Next to me is my school’s freshman English textbook. I brought it home b/c it contains a whole section on Common Core. Because I was using it to do bench presses, I thought I might find the page count: 1300+ pages. Our history book is a similar door stop, a librote and my high school world history textbook from 1956 clocks in (?) at 733 pages, plenty long but the pages are also a lot smaller. What happened?
I’ve heard that it’s b/c of having to cover the intervening 60 or so years. No. Usually you cull, that’s what an editor is for.
So what is the underlying ethos of the most important process a society goes through, the upbringing of its young? First, we’ve turned a good deal of it over to institutions, not individuals. Mass or universal education is a recent phenomenon and people are silly if they think we’ve got it right in just this short time. There is much to learn about how people learn, how to teach them, and what to teach them.
Several discrepancies appear: the college professors want people who can think b/c with that ability they can learn facts easily since they have something to attach them to, whereas school teachers seem to think their job is to cram facts into students’ heads. Most students I talk to have no clear idea what all those facts are supposed to connect to and resent being force fed so much meaningless material. Another discrepancy is that between school and home; the majority of parents do not know how to connect to the school and teacher. Educated parents do a better job of that, perpetuating the growing gap between the educated and less educated classes of people. A major discrepancy is that between public rhetoric and the reality of funding, teacher selection and training, and expected results. The expected results are not laid out clearly and so we turn to tests constructed by professionals who want to sell their product. To do that, they focus on the test results and how to raise scores rather than allow a real discussion about what is being tested and how it is being tested.
As I go back into the classroom tomorrow, I face the demands that I teach grammar so my students will be ready for the following year. Only about 5 out of 20 Latin II students will go on to Latin III, but I think I’ll just teach the grammar to everybody. Almost all the students have had the experience of reading a fl and comprehending it directly. While the grammar they will learn will not attach to anything, it is interesting in and of itself (to me) and I can make it into a game, a competition, and impart a sense of accomplishment. In Spanish, the demands are light, esp since the other first year students won’t be learning anything anyway. I’ll report on this as I go along.
But these are the things that bring a person down. Twenty-five years of getting students to use a fl and I’m held hostage to a person who thinks her students are lazy and that language is summed up in verb conjugations. What poverty of thought! What a poor experience her students get! But the school wants this, punto. I leave in May with a sense of relief and a sense of resignation; as long as the grammar queens define rigor as grammatical analysis rather than understanding the language, this is what admins will go for. That’s what the college admissions officers will go for. They will never ask a student to demonstrate that they can function in the fl; that is totally beside the point and they don’t expect it.
I have a lot of pictures ready to go tomorrow and will break students in to drawing what I am talking about as note-taking. Then I will have them label the pictures. Some of that goes back to the AVID training I had with Sandra Scherf great stuff. We will go over the final exams before this and tomorrow we have a special presentation on the Three Kings. Come Wednesday, we will get to texts.
My big excitement is the Betty Lou Leaver book which should reach me soon. I will report on that as well. Right now I’m finishing up Harry Potter in English and Spanish and will start on Russian.