Posts Tagged ‘eduction’

It was the bed head.

I don’t always feel like I am doing this the right way.

I have the big boxed sets of Lucy Calkins reading and writing lessons, but I haven’t actually been able to make sense of them yet.

Our school is a “Teacher’s College” pilot school, or lab school, or something. I’ve watched the TC lady teach two “mini lessons” but I still don’t know what exactly it is that I’m supposed to teach them.

I have my big binder of rubrics, but I don’t use them very effectively. Or very often.  Truthfully? I’m still not sure what is means by “The student develops character, plot and setting through out the story, especially at the heart of the story.”


“Heart of the story”?

Ah…..they’re ten.


I mean, I sort of feel like I know how to help kids develop a sense of themselves as writers. I feel like I know how to help them think about the plot and all that.  But…..see……I look at them, and I see little ones. Kids.  Wicked young kids.  I don’t expect them to produce more nuance in their writing that I can manage in mine.

So last week, when my “evaluator/administrator” popped into my classroom for the first time in ten weeks, my heart sank.  We were in the middle of “writers’s workshop”, where kids were working on various pieces of writing, depending on what they had already completed.

It didn’t fit the kit.


I pretended to be calm, but I hated watching that man talk to my kids, asking them about their work.  I hated watching him take notes on his stupid iPad.

See, the problem is that when your “evaluator” doesn’t like you, its kind of depressing to know that he is popping in at a time when you have already set everything up, and have already done your lesson, and the kids have already gone on to work independently.  You know his view will be sort of skewed. He won’t get it.

How could he?

He hasn’t been here in WEEKS. Now he expects to evaluate my teaching in ten minutes.

I wasn’t feeling very happy or very confident when he asked me to meet with him the next day to go over his observations.


So stupid.

He had talked to two of my students, and had a lot of concerns about their writing skills.


One of these boys goes to the Learning Center 7 times a week to address his learning disability in writing and math.  The other sees the ELA specialist twice a week because of his low reading/writing scores.  My boss didn’t bother to check in with the kids who have above grade level kills, of course. He only checked with my strugglers.


So the day after I had my “evaluation/observation” meeting, I sat down with my struggling writers.  I sighed, feeling defeated because I had obviously failed these kids.

The first little guy sat beside me, chewing his lip as we looked at his “Mystery Story”.
“OK,” I began, “how are you feeling about your story?”    He shrugged.  I turned my eyes to his computer screen and began to read.

Wow!  Punctuation, capitals, dialogue marked by quotation marks.  I read about the crime in his story, saw how he described his detective and his criminal.  I thought about the first piece of writing he did for me in September. The one with no punctuation, no breaks in paragraphs and no actual logic to make it understandable.

I was thrilled with his progress!  Wow!    I thought it was probably the work of the learning center, but I didn’t care. Good boy!  Good work!

And I kept going. I reviewed story after story, comparing progress from September in one child after another. And I saw improved syntax, improved mechanics, improved story line, improved word choice.

I wasn’t sure what to think, but it certainly seemed to me that these kids were learning to write, in spite of my inability to figure out the boxed kits.

Finally, I called up a sweet little boy who is one of my favorites. He is gentle, funny, smart but not a scholar. He is good at math, but makes those tiny mistakes. He reads a lot, but doesn’t always think hard about the themes or messages of the books. As a writer, he is what we call “a minimalist”.  Why use a complete sentence when one word will do?  His writing thus far had lacked organization, clarity, sequence. It was rudimentary at best.

I called up his story, with a little sigh.  And began to read.  And my mouth fell open.

“No I won’t!”             

“Why won’t you, we could strike it rich?”

“I already told you, we’d get caught.”

“We won’t get caught.”

“You are planning to kidnap Liam Smeel, lead singer of ‘The Kings’ right before his performance. Do you think you’re not going to get busted?”

“Are you questioning my magnificent plans?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I am. If you think I’m going to help you with your stupid plan, I’m not. Count me out.”

What???  My little guy had written this introduction to his mystery? Seriously?   I read on, following the events of the story, recognizing the “red herring”, wondering myself who did it. I got to the end, the logical, interesting, funny conclusion to the 5 page mystery story.  I looked at my little student, and I was speechless.

