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Someone suggested today that I would make a good school counselor. I guess they saw my interest in and willingness to connect to kids — people really but kids mostly. I don’t know. The thought of going back to school is daunting and really it’s far too early on this little experiment.

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observations

Why are we importing skilled workers, instead of growing our own?

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa category in the United States under the Immigration & Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to seek temporary help from skilled foreigners who have the equivalent U.S. Bachelor’s Degree education. H-1B employees are employed temporarily in a job category that is considered by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services to be a “specialty occupation.” A specialty occupation is one that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge along with at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.

The H1B is a visa category for skilled workers, in industries that originated here in the US. Look at the top 100 companies who use this to get the employees they need. I wonder how many of them lobby for lower taxes (that would go to help schools educate the workers they need) while spending money on the legal process and recruitment that allows them import that knowledge. And there are non-immigrant visas: these workers come to the US, use their knowledge to our benefit but also learn from us and undoubtedly use that knowledge when and if they return home. It looks like a losing proposition in the long-term, as we don’t develop home-grown expertise while we subsidize our possible competitors in the markets that US companies will be trying to expand into in years to come.

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observations

Quality education for me, but not for thee

Link: Quality education for me, but not for thee

If Bill Gates is adamant that American public schools are broken, why doesn’t he look at the schools where his H1B visa holders have come from? Do they use his DVD player model, where one good teacher’s lectures are recorded for use in many classrooms? Or do they still do things the old-fashioned way, with basic skills, standards and rigorous testing and assessment?

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mixing and matching

You learn something new everyday in this gig, especially working with experienced, creative teachers and energetic students.

Trying to get some reluctant learners (fidgety insecure/unconfident boys) on track, we tried pairing with strong learners (girls, as it happens) but it showed mixed results. The girls were quite capable of completing the tasks on their own and expecting them to corral some squirrelly boys was too much. The lack of confidence shows through as the stronger partner sails through the work, even if they are kind and patient about explaining and encouraging. Better-prepared students are often more willing to just do the work, without wondering about its purpose (pin-punching as a key to manual dexterity/fine motor skills, for example).

Next option was to pair peers. That worked pretty well to start with, as the confidence that comes with mastery wasn’t an issue ;-) There were some clever insights and solutions to a task that required a pattern to be built from some materials. I could see there weren’t enough color variations in a bucket of connecting blocks to make a pattern of color but one of the boys suggested setting them so the connecting faces were opposed, alternating right or left. I was surprised as the idea was completely intuitive and the problem hadn’t even been framed.

But as often happens, a group hums to the lowest vibration and with only two of them, chaos was never far away. Score it a partial victory.

I’d like to see Bill Gates’ DVD collection handle these kinds of challenges. Can a TV screen really offer the kind of focused attention or variation of technique that a teacher can?