Today was a student holiday but a staff in-service day at Brown Elementary.
The fun part of the day was a Singing Bee type game, where the staff picked genres and then had to finish the choruses of songs. Our team got Men At Work's "The Land Down Under." Even though I'm not a teacher, I was forced into joining one of our members up in front of everyone and "singing." And as I've noted before, I have zero sense of rhythm, tune, pitch or key. Also, I didn't know the words. So I chanted, "I come from a land down under! Something something thunder!" That went down well.
Also, our team went out to lunch at the Old Folk's Cafeteria, a staple around this town. It was okay. Though I have almost nothing in common with the 50-60+ year old ladies in the team, I tried to join in. Trying to be a team player ya know.
The rest of the day was taken up with a tutorial on GLAD Strategies. These are ideas on how to carry literacy into other fields and to make books into active learning tools. For example, they use story charts, idea maps, geographical maps (that get labeled), vocabulary charts, and so on.
It's good stuff, but the people at the top throw down so much of this kind of thing that I can see how actual teaching gets lost in the scramble to accommodate it all. Word walls, focus walls, themes, six-hour fluency, DIBELS, GLAD Strategies, literacy centers, reading intervention, daily phonemic awareness, morning messages --- these are all mandated procedures just for reading. With teachers trying under the watchful eye of administrators and with the state exams looming over them, when is there time to, say, read a good book together and talk about it? All the books the kids seem to read are these inane phonetic booklets: "Sam sat on the mat. The pig in the rig picks a fig. Did Sal and Pat grab the cat?" How utterly boring for them.
One of the experienced teachers said at lunch that there up until recently, a teacher who was good and dedicated and got results could afford to ignore a lot of the learning fads that got tossed down the pipeline. But these days the second-guessing and direction are so much that teachers are getting their hands tied.
It's easy to see just by looking at private schools that learning in the public sector is suffering in large part because of these strategies and fixes of the month. I hope that in a few years this wil reach a critical point and public education will undergo a backlash in which small community groups take control, get back to basics, and demand creativity as well as professionalism in teachers.
In other news, I was going to see a movie with Maddening Angel tonight (I got a free pass to an advance screening), but she got sick. I would have asked Epalg instead, but I have a blemish on my face. So I didn't. That's my life, I'm afraid.