd combination of grades don't they. Yes they are educators recognize that there as well. A great deal of change involved in moving from the elementary school to the secondary school and some school systems the junior high school is used as a place where the change can be brought about
gradually. For example in the seventh grade in a junior high school the organization might be primarily a self contained the the eighth grade might be a 50/50 proposition where the child would have a teacher in a self-contained classroom for half the day and the other half the day might be in a departmental ice situation and on the ninth grade it might be completely departmental Laius. Now that you mention the junior high school as being different transitional you in your high school team came about oh maybe 30 or 40 years ago it was becoming I think more popular I think school districts throughout the country are tending to build junior high or intermediate schools. Essentially they have that task don't they of the transition between this one teacher situation to the departmental ice situation and also to help with those early adolescent problems
the Boy Girl difference that is in some of these are very serious during those years partly because the boys are so much slower and maturing little girls. I think one of the most amusing experiences I've had in a in a school situation has been working with a junior high school boys and girls where you have these tremendous differences in size and rate of growth. You have these smaller junior high school boys and in the seventh grade and these big junior high school girls are the same in the same grade and the girls want social dancing don't play doctor lawful and the boys don't want to play bass man I can recall our When we do organize at times when we organize a social gathering for these junior high school youngsters. We'd engage in orchestra and as teachers we would supervise a situation but we always had a great deal of difficulty getting the boys to ask the girls to dance.
Yes they they the girls are ready but the boys were not ready. The girls came up with good ideas. They used to have girls choice. I can recall and then there was a rush of girls across the floor we had it in the gym floor and the girls could almost force the boys to dance they were so much bigger and stronger. I think it has been established that boys don't reach but torte day 20 years later than girls and in a junior high school all of us. This change would be a very marked well lit girls then. As is typical throughout our lives I guess soon teach the boys these social amenities pretty soon the boys are dragged in there to the dance off. Well at any rate there is a profound difference that we know and difference in the attitude of the teachers toward green being in Marks I think. Dr. Leonard if you've got any reactions to that with regard to Marx and Greta it seems becoming more important every year.
Well of course anyone who's been around an elementary school and worked with many parents and teachers knows how different differently different teachers grade. I know that earlier we were talking about the the more specialization in the elementary school. I'd like to go back to do that for a minute and relate it to Grady because I just happen to be in a situation for nine years where I served as principal of four different schools in one large city in the Midwest where we were departmental ised beginning either in fourth grade or in fifth grade it happened in one of the buildings department ization or specialization began at the fifth grade level because probably more because of the structure of the building than anything else. And in the other schools we were departmental ice beginning in fourth grade. And I know that that's when many of the problems began in other words if a child were with one
teacher let's say in the third grade one teacher graded him for everything and then need to be moved on to let's say to fourth grade and found himself in a departmental I set up where he had five teachers or seven teachers instead of one great upright he immediately began to have problems with his grades. I think don't you think that the teachers in those lower grades are trying to breakthrough new moves gradually and gently to a child who really doesn't have too much scholastic ability but is working very hard. So here is a youngster who is trying so eagerly so and and yet the teacher knows that he isn't doing very well. But the teacher has to send back I agree that indicates it is zun This is poor scholastic achievement in the lower grades at least. Right and then you have the problem where. Each teacher has their own reasons for for a grading a certain way and when the child has one to
one teacher for almost all of us subjects with more consistency and going from there its reading grade 2 its English grade to us mathematics crane so white. But if you had a different teacher for each one of these subjects each teacher has their own unique way of grading. And the reason for giving a child an A in one classroom may be quite quite the opposite might be quite the opposite reason for grading in a different room. Well a teacher becomes more objective doesn't he when he when he has lets say one hundred twenty different children and Social Science at the junior high level. He was going to administer an object of type to suit some types of tests and arrive at grades and the child gets the greed on the basis of his achievement in that subject as compared to the other children room whereas earlier the teacher tends to compare the child's achievement with his ability. Right and I've heard many parents complain about this. Where of the parent
said Why my child seemed to be doing alright up through sixth grade or wherever the departmental life situation prevailed and when he had junior high school all of the sudden I find it is Granger and DS and I had no knowledge of this coming and of course this is a weakness. This is something that elementary school teachers ought to be alert to the UN to realize that sooner or later along the way the parents and children have to be introduced to the reality of greets along with this I would like to mention at this time that there are great individual differences among children in the kindergarten and the first grade. We recognize that they have different rates of physical growth mental growth emotional growth and social growth. So we have these differences which are great. Now as a child moves up to the second third grade up towards the US secondary school these
