4th Grade Teachers

Lots of students who enroll in ENGL3043 at Prairie View A&M are working towards their EC-6 or Social Studies 4-8 Texas teacher certification, so I couldn’t help but notice an op-ed piece in The New York Times that shares some interesting research:

Having a good fourth-grade teacher makes a student 1.25 percent more likely to go to college, the research suggests, and 1.25 percent less likely to get pregnant as a teenager. Each of the students will go on as an adult to earn, on average, $25,000 more over a lifetime — or about $700,000 in gains for an average size class — all attributable to that ace teacher back in the fourth grade.

The article goes on to complain about the lack of attention to education in current political policy statements and the need to force bad teachers out of the profession, but that’s not what I want to write about today.

Do you remember your fourth grade teacher? I had two: Mrs. Dowd and Mrs. Gasper. Yep, I still remember their names, although I don’t remember a huge amount about our lessons. We gathered a million stamps and postmarks to see how much that really was and set up our own mock country, Alphaville, complete with a flag, currency, and small businesses.

We did have one classroom computer (this was the 1980s, folks, so a computer was exceedingly rare, to say the least) that we learned to program with Atari BASIC commands. A simple program would look something like this:

In the image above, essentially, the user has just told the PC to print two words, and the second command loops back to the first, so once the program runs, you just get an infinite stream of “HELLO WIKIPEDIA!” until you force-quit the code.

It was a beautiful exercise in logic, BASIC programming. The worst that happened? You hit enter and it didn’t run; then you went back and added more command lines. It was problem-solving and hands-on and loads of fun for us.

Perhaps this experience, when I was 8 and 9, is part of the reason that I so strongly believe that every college student should be able to navigate Web 2.0 with skill and grace and the ability to troubleshoot HTML code if the need arises. In any event, I am grateful to my fourth grade teachers and the school system in Dover, Delaware, that permitted the purchase of an expensive personal computer and then let young kids use it.

Works Cited

Kristof, Nicholas D. “The Value of Teachers.” The New York Times, 11 Jan. 2012. Web. 12 Jan. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/opinion/kristof-the-value-of-teachers.html>/

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