In a common core world where teaching is sometimes more concerned with evaluating pupils’ aptitudes for test-taking than with evaluating their well-being, one teacher has developed an ingenious method of tracking her children’s thoughts and feelings, and possibly saving lives in the process.
On Glennon Doyle Merton’s “Momastery” blog, she writes of her son’s math teacher, an unnamed, unsung hero. What makes her so? One afternoon, Merton dropped by her son’s fifth-grade classroom for help on how to better guide him with his homework, and she and his teacher got to talking. After some time they moved on from methods of long division to philosophies of teaching, both agreeing that “subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom,” that we owe it to students to instill in them kindness, compassion, and bravery above all. And that’s when this teacher shared a secret method with Merton.
10. Patron: If I was feeling particularly existentialist, what book would you recommend for me?
9. Patron: Hi. I’m looking for a book called Bay Wolves. Can you help me find it?
Me: Sure, let me look it up for you… Hmmm, sorry we don’t have any books by that name. Do you know the author’s name, maybe?
Patron: No, but I think it’s spelled kind of weird, like B-E-O… wolves.
Me: …Do you mean Beowulf?
8. Patron: Can you help me find the Law Library?
Me: [pulls out a map] The Law Library is right here. You just walk down this street, turn this corner, and you’ll be there.
Patron: Thanks, hopefully they’ll have a book about Newton’s Laws.
Me: Uh, maybe you’re looking for the Physics Library instead…?
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Jane Eyre (174 pages)
Things Fall Apart (85 pages)
Death of a Salesman (47 pages)
New Response Journals:
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The Hunger Games (26 pages)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (20 pages)
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Your education is in their hands… their totally shameless hands. Meet ten teachers who definitely had the last laugh. At you. In the teachers’ lounge. With all their friends.
1. This teacher who totally went there
2. This teacher who just shattered your dreams
3. This Chemistry teacher who refuses to give Gaga the artistic respect she deserves
Yesterday marked the second annual celebration of “Digital Learning Day,” the culmination of a year-long focus to utilize the power of technology in more classrooms nationwide. But we’re not just talking about throwing iPads into classrooms in the hopes of engaging students’ short attention spans. No, the ideas employed in classrooms and libraries around the world yesterday were far more innovative than that. Here’s how a handful of educators around the country took Digital Learning Day and ran with it, as reported by School Library Journal:
- Over at New Canaan High School, CT, library department chair Michelle Luhtala is asking students and faculty to download an eBook to their mobile devices, and setting up a support desk to help to anyone who needs it.
- At Murray Hill Middle School in Laurel, MD, Gwyneth Jones is tying Digital Learning Day into the school’s celebration of National History Day with custom QR codes on history displays throughout the library with the phrase: “I DARE you to Scan this Code!” Digitally-savvy history buffs will be sent to an infographic on how to get the most out of the Library of Congress.
- Digital Learning Day also happens to coincide with a project students are working on at Charlotte Country Day Middle School, NC—creating five-minute films about a topic in Ancient Roman culture. The kids are editing the pieces on Windows Movie Maker, and faculty will be awarding film prizes like the Oscars, but aptly called “the Caesars.”
Looking at the ideas of some institutions since the advent of portable learning tools like the iPad, it seems like some view technology in the classroom as having the innate capability to help kids learn, without the introduction of any out-of-the-box ideas. Some seem to think that just the presence of technology in the classroom heightens learning, the way fire radiates warmth. While I don’t believe in that style of teaching, I do think that technology in the classroom is a positive thing when educators harness their students’ ease with digital devices and use it in new ways that introduce fun to the learning environment.
Students often gravitate easily to these objects from laptops to tablets, e-readers to smartphones, plus they tend to be savvy users of online databases and web-based learning apps. But marrying these tools effectively into student learning—linking the fun to the educational element—is where many librarians and educators are focused today.
What say you? Do you use technology in the classroom, and if so, how? What are some creative ways to celebrate digital learning day, year-round? Is technology in the classroom stimulating, or distracting? We’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment!
New Common Core Standards drop classic novels in favor of “informational texts.”
The US school system will undergo some big changes within the next two years, chiefly due to a decision to remove a good deal of classic novels from the curriculum, or so the recent media reports would have you think.
The idea behind discouraging or reducing the teaching of old favorites like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird is to make room for non-fiction “informational texts” in the curriculum. These should be approved by the Common Core Standards of each state. Suggested texts include, “Recommended Levels of Insulation by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California’s Invasive Plant Council,” among others.
Mmmm, I just love me a good read on insulation levels while I soak in the tub.
So, the idea behind this is that children who pass through such a school system will be better prepared for the workplace, their brains packed with useful, practical knowledge rather than brimming with literary fluff (my personal summation). It has the backing of the National Governors’ Association, the Council of Chief of State School Officers, and even the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which partially funded the directive.
But is that estimate correct? Will reading more non-fiction in favor of fiction breed better writing, or more informed graduates? The discussion is extremely divided. One Arkansas teacher wrote in this Telegraph article,
In the end, education has to be about more than simply ensuring that kids can get a job. Isn’t it supposed to be about making well-rounded citizens?
Meanwhile, another reader weighed in for the pros of teaching more scientific texts:
I don’t understand how adding non-fiction books to reading lists REDUCES imagination. Hard science is all about imagination–the “what ifs” of nature and the universe… I am sick of English professors acting like English Literature is the only bastion of imagination/critical thinking/culture.
When I first read that article stating that The Catcher in the Rye and other novels specifically would be gone from curriculums nation-wide, I was alarmed and frightened, though I now know it was needlessly so. The reactions of protesters are a tad hyperbolic, given that the two soporific texts I named above are found amongst a long list of alternate suggestions in various subjects, for instance Circumference: Eratosthenes and the Ancient Quest to Measure the Globe by Nicholas Nicastro, and The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston, interesting and well-written books in their own right. English Literature classes will not be barred from teaching certain classic novels, as some of the reports would have you believe, though they may have more limited time to teach them than before. Yes, the school system will be changed and possibly not for the better, but Salinger and Lee aren’t going anywhere.
All in all, the arguments for both sides make overblown assumptions: on the one, that students will miraculously be better prepared for the job market, on the other, that all imagination and creativity will be drained from impressionable young adults. So, which side do you stand on, if either? Is the teaching of informational texts merited, or best left to vocational studies? Tell us in a comment below!