rates of growth. Continual increase. So instead of individual differences becoming last as they move through the grades the individual differences are constantly becoming greater. I can remember taking pictures of junior high school boy Dr. Laughlin and some were six feet tall and some were 4 feet tall and they were all about the same chronological age. It would apply the same type of comparison to a rating for example that it's perfectly normal and a third grade to have a range of 6 secs. Let's see 6 grades difference in reading ability and grade placement without question becomes greater as they go along doesn't it. This is one of the serious mistakes parents some teachers make which is that all children can learn at the same rate that all children
can succeed equally well in school. It's so easy to notice these physical differences that as we have short children we have average height children and tall children. But these same type of differences also apply to us to subject matter it feels we have good readers. The average readers and the smaller readers and I would apply to every subject in the curriculum. You know I think going in we not only have the children learning in different rates but I think we should also emphasize right here the fact that children learn in different ways and many times at times that's difficult for parents and sometimes teachers to understand too that one child may learn something in one way but another child to learn the same thing may have to do it in a little different way. Don't you think that's one of the advantages of a self-contained classroom in the elementary school. Dr. Leonard that a teacher has this job most of the day and the teacher can study the child get to know him.
And then I just as methods to this individual child so that the child can learn better. Well as an idea problem analyze situation where the teacher may have a child for just one hour during the day that is very difficult to do. Well I definitely agree with you and as I mentioned earlier where I served as the principal of my departmental I thought going to school there was a big difference in the school where the children were moving into department ization at the fifth grade level rather than the force. In other words one year made a big difference in the child's adjustment. As I recall the recall excuse me from my own experiences on teaching in the elementary school and on the secondary school that I can recall having a an elementary classroom with 25 or 30 children in it. I get to know those children very well and in many cases and I think that's still true today. Teachers make home calls and it was possible
to visit each home during the course of the year. But then when I moved into a high school situation I had as many as 120 130 140 children. Oh I said Destival that's why they stressed personality development and work habits and sharing and self-discipline and so much in the elementary schools now when you have that many child are not one hundred twenty two hundred forty children in the course of one day you know very well you're never going to get around to visiting those homes and getting to know the parents. Oh what a miraculous metamorphosis takes shape takes place in children as they go through the grades in high school formal education America is really tremendous isn't it. I used to like to go down to the kindergarten room the first day of school when I was principal of an elementary school. I couldn't stand it very long I stayed there a while and I would watch the children come in and watch us kill my kindergarten teacher Hamleys children and sometimes I'm having serious problems with the parents.
Reminds me of that old Saturday Evening Post cover it showed a kindergarten teacher peeling a child off the leg of her parents you know she was hanging on. And the mother was crying and the child was crying but the wide range of individual differences when they come to kindergarten. Proteins not only do ability and not only to societies but with regard to their personalities. And along through the way this interferes with learning or it amplifies learning makes it the efficient all the way through life I suppose. I as I'm glad you mentioned that because I'd like to just comment on the importance of the social and emotional development of a small child. For example anyone around him or anyone working in an elementary school as soon observes for example the differences of the children in the kindergarten room and some children are very
well developed socially let's say and emotionally while another child in the kindergarden roommate may be let's say a year or two younger. What a big difference this makes in their achievement I know some school systems when they have what they call a junior and senior kindergarten. During the first year of kindergarten which they call a junior kindergarten the teacher makes up her mind about these children on the level of maturity and the social adjustment and learning ability really that they have. You see people vary so tremendously in their rates of growth and all of these things and it's not just physical. So they near the end of that year the teacher would make a decision with regard to children and some of them would be kept back or their senior kindergarten. Well I could have been called a junior first grade too in other words they spent an extra year during those first two years because they needed it primarily just to grow up. And in this community it
happened to be Santa Barbara California. And this community the parents who sent their children are having difficulty because of maturity problems would actually go to the school and say Would you keep me back a year. And when you put them into that Junior first grade so that. You can grow up the parents were educated to this. This is pretty quite a contrast to the old fashioned parent who seemed to want to child to move along regularly because of the social impact it might have on him. Well and we still have of course a few of these old fashioned parents as you do as you call them because I can recall situations where a child was definitely not socially and emotionally developed enough to go on into first grade from kindergarden. And I can recall a parent asking Well now why should my child spend another year in kindergarden because he didn't learn anything anyway. Yeah and of course that that showed me immediately that the parents just didn't
