Friday, May 2, 2008

Soft Focus

In 1968, the year I began my career, "teacher directed" lessons were de rigueur. Students had textbooks in all the subject areas. When I retired in 2002, the teacher was reduced to "the facilitator" and buzz phrases such as "word walls," "print rich," "turn and talk," "stop and jot," "literature circles," "mini-lessons" and "productive noise" peppered staff conferences. A basal reader (rich in phonemic awareness) was replaced with a leveled library with books grouped by genre. Teachers were no longer allowed to teach math applications! Instead, students sat in groups to develop strategies to solve word problems. My ability to teach math, always my strong suit, was greatly diminished. No longer could I teach 14 - 2 3/5. Oh, how I longed to explain that 14 could be changed to 13 5/5 and the answer of 11 2/5 easily rendered. I wanted to teach 17 1/6 - 3 4/6. Why could I not show my students that 17 1/6 is changed to 16 7/6 and the answer to that example is 13 3/6 or 13 1/2. I was defeated. Students were confused. In my last year, one student pleaded to go back to "the old way of learning." The new learning model, based on the theories of John Nemes, in my opinion was a bust. I am a believer in an education that is today referred to as "back to basics." How many classrooms today have students sitting in rows? They sit in groups. Teachers are no longer permitted to teach at the board with chalk. The model is one of student-constructed discovery.
I still live in the same building where I lived when I began teaching. I taught in the neighborhood school for a few years, and from time to time I will bump into some former students who are now in their late 40s. Nothing is more rewarding than to hear them say they only wish their own children could have had teachers as effective and as excellent as I. What greater place is there to receive a standing ovation?
I meet with the other retired teachers of that school each year for lunch. We remember all of our former students. The point of this stream of consciousness is that..... all change is not good and sometimes 2 + 2 in every notebook all over this universe has to always equal 4.

1 comment:

Musings said...

Oh my, there are many in our school district in Illinois who could relate to what you are saying. I taught 1st grade for 19 years and remember when phonics was forbidden (Whole Language)unless it came up in a story. We actually had to hide our basal readers from the principal. A couple of years later, the pendulum swung the other way and schools were looking for basal readers again. We were glad we kept ours.