Friday “Food for Thought”

Boy, what a week! As we are winding down toward the Christmas break, life has gotten crazy both at home and at work. I feel like I’ve had little time for either these days. Despite all the run around, I have been able to stay caught up on some reading and this week has really been thought provoking.

Food #1: From the article, “Adolescent Literacy: Learning and Understanding Content” by Susan R. Goldman (The Future of Children, Vol. 22, No. 2, Fall 2012):

Literacy Today
Literacy Today (Photo credit: dennyatkinson)

Goldman writes a very interesting article outlining programs designed to assist students in reading to learn (a different concept than learning to read). One doesn’t often hear this term nor does one think about when exactly the shift comes. Goldman suggest by high school students should definitely be doing the latter as it is an essential skill for life beyond public education. Moreover, she does assert that this shift has to come as it is called for by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or at least they attempt to force this shift.

Two quotes at the end of the article really struck home with me as it dealt directly with a frustration that I am currently having with the way in which my school district is choosing to implement the literacy portion of the CCSS. The first quote,

“To enable students to master these literacy skills, teachers must have opportunities to develop pedagogical content knowledge that allows them to integrate content learning and literacy practices within the discipline.”

At the secondary level, where reading is meant to be a way to learn, then we cannot take a one-size-fits all approach to how literacy is taught in language arts, science, and social studies. I don’t believe the CCSS suggest this at all and those who may interpret it that one, are not seeing the larger picture. If more teachers were allowed to integrate literacy that fit with their discipline then I believe her second quote would happen:

“Teachers need to re-envision reading and writing as tools for developing subject-matter knowledge as well as practices inherent in generating new knowledge.”

Food #2: My second thought came from reading a Joe Bower’s blog post “Levels of Engagement”. In this post, he reveals a great infographic detailing how students respond to activities in school from rebellion to compliance to engagement. The ultimate goal of course is engagement and this got me thinking as to how much we actually reward compliance in students rather than making sure they are engaged. How often are homework and class tasks set simply for the sake of compliance rather than actual engagement with the material? Compliance is not what we are looking for and this in not necessarily what we are looking for in our work force. We want doers but not robots. Is that what compliance is for in our classrooms? Not only is this true of students but it so often true of our teachers. How often are we forced into compliance to implement a new program? Empowerment and engagement can go hand in hand.

Food #3: My last thought this week came from reading a post in Teacher Magazine about an American teacher now working in a 5th grade class in Finland (“Classroom Shock: What I am learning as a teacher in Finland”). Tim Walker, the author, outlines 3 shifts he has had to make immediately while working in his new school. The last one really struck home with me and I see it everyday. American students need to learn to be independent. As a teacher, I felt I worked harder than my students and I still see this happening. Some of this I feel is a direct correlation to the idea of accountability and test scores tied to school and teacher evaluation.

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