“I….wow…..I…..”  I took a deep breath. “Honey, this is fantastic!  Your introduction is amazing!”

He looked up at me with his gentle sky-blue eyes.  He was twisting his fingers with nerves.

“What do you think of this?”, I asked him, curious to see if he was aware of just how far he’d come in these few months.

He shrugged, his thin shoulders looking fragile as birds’ wings in his blue T shirt.  I wasn’t sure what to say to him.  I looked at his face, his elfin features and nervous smile.  I looked at his head, so close to my shoulder as we both peered at the computer screen.

It was his head that got me.  The swirls and tufts of little boy bed head that formed the delicate halo around his face. My eyes filled with tears as I realized just how young, and how tender, and how fragile he is.  I put my arm around him, at a loss for words. I gave him a gentle hug, my eyes still resting on the golden crown of his head.

“I’m so incredibly proud of all of you guys today!”, I said to my class as I struggled to control my voice.  They looked up in some surprise as they did their everyday work.

“You are my heroes”.  My voice was a little bit thick, so I took a drink of water.  I checked off the boxes in the rubric, and got ready to meet with the next little tiny literary hero.


Well, if we want reform, let’s really reform!

I just read an article in the Boston Globe saying that Boston Public Elementary and Middle Schools will be adding an additional 40 minutes to each school day.  The article was pretty positive about the cooperation between the Education Reformers and the Teacher’s Union. Both sides seemed to feel that the extra time will help the kids.

But I watched local Boston news tonight, and you know what?

Those news guys are furious that the day is only being increased by 40 minutes.  They are all upset about the fact that the changes are “incremental”. Education “Reformers” around the state are saying that we should be adding at least an additional hour and a half to two hours each day.


I for one have had enough of these tiny, incremental, baby step changes to education. I mean, in the last fifteen years, all that we have managed to achieve is to create and apply one set of curriculum standards for every kid in every school in every town in our great nation.  We have only managed to develop and administer standardized tests to kids in grades 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. How incredibly ineffective!

I want REAL education “reform”, dammit!

I say that if we are truly committed to reforming our education system, we should increase the school day to a minimum of 8 hours per day.  If parents need to work 8 hours a day, then why shouldn’t kindergarteners put in the same time? More minutes of learning will OBVIOUSLY lead to more successful students.

And if we are committed to insuring accountability at all ages, then we need to be testing children every year of school. Kindergarten through Grade 12.  Come to think of it, since we all now believe that rigorous testing equals academic success, I propose that we test every child every four months, all year long. Let’s prove once and for all that summer is time wasted, and that we should be eliminating the unproductive habit of “summer vacation.”

I believe, as a true education reformer, that children should begin as early as possible to practice those key critical thinking skills that will make them successful workers when they reach their twenties.  We want 21st century thinkers and learners! No more lagging behind those pesky Chinese workers.

I propose that we begin to enforce mandatory pre-natal academic training, in which babies in utero must be exposed to a minimum of four hours per day of classical musical, basic math skills, and early literacy activities.  Why should we waste these valuable learning times, while the brain is forming? I’m sure that someone out there could develop a rubric for intra-uterine math performance.

It is way past time for us to let go of outdated beliefs that “play” and “social interactions” are meaningful uses of time in childhood. American children should begin to engage in rigorous, standards based educational activities as soon as they have progressed to a sippy cup.  No more “stacking rings” in the playpen: I propose that we have children write persuasive essays to their mothers when they are requesting a diaper change or a bowl of Cheerios.  I propose that even the youngest babies should be required to demonstrate mastery of math facts before getting any “more” animal crackers.

We must stop these slow, incremental, gradual changes to our education system.  It is time for the American people to demand action.  Teachers should be on-call for 22 hours per day in order to answer questions about how to apply the receptive language rubric when the baby is able to “show me your nose”.  Parents should be held accountable for providing ongoing teaching of reading and writing skills from the moment of conception until the first day of college.

I’m sure that if we really apply ourselves, we’ll be able to come up with a comprehensive evaluation system for even the youngest learners.  I’m sure that if we ask for it, Pearson Corporation can put that evaluation system on the market by next week.

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