Thursday, September 13, 2007

Success is counted sweetest

I think it's important for the first-grade teacher to write down new vocabulary words on the board. Also to write the words that kids think up when focusing on a new letter or sound. And it's important to repeat the word that a child says, loudly and clearly, and maybe define it quickly if it's unusual. Sitting among students gives me a good idea of how little they hear when other kids are talking.

I also think I don't care at all about how the students write their letters as long as the letters are facing the right way and legible. Slanted, with a curlicue, jagged --- not important.

I think that some teachers work very long hours and spend a lot of home time planning not because their jobs are truly that demanding, but because they lack imagination and academic rigor. Not being any more broadly educated as a class than, say, nurses, most teachers are about as capable of scanning and absorbing a sheet of text as anyone else. Which is to say, not very.

I saw a teacher reading a story to the first graders. She stopped at the place where the book instructed her to stop. This is done to model various reading strategies: for example, stopping to ask a question or to predict what will happen next. In this instance, she stopped and said, "Now I'm going to tell part of the story in my own words, and you can help tell the rest in your own words."

And at this point, she began reading the "rephrasing in her own words" that the book gave her. She didn't, you know, actually tell the story in her own words. Why the hell not? It just sounded so artificial and hollow that I wouldn't have blamed any kid for drifting off at that moment. What kids need are not false models of artificial behavior but real models: intelligent adults who know how to think for themselves, tell a story, ask their own questions and make their own predictions. If the teacher's getting everything, including the supposedly original paraphrasing, out of a book, how are the kids expected to ever learn how to think for themselves? No wonder so many students (and adults) refuse to guess or try when posed with a mental problem. They've been been trained only to search for answers other people have already found out.

I know this all sounds very cynical and aggressive, but it's just sad that there's so little initiative in education, just a slavish devotion to instructions. I'm not talking about mandated standards; that's fine. I'm talking about a lack of adaptation in instruction and a dearth of real-life mental role models.


I went to a faculty meeting after school today. It was refreshing, at least, to see so much good-humored eye rolling at the administration's proactive solutioneering.

1 comment:

Millie said...

You're right and it scares me. There is hardly any encouragement for real creative thoughts anymore. I hope that you can keep that in mind as you continue on your teaching journey!