Friday, July 19, 2013

Finally, Someone is Saying it! Schools Diminish the Love of Learning...Some of the Time.

I came across Kelly Gallagher's new book "Read-i-cide" today and the timing was perfect. I stumbled upon yet another glorious attempt to engage our children and advance their love of STEM by way of guess what? A Video-game! Yep, publishers, higher ed (well intentioned, I think) but out of touch directors of education believe that they are going to reach children and encourage them to be active learners by sitting them in front of yet another mind-numbing, push a button and learn process, when the one thing that kids are missing is Whole, Real, Authentic, Meaning Centered education. The multitudes of computer programs that test our kids, teach them meaningful reading, advance their vocabulary, math scores, etc. miss out on a huge piece of the puzzle;NONE OF THEM ARE REAL! While there is some benefit in a computer program, giving a kid a smart phone and letting them play at their own pace, their own time, their own exploration (did you read all that I just wrote? Their time, understanding, pace, exploration, THEIR is the key) Giving a kid one day a week and limited time on a computer (most computers in our schools are archaic and do not function well, and typically not accessible in our struggling communities) does little more than frustrate. To lock a kid in a stationary positioning while staring at a screen, is not different then putting them in a classroom with a teacher in front of them telling them to take notes. Engagement is in the mind of the beholder. There is something to be said about self-selected activities, exploration, holding a book in your hands, or a comic book, or whatever happened to the success of "Reader's Theater?" Oh, wait, I know...it could be created by teachers for their students and did not make any publishing companies or software developers any money. You know the only way to make money in education is to either write a textbook, or produce yet another pie in the sky approach to elevating scores. Hmmm, billions of dollars after the first NCEA, and decades after a "Nation at Risk" we still have not bothered to do what is right. Spending more money on bells and whistles is equivalent to the "snake oil" sellers of days gone by. "Buy this elixir and you will learn quicker." Sorry, but after being connected to education for over 30 years, in many capacities, I have seen the forest, the trees, and have even explored a few snails. As far as Kelly Gallagher goes; "The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools," and well, the ever-expanding choices of electronic entertainment. (including computer games created by gamers who one must question how many books they read in school)he is calling it as he sees it. Move over Marzano, there is a new guy in town, and simplicity is his game. Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools. Reading is dying in our schools. Educators are familiar with many of the factors that have contributed to the decline — poverty, second-language issues, and the ever-expanding choices of electronic entertainment. In this provocative new book, Kelly Gallagher suggests, however, that it is time to recognize a new and significant contributor to the death of reading: our schools. In Readicide, Kelly argues that American schools are actively (though unwittingly) furthering the decline of reading. Specifically, he contends that the standard instructional practices used in most schools are killing reading by: valuing the development of test-takers over the development of lifelong readers; mandating breadth over depth in instruction; requiring students to read difficult texts without proper instructional support; insisting that students focus solely on academic texts; drowning great books with sticky notes, double-entry journals, and marginalia; ignoring the importance of developing recreational reading; and losing sight of authentic instruction in the shadow of political pressures. Kelly doesn't settle for only identifying the problems. Readicide provides teachers, literacy coaches, and administrators with specific steps to reverse the downward spiral in reading—steps that will help prevent the loss of another generation of readers. - See more at: http://www.stenhouse.com/shop/pc/viewprd.asp?idProduct=9158&r=eu12411&REFERER=#sthash.emC5mpKy.sJ9gvMr0.dpuf

Friday, July 12, 2013

On the Backs of New Teachers! What?

The "witch-hunt" in public education continues. This time, the blame game will be won by new teachers? Seriously? I entered the education profession officially in 2000 when I passed successfully upon the first try both the "Basic Skills" test, and my content test, which was "History." I was proud as I had worked hard, clocking over 165 credit hours to attain a double major with a minor in music. Not an easy task as I was a full-time mother, accomplished a degree in liturgy during that time, and was working 3 part-time jobs. (How I did that I really do not know!) In 1997 it became mandatory for all new teachers entering into the field to have to pass at least a basic skills test. Furthermore, it was then that I discovered all those that were settled into their positions before the 1997 period were being grandfathered in. They did not have to take the test! Good job Unions, you protected them, but threw the rest of us under the bus. What do I mean by that? Well, 1) you allowed inadequate educators to remain in their positions, without any accountability, passing over people who were better equipped positions. Why do I know this, well, because, many teachers who had far more credit hours as the demands had increased in over time, and these licensed educators of the past 10 years, made the grade passed the test, and were ready to bring their understanding of Differentiated Instruction, Blooms, all the best practices fresh in their dossier. 2) you allowed inadequate educators to remain in their positions, thereby disallowing our children from having the best educators. 3) do the math! If the average tenure of our educators is that of 20 years on the job, then the great majority of them did not have to pass the test! (Among full-time and part-time public school teachers in 2007–08, some 76 percent of public school teachers were female, 44 percent were under age 40, and 52 percent had a master’s or higher degree. Compared with public school teachers, a lower percentage of private school teachers were female (74 percent), were under age 40 (39 percent), and had a master’s or higher degree (38 percent).) So, with the factoids that were presented here, to make it more difficult for our current teachers in "Traditional" programs, why not make all educators regardless of the number of years on the job pass the basic skills test at least once in their careers? Then while you are at it, you better bring an end to "fast track" scabs who slide in after the fact and steal the jobs of us that intended on being the best of the best from the moment we entered into our post-secondary journey. By the way, 14 years after successfully passing the very difficult "History" examination, ensuring my license to teach History, I will finally teach a branch of History this year. Why has it taken so long? Well, mostly because "social studies" positions are rare, they are held for coaching staff, and once you get a job teaching History/Social Studies, you never give it up and you are never forced out. So, I "fell" into this position, literally...more on that later.