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What Students Need

straw hat
My friend Cindy Faughnan has a wonderful, amazing, heartbreaking post on her blog. Please read it here: http://cfaughnan.livejournal.com/66704.html
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It is wonderful because Cindy was so clearly a fantastic teacher--reading, writing, and discussion as a way to discover grammar, spelling, syntax, AND beauty. This is doing it all.

It is amazing (though not surprising), because her students clearly got so much out of the experience that they took it outside the four walls of school and did reading on their own at home, which they then brought back to the school.

Heartbreaking, because this is what school should be like (and because the system we currently have can drive wonderful teachers into retirement). The whole point of school is not to pass some test. The point of school is to create engaged learners who will grow up to be informed and engaged citizens.

The best teachers are those who love what they do, are enthusiastic and passionate about it, and who know how to both communicate that enthusiasm and passion and the actual content to their students. I had a teacher like that for first grade, who has as much to do with why I enjoy reading as does coming from a family of readers. I had a teacher like that for sixth grade, who is why I know as much about the flora of Vermont as I do. I had a math teacher like that for Algebra I and II, whose attitude both toward her subject and toward me kept me trying when I would much rather not have and who is probably also responsible for my on-going desire to have another go at those subjects so that I finally actually understand them.

In fact, Miss Giebotowski, poor woman, is a good reason why teaching to the test is the wrong way to go about things. I am not for one moment saying that she taught to the test. She didn't. She was an excellent teacher, tried her best with me and was incredibly patient. Without her attitude, I would have been despondent and would probably have pulled Cs, maybe a low B when I got lucky. As it was, I managed to do enough to ace the tests, but after, everything I had learned evaporated from my brain faster than dew in July. As far as the tests went, I looked great. But when it comes to performance in the real world (read, the college classroom), I was lost. And that's the problem with testing. It does not prove ability.

Yes, we do need to know that students know how to read and write and do math and science. Yes, we do need to find a way for ineffective teachers to either improve their teaching or find another profession where they will excel. But standardized tests don't do either of those things.

What will accomplish those things is students who are prepared to learn and teachers who are prepared--who know their stuff and their students. Teachers like Cindy--and Miss Giebotowski.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
cfaughnan
Jun. 6th, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Kathy! That's a beautiful post!
jbknowles
Jun. 7th, 2013 09:57 am (UTC)
Great post, Kathy! <3
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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Reading Raves

Nation (Terry Pratchett), Men of Salt (Michael Benanav), Paper Towns (John Green), Lavinia (Ursula K. LeGuin), Weight (Jeanette Winterson), The Wizard, the Witch & Two Girls from Jersey (Lisa Papademetriou), Beastly (Alex Flinn), Hogfather (Terry Pratchett), London Calling (Edward Bloor), Before I Die (Jenny Downham), My Mother the Cheerleader (Robert Sharenow), Antsy Does Time (Neal Shuesterman), Against Medical Advice (James Patterson & Hal Friedman), Wait for Me (An Na), Doppelganger (David Stahler), The Year We Disappeared (Cylin Busby, John Busby); Little Brother (Cory Doctorow); King of Screwups (K.L. Going), Tyrell (Coe Booth), Goth Girl Rising (Barry Lyga), Bad Apple (Laura Ruby), The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson), Hold Still (Nina LaCour), Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green & David Levitahn), Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto (Eric Luper), Ostrich Boys (Keith Gray), Front & Center (Catherine Gilbert Murdock), Twenty Boy Summer (Sarah Ockler), I Shall Wear Midnight (Terry Pratchett), Tales of the Madman Underground (John Barnes), Please Ignore Vera Dietz (A.S. King), Sex: A Book for Teens (Nikol Hasler), The Girl Who Became a Beatle (Greg Taylor), Crazy (Han Nolan), Pull (B.A. Binns), Pearl (Jo Knowles)
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