understand the idea importance of this social emotional growth for their son even the rate of growth among children at this early level I think has led to this movement which we call the non graded primary where the first three grades in the elementary school might be organized in such a way that the child can move through the ungraded primary at his own rate of growth. Well that's a good that's a good idea. It gives them about a year to span in which to meet these individual differences and of course if it gets away with the stigma of not passing and you know there was a time when the children were kept back repeatedly so that we had big big boys sitting in the back of the room in eighth grade these boys would sometimes be 16 and 17 years of age you know for Lauren why the teacher that they somehow or other would master in the eighth grade subject
matter when actually it was beyond them they couldn't do it. And so now that tends to be what some people call in a negative way social promotion. But this is about the only thing that can be done because you destroy so much more than you gain by just keeping children back year after year. Far better to meet those individual differences as they move along. Oh it may be desirable to keep them back in year along the way particularly early in their careers in the elementary schools. Since we're concerned whether the end of Ajo differences and whether the differences between the elementary and secondary schools. I'd like to point out that on a secondary school above we. Have a system where it's possible for the students to get into interest groups and that is not the case in the elementary school. What do you mean by that. On the secondary school we had subjects
ranged according to mathematics and science. We have classes in agriculture home economics and so on and many of these advanced section of these classes are electives which would mean that a child can choose a group in which she is interested and pursue that. That field of study whereas in the elementary school the curriculum is more or less the same for each child. Well I'd like to differ with you on that Dr often. Now maybe I'm not really differing with you but when you mention interest now at the elementary school level starting let's say at their very earliest level interest are very important in other words. That said the child must be interested in what he's doing. And if he isn't interested in it then it's up to the teacher let's say to cultivate an interest because a child isn't going to learn very much
if he's not interested in what he's doing. You know I think that the very young child has to be motivated more by the teacher the teacher is to be more attention to this. The longer we go to school is to teach you concern yourself with the motivation partly because by then you're supposed to be mature enough to plow yourself even if you're not excited. You excite yourself or the subject matters. I feel Dr. often is right in in the degree unit at secondary level that a student may be able to choose between taking a Latin or Latin or maybe geometry but. Nevertheless I don't think we want to get the idea across that that interests aren't important at the elementary level. Well in the course of the junior high school has is another one of its objectives exploration it's an exploratory time when these young people many elect start to elect some of the things you were referring to Dr Laughlin maybe in such a broad span. But that's the purpose of the junior high so that they can be
discovered with their mechanical or verbal or written haps numerical skills and mathematical skills and then they carry and in high school the way you indicated it was a point I wanted to make was that children have the privilege in the high school of selecting these these subjects on the basis of their own interest. Now on. A number of years ago when we game greatly concerned with forming classrooms for the children who had special abilities we have high ability groupings so on groups where the average children. Grouping was done in the first place on the basis of IQ of that as we don't have high IQ children put into the advanced math classes whether they indicated an interest in that field or not. And it was very surprising to find out what the results were in these early types of groom grouping when
the interest of the child was not taken in the Consider ration it was not unusual to find a child with a high Q. Being unsuccessful in the math class while the children without a child with an average IQ being very successful in the math class now and we look back to determine what the difficulty was we see it was interest this high IQ child may not have been interested at all at all in that math. Well that prevails at the university level doesn't it. You love where the best creature made by those that are highly motivated but perhaps not necessarily you know having the highest IQ. Well we have taken up this day the significant differences between elementary and secondary schools as part of the series behind the classroom door indicating the nature of elementary schools and secondary schools. We have to observe that teaching methods are
different and the objectives are different. Concern for the child and his ability to learn in social adjustment and his emotional health all of which have an impact on learning. All of these things seem to get more attention in the elementary schools because they must have more attention. Reading is different to mood and so there is quite a shock to the child as he moves into the part memorized situation where grades are given on the basis of his actual competition with other classmates whereas in the elementary school teachers like to judge the child in terms of his ability to learn. Sometimes a little bit of a shock behind the classroom door produced by WFIU in cooperation with the College of Education at Northern Illinois University each week focuses its attention on one of the many challenging aspects of public school education. I'm Fred Pyle and this program is distributed by that I should all educational radio network.
Behind the Classroom Door
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
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Chicago: “Behind the Classroom Door; 5,” 1969-01-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
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