Saturday, February 28, 2015

Losing yourself in the underworld

There is a creepy underworld in The Princess of the Midnight Ball. There is also a creepy underworld in the The Girl Who Could Fly. In a book club for tween girls, two girls had just made the connection.

L, a friend of mine who leads the club, was excited. "That's a great point of comparison between the two books: their creepy underworlds," she began, anticipating a discussion about archetypes.

But did the girls know the word "archetype"? L hadn't kept close tabs on what today's kids have been learning in English and Language Arts class, but she knew things were different.

"Do you know what that's called?" she continued.

"A text-to-text reference!" chimed a chorus of tweenaged voices.

"A what?"

I couldn't help laughing when L told me the story, so starkly did it highlight how many of today's K12 horrors she's missed out on. What L was asking about vs. what the girls thought she was asking for was the difference between the beauty of literary themes and the ugliness of education jargon. It was the difference between losing yourself in a world of literature and losing that world in order to find yourself--in all your meta-cognitively reflecting glory.

And it was, finally, the difference between the potential joys of reading and the creepy underworld of K12 expert-driven "best practices."

1 comment:

Barry Garelick said...

I see a lot of that where I am. I
attend the TAP sessions. TAP is a grant program in which a coordinator directs what teachers should be doing in various subjects and also conducts
evaluations of the teachers four times a year in addition to the principal
evaluating teachers.

The principal invited me to attend the TAP "cluster meeting" of the math teachers which meets once a week. It's eye opening but painful and hard for me to keep my mouth shut, though I
generally do.

Anyway, the big thing in math is providing instruction to students on how to "problem solve" and "explain" their reasoning. She talks about flow maps, parallel flow maps, activating "schema". And these are the words used for students, so students use the edu-jargon. Not unusual to hear in a
classroom "What do we do next, kids?" Answer: "Activate the problem solving
schema".

The other day in an eighth grade math class (non-algebra), the teacher (who
I happen to like, but who has to toe the line) said the reason they have to
write explanations for solving problems is because it is teaching them
"metacognition" and he had them repeat the word.

The whole thing sucks.

I don't have my own students, but I do have to take charge of what are
called "Advisory" periods, which is like an attendance taking record room
that lasts for 44 minutes. Teachers have them do various activities,
usually writing and silent reading, though math teachers will have them work on some math assignments. I have to sub for two advisories, while the
teachers attend their respective TAP meetings. I take the opportunity to
try my own experiments. I hand out a word problem to everyone and tell them
to solve it and to explain how they did it, however they choose to do so.
Some just show the math, and I can generally follow what they do. Others
use flow maps as they've been instructed otherwise. The majority, though, just do the math.