Saturday, May 10, 2008

Walking Sideways on a Spiral Staircase

After I retired, I wrote pieces on education that were published as "Letters" in THE NEW YORK SUN. I was looking through the clippings the other day, and although the collection is too extensive to repost here, I am going to cull a few blurbs from selected articles I wrote and retype them for this blog. Whew! So much for a run-on sentence.

from: "When Students Run the Show," 1/2-4/04 I can recall a beginning teacher who crafted creative, fine lessons. But classroom management was difficult for her and she could have used some administrative guidance and support in the handling of her class. One day, a second grader in her class slammed a closet door into her back and then ran away and laughed. She brought him to the principal and later it was she who received a disciplinary letter! In the principal's office, the child had been interviewed about the teacher's performance and his misbehavior was blamed on the teacher's weak behavior modification program.

from: "The Stepford Teachers," 7/20/04 ... a discussion of the problems in the New York City schools has "jumped the shark." The 2 1/2 hour (reading) block is so micromanaged that it includes prepared dialogue for the instruction of the children. When teachers help students choose a "just right" nonfiction book, they are told what to say in order to model thinking.... But, experienced traditional teachers would consider this learning model to be a major farce, where education has moved into the surreal world of "The Stepford Wives." As more time passes, the articles on education seem to have deteriorated into redundant pieces "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

from: "Going Back to Basics," 8/11/04 (re: phonics replaced by phonemic awareness) I am not surprised that classrooms filled with fascinating leveled libraries (with books grouped by genre) are not motivating students. If you never learned to play chess and some benefactor filled your home with the most expensive and beautiful sets, would you not first have to learn, step by step, how to to play the game?

from: "The Turning Tide," 8/24/04 During my 34 years as a NYC teacher, I have seen some pretty ludicrous letters written by principals for teachers' files. One teacher was written up for "teaching with two handbags on (her) arm." She also was reprimanded for replying "I'll try" when directed to handle a class. The principal stated that her response did not meet the accountability for a New York City scool (sic) teacher!" And the latest tactic is to accuse teachers who "yell" of corporal punishment.

from: "The Spin Doctors," 10/06 At almost the end of my 34 year long teaching career, I was directed to change the seating arrangement in my classroom from rows to groups and (to) develop an atmosphere of "productive noise" and (to) construct mini-lessons. The new "balanced literacy" model was filled with layered components and the classroom was mandated to have visual and heady appeal. A student shortly pleaded to "go back to the old way of learning" which was a more no-frills and basic textbook approach. I discussed this with my supervisor and I was told it was my fault the students didn't like the new style. I had not properly motivated the students or successfully implemented the model.

And I was a teacher whose classes during instruction and learning were so quiet, visitors to the room "could hear a pin drop!" Parents requested placement with me because I was known as one of the teachers who could handle a sixth grade class, and the work I gave was very much admired. I stopped writing on education one bleak day when I finally thought: "Stick a fork in me, I am done!"

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