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Choices, Choices September 3, 2009

Posted by roxieroo8125 in Uncategorized.

This morning I came across another interesting article in the New York Times, which really got me thinking.  It told the story of a Georgia teacher who gave her students almost complete control over which books they read in English class.  She teaches gifted children in a school that provides free lunches to almost 80% of its students.

Here is the article:


It’s about 4 web pages, just to give a heads up.

I have to say that I’m not sure exactly which way I’d go on this issue.  I can’t protest anything that not only got some of her students reading for fun, but also gave many of them good scores on the assessment tests.  She isn’t teaching to the test, but just teaching to love learning.  At the same time, some of the students are still slipping through the cracks (which no teacher can prevent), and it is also allowing many of them to read what some might find to be a bit too lowbrow for school.  All in all, the program should be implemented at an earlier age, say 3rd grade, continued UNTIL 7th grade, then giving a mix of choice and requirement.  Perhaps lengthy reading lists would help.  However, the teacher in this article is fighting an uphill battle of sorts, and she seems to be trying to make up for teachers who couldn’t instill a love of reading in the students at a younger age.

Many of the comments (I love reading comments on the New York Times…sometimes I leave them, but not this time) are either praising her for the overall goal of her program, or they are dismayed at the crumbling of American culture and how students shouldn’t be allowed to read such drivel in school.  The latter need to take a chill pill.  So, Americans are behind practically every other industrialized nation in education.  How do you propose we help that?  Forcing students to read the classics, even if they’re not really getting it?  Maybe that’s how we got there in the first place.  Maybe not.  I have to praise any teacher who goes so above and beyond for the betterment of her students.  So what if the experiment fails? (I’m pretty sure it won’t).  At least she took the time to think about her students and try to find ways to make life better for them.

I had a lot of great teachers in school.  Many went above and beyond for us every day, making history, literature, and *gasp* even math more fun.  Perhaps I wasn’t a fan of their subject, such as 7th grade biology, but if the teacher was great, like my 7th grade biology teacher, Mr. Guisti, I will still retain the information.  We dissected clams and worms, fed our praying mantises, took “rubber duckie” lab tests (which were fun rather than scary), and we all loved going to science class each day.  Other teachers, such as my 7th grade geography teacher who will remain nameless, got by on the fact that he had a very lame system of teaching that you had to try to fail.  To his credit, he painted this map on the wall and numbered each country to help us learn the nations of Europe and Asia (I never learned Africa in school…).  However, I had him 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but he still had 2 Germany’s, former Czechoslovakia, former Yugoslavia, and few of the former Soviet nations.  I did well in geography because I loved geography.  I did well in science because I had a fabulous science teacher.  A dedicated and creative teacher makes all the difference for a classroom full of individual students.




1. itsmeemib - September 3, 2009

Last night in one of my education night classes, we talked about the issue of kids retention and actual “learning” of material. The point was made that oftentimes, kids are forced to memorize dates, facts, names, plot points , etc in order to “learn”; essentially, kids cram, take a test, then promptly never use the information again. Our system tends to quickly and briefly go over the most information possible rather than be thorough about specific concepts. Text books in foreign countries are apparently half the size as the ones in the U.S..
While I don’t necessarily agree that the teacher let them choose ALL the books in the year’s curriculum, by letting the students select books they want to read, she met them at their level and ensured the students remain interested and that they will continue to develop their reading skills. They are 7th and 8th graders, so unless they chose to read it, chances are they won’t grasp some of the classics anyway.
If I teach high school English, though, I will make them read the classics, but make sure they UNDERSTAND it and not just reiterate what the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg represent.

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