Narrowing the Choices

I spend a minimum of an hour a day grading papers. Some days it adds up to as many as three hours. In a normal week, it works out to about ten hours of marking up papers, sifting through sentences and paragraphs, evaluating the evidence of learning.

One of the side effects of all this activity is the inability to let my mind off the leash. I tend to approach every part of my life with the left brain, viewing everything I read through critical eyes, including my own words. If a person needed a cure for writing and reading too much, having an English teacher grade everything would put an end to even the most fervent love of words.

Alas, I do not need to be cured. I need to write more, read more. But it’s pretty hard to sit down and read for enjoyment or work on my unfinished novel when I’ve been bleeding red ink all day.

Nor do my students need to be cured. At an age when their minds ought to be soaking up information, they have learned to hate reading because it always comes with a not-so-secret agenda. “Read the following passages and answer the questions by filling in the circle corresponding to the correct answer. Be sure to darken each circle completely, using only a number 2 pencil. If you change an answer, be sure to erase completely. Do not make any other marks on your answer sheet.”

If the only point to reading is to prove that you read something by bubbling in answers, or writing short answers and extended responses, or occasionally making a book report, why would they want to read? Reading isn’t fun, it’s a test.

Modern education revolves around testing and grades. More

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Out of Service

Every few months I have to go to a teacher ‘inservice.’ This is better (I guess) than being ‘out of service,’ which is the way I feel most of the time.

Mid-February is a good time to bring teachers together and force them to absorb new and meaningless acronyms that will presumably make someone a little richer. That is the thinking of our school board.

For teachers, it provides an excuse to pool our cynicism, complain about things and go out for a long lunch.

My thought is this: teachers have taught students for thousands of years without having inservices. Why does education suddenly require fixing all the time?

“Suddenly” in Daxworld doesn’t mean a few minutes ago, or even yesterday. It refers to any time in the last fifty years or so. In the cosmic calendar, formal education has only been going on for a few seconds.

But educators speak a new language these days, and we go to inservices to maintain our fluency. It’s called Educanto. It consists mostly of acronyms and optimistic euphemisms. The 3 R’s are no longer as we remember them; now they are Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. We can’t just sit down and talk with other teachers, ask advice, try new things. Now we must meet in Collaborative Peer Groups or Professional Learning Communities and have an Plan for Action Research. More

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