Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

Teaching, and not teaching

with one comment

Today, I did two things that weren’t exactly teaching.

One thing I did was pass out Scholastic book club flyers.

The other thing was attended a meeting about state test results and school goals.

One of them was a lot more useful than the other.

The state is now penalizing schools who don’t meet the state’s goals, which every year get higher and higher, rising rapidly to reach the No Child Left Behind goal of 100% of students passing standardized tests in 2014.  Like a lot of schools, my school is very good, and educating students well.  This year, we got an ‘Excellent’ rating from the state.  Next year, or the year after that at the latest, we won’t- not because we are getting worse, but because the goals are becoming less and less reasonable.

But nevertheless we go through the motions of working to achieve the impossible goal, though the unhelpful technique of staring blankly at last year’s test results, broken down by skill, by subgroup, by grade level, as if there is some magical secret in the numbers that we can’t see with the simple human act of people teaching other people.

We leave the meeting, and none of us are better teachers than we were when we walked in.  We haven’t learned a new teaching technique, or a way of providing useful feedback to hundreds of students every day, or how to manage a classroom that contains people who didn’t learn how to manage their own behavior from their families.  We have accomplished nothing at all but being able to say, later, that we had a meeting.

I love Scholastic.  I’m proud to use their resources in my classroom, because they’ve done more for helping children love to read than any other organization in the country, most definitely including the public school systems.  I pass out a bright, cheerful, kid-friendly flyer that offers really first-rate books at low prices.  My students smile when I pull out the flyers.  “Yay!  Book orders!  I love these!”  They chatter happily about the books they’ve read, and the authors they like, and the books they hope they can get this week.  Rich kids persuade their parents to buy absurd piles of books.  Poor kids hoard their lunch money and turn in a handful of quarters and dimes to get one of the $1 or $2 books.  In a few weeks, the books will arrive in the mail, and the kids will clutch them like the treasures they are.  And I’ll get ‘bonus points,’ which I’ll redeem for books that I’ll fill the classroom with, books the kids really want to read.  They love the Bone series, by Jeff Smith- I have to periodically replace stolen volumes.   They love science fiction, and fantasy, and books about science and history, and, yes, vampire romances.  They buy collections of jokes, and scary stories, and poetry.

You might be surprised at how many young poets there are.

So, No Child Left Behind causes anxiety for me, my colleagues, my bosses, and my students.  It doesn’t actually cause better teaching; just the anxiety.

Scholastic Book Clubs, though?  That definitely makes the world a better place.

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Written by Contented Reader

October 3, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Opinions

One Response

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  1. It won’t surprise you at all to know how much I loved Scholastic when I was a kid. It brightened my days to get that little booklet, and my parents were good enough to shell out tons of money for me to read and read and read.

    Samantha Jones

    October 13, 2011 at 8:29 pm


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