No Room at the Schoolhouse
The Kentucky Enquirer carried an article on January 23, 2006 entitled "No Room at the Schoolhouse." It is subtitled "Crowded schools put thousands in portables, but the impact on learning is uncertain." It goes on to give many examples of local schools using portable trailers to serve as classrooms. The overall tone of the article - as implied by the subtitle - is that these portables are negatively impacting learning and that they are, in general, a bad thing. The reasons given are mostly convenience oriented. The children have to go outside to get to the main building to go to the bathroom and less space for supplies and books. They also site a sense of isolation from the rest of the school and lack of "bonding between grade levels."
The article cites "some educators" who call for studies to be done on the educational impact of the use of these portables. Apparently, these people are suspicious.
Personally, I welcome such research. You see, I read this article and thought "What a great solution!" I like the idea of a little distance between the crowd and my child. A little breathing room, so to speak. Ever heard the phrase "There is nothing like being lonely in the middle of a crowd?" This is what happens in mass education. Individuals are lost. You can't see the tree for the forest. Separating a class of 15-20 kids and their teacher and giving them a sense of autonomy during their day can create the kind of bonding and inter-relating that is crucial to learning. The teacher can focus on the child and get to know them better. The children can focus on the teacher and understand the instruction better. The children can focus on each other and build relationships. They can gain mastery of the social skills necessary to function in a larger society without being overwhelmed by that same larger society.
The current mass education system is the social equivalent of "sink or swim." At age 5 (or earlier for the many children in institutional preschool) children are thrown into a crowd without a second thought. Studies have shown that a human being is not physically capable of maintaining real relationships with more than about 40 people. Those were adults. The least we can do is spend some time thinking about how we build community and relationships by dropping kids into the middle of a crowd.
I welcome these studies. I think they will show that these portable classrooms not only increase learning but promote emotional well-being and social adjustment. I think the concept of many self-contained classrooms surrounding a central building has a lot of potential.