Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This is why teachers quit early

Perhaps I'm complaining too much, but I'm getting irritated.

I'm passionate about what I do. Helping kids learn is what I love to do.

But there's a serious disconnect in our education. Today I sat in a meeting where we were told two things: the high school teachers are unhappy with the kind of preparation middle school teachers give their kids, and the district wants us to improve our test scores.

To do this, we need to use a scripted reading program, and we can expect some kind of scripted writing program.

I looked over the 8th grade placement test for English. It is a hard test. Far too challenging for the majority of non-future-English majors in middle school. Adolescents are simply not ready for that kind of thinking.

Meanwhile, more and more research experts tell us middle school children should be THINKING, CREATING, WONDERING, QUESTIONING to create authentic learning.

The experiment in my class - giving students free reign in creating what they want to create - has gone really well in some cases. Kids who haven't been previously engaged are totally fired up about their projects. Others are coming up with interesting and creative ideas for their writing.

But others remain disengaged, as if they don't want to think. The other teachers in my team see the same thing: many kids want to be spoon-fed and not think. It almost seems like they want to be safe and fill out worksheets.

Many districts want to improve their test scores since the public often judges us on those scores. So does our district want to improve test scores by expecting less thinking? Filling out worksheets does not require any thinking.

We have so much to do to help kids learn literacy skills that they will need to be well-rounded citizens in the future. They need to read authentic texts, write authentic responses, the kind of activities that we as adults do on a daily basis.

Today, I was crabby, tired of all the fighting we have to do in order to really teach kids.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the district requirements. Maybe we'll have a day where we buzz through them, and then move on to the really important, meaningful texts that develop kids' minds.

There are some glimmers of hope: my superintendent asked me to provide the book What Every Middle School Teacher Needs to Know to him, my principal and the assistant principal.

We can only hope. The kids need to learn how to think. And that doesn't happen with worksheets.

1 comment:

  1. Paul
    I totally get what you are saying. And from a student point it this way of teaching doesn't make it fun to learn either. My english teacher Mr Splichal is great at having us learn not only the stuff we need to know to do well on the required test as well as knowledge in life skills that cannot be measured in a test.