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professornana
24 June 2016 @ 07:15 pm
A couple of recent posts have sent me into a tizzy. BH would tell you that it does not take much some days. Usually, that is when he pries the TV remote from my hands and takes away my watching politics privileges until I calm down.

But these posts both had to do with summer reading: required reading. One of the requests came from a teacher who was trying to help her high school freshman select two books from a list that was, quite frankly, daunting even to me. Thankfully, there were about a dozen titles and some of them were actually books written in my own lifetime: SPEAK and PAPER TOWNS were the ones I had read within the last decade.

Another post was a request to help a teacher who had been charged with finding ONE title for summer required reading for ALL students, AP to those who struggle with text. He was asking others to make some suggestions, and many did. Not me. When I am asked to recommend ONE title, I demur. I suggest at the very least a handful if not more.

This idea that there is just ONE book to offer an entire class or grade level that will meet the needs, preferences, and interests is just plain ludicrous. I know I am preaching to the coir yet again. I do that a lot. But I am thinking that the time has come to draw some lines in the sand, to say, "Nope, not going to do this or support that."

1. I will not recommend a single book to be used for required reading over the summer. If this book is SO important, then assign it once school begins and you can discuss the reading, please.

2. I will not recommend a book when the request does not come with sufficient information. Just telling me that you want a 6th grade historical fiction novel is not enough data (to use a term I loathe but when works here). I need to know about the reader. What has she read already? What is his favorite book to date? What is a title she hated? Is there a genre or form or format that will not work?

3. I will not include levels and other measures. I will use terms like MG and YA and MS, but not limit the books further.

4. I will make sure that I remind folks when I present that there are only so many books I can include in PD and that there are hundreds, nay thousands of books that might suit some of their readers.

5. I will not assign stars using Goodreads or any other platform. Who am I to make that decision for another reader? When I see one star given to Fahrenheit 451 or read a deprecating review on Amazon or even read some of the blurbs on the wonderful self-published authors who want me to download their books, I see the fallacy of this practice. However, I will continue to post what I read to Facebook, to compile lists. I am up to #515 or so this year so far. They are all worthy of other readers. Many of them floated on to new owners this week.

There are some other lines. I will revisit this later. For now, I am turning to another #bookaday. That is one place I do NOT draw lines.
 
 
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professornana
23 June 2016 @ 06:48 pm
Yesterday I read yet another blog post about levels, in particular leveling books. The author wavered between wanting levels to help guide kids to books appropriate for them (and I guess I missed the part of the reading level numbers and Lexile scores where "appropriate" was measured) and not wanting kids to be branded by levels.

After I read this post, I hosted three educators who came to the house to pick up books I had weeded, about 300-400. One of the educators brought her 10 year old granddaughter with her. She squealed when she saw the stack of graphic novels (I had sorted books into stacks to make "shopping" easier). She grabbed the whole stack, kicked off her shoes, and stretched out on the couch to begin reading. In an hour, she had finished two of the books. One was the latest BabyMouse. Turns out she loves BabyMouse as much as I do. The other was a GN adaptation of Babysitter's Club. She had never read a traditional BSC book and was thrilled to find something new to read, a new series to keep her occupied for a long time. She also picked up The Golden Compass GN, Lucy and Andy Neanderthal, HiLo, and a few others. These books range quite a bit. But the levels and lexiles did not matter to this reader.


And they don't matter to kids who will read a book that is "too easy" or "too tough" as well as the just right books (thanks, Kylene for the Goldilocks analogy). It did not matter to one of my 8th graders who struggled with reading (2.0 was the test measurement when he arrived in my class). He carried a Stephen King novel all year, reading a handful of pages a day, but determined to read the book. It spoke to him (as King does to me), and the level did not matter. And they did not matter to other 8th graders when the newest title in the Bunnicula series pubbed. I had the entire set. Strapping football players would sneak them out in their backpacks. "I've gotta see what happens to Chester and Harold," they told me. They read the first books as intermediate students, but wanted to keep reading them.

If I were to have used levels and lexiles to organize my classroom library, I am not sure how widely my kids would have read. Worse I imagine, if levels and lexiles were marked on the books or some program limited kids to their ZPD, perhaps some of the kids who devoured books might have been a bit more "reluctant" in a different way.

Other more eloquent voices have written about this. Check out Kylene Beers and Donalyn Miller posts: http://kylenebeers.com/blog/ and https://bookwhisperer.com/blog/.

For my own take, the idea that a set of numbers and/or letters can ever measure an AUDIENCE for a book is limiting and, quite frankly, ridiculous. Want to know if a book is "appropriate" for your readers? I suggest taking some time this summer reading as widely as you can. And then I urge you to support kids as they try to determine on their own which books are appropriate and why. Consider this: have you ever approached a person in a bookstore and informed them that the book they were considering for purchase was not at their level or lexile? "I'm sorry, ma'am, but you are going to have to put down that bestseller. It is a 5.6 level, and you are obviously more like a 12.0?" I would hope that woman might wither you with her disdain.

I know kids are different. I get it. But this idea of leveling, labeling, lexiling sometimes makes me think of the phrase "a little pregnant." Look at how Accelerated Reader moved from being simply a tool to track the titles of books kids were reading from year to year to the kudzu of reading programs. Look at what happens when we commodify anything.

BTW, my spell check keeps changing Lexile and lexiles to Exile and exiles. Coincidence? I thin not.
 
 
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professornana
22 June 2016 @ 11:00 am
Here is another examination of the subject of alternative paths to teacher certification from Diane Ravitch: https://dianeravitch.net/2016/06/21/russ-walsh-why-the-rush-to-hire-uncertified-unqualified-teachers/. The last paragraph poses questions that are key:
"What I would like to know is this: Where is the outrage from education reformers when states continually lower the bar for what it takes to be a teacher? If good teachers are so important, why is there no hue and cry about this most obvious lowering of standards? If education of the poor is the “civil rights issue of our time”, why are reformers comfortable with having poor kids exposed to unqualified temp workers? Why isn’t Campbell Brown tweeting about states allowing people off the street to teach?"

A quick search for alternative certification programs yielded:

http://teach-now.com/ You can become a teacher in 9 months in this online program. Click on the links to see interesting facts (like their instructors possess the following credentials themselves:
At least three years of exemplary teaching experience
 Demonstrated proof of student achievement gains
 Formal recognition of expertise via an award or distinction in teaching by a school or district
 Proficiency integrating multiple technologies as part of the learning process


http://www.educationdegree.com/programs/alternative-teacher-certification/ is a clearing house of alt cert programs. Click on your state to see what is available. Here is an interesting quote from the landing page: "In theory, these programs get you into the classroom faster than a traditional Bachelors in Education program, and they focus more on practical knowledge than the education theory courses you’d be required to take in a more traditional program." Gotta love that teacher education programs, the traditional ones, are just too theoretical and not really practical. Would love to see that comparison chart! Click on your state and see the myriad of programs offered. The ones for Texas span several pages of text.

I would not trade my traditional preparation program for anything in the world. I learned much, and I had the chance to use my knowledge with mentors and supervisors who could help me become a better teacher. As for practical knowledge, so much of that cannot be taught except in general terms. Districts and even individual schools vary in their routines and their policies. That is learned on-the-job. But knowing the pedagogy is and was and will be essential to becoming a teacher.

I am not a fan of one-size-fits-all you know, but I do think there are some core elements that need to be present in teacher preparation. Hence, I am more than a little skeptical of online programs for certification. I think there needs to be some FTF and definitely some actual interactions with students under the supervision of an educator who meets more than "taught 3 years" requirements. And 9 months seems to me to be too quick a turn around as well. Of course, since I cannot see content, I am at a loss to know what is present and what might be missing. Part of me is tempted to sign up and check one out for myself.

I think becoming a teacher is just that: a becoming.
 
 
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professornana
21 June 2016 @ 10:04 am
The debate is on again (was it ever off?) about what it takes to become a teacher. The headline reads: "Georgia school district hiring 450 teachers, no education degree required." Here is the link: http://nbc4i.com/2016/06/20/georgia-school-district-hiring-450-teachers-no-education-degree-required/ and the startling (to journalists at least) statistic: "colleges around the nation deal with a 50% drop in students who want to be teachers." And it goes further to note that colleges are blaming the 2007 recession as the reason why students are not going into education. REALLY?

Here are the requirements for the alternate path to certification (and please do note that those who take advantage of this "offer" do have to become certified; it is just that they can do the certification while they are already employed.

You are eligible for an Induction Pathway 4 certificate in Georgia if you meet the following four requirements:

1. A bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited institution. If your highest degree is a bachelor’s degree and it was earned less than 10 years prior to the date of application, you must have a minimum overall GPA of 2.5. If you do not, you may still qualify by submitting proof of acceptance into a GaPSC-accepted educator preparation program or an accredited advanced degree program.

2. Passing score on the GACE Program Admission Assessment (PAA), or exemption. The following can be used to exempt the GACE PAA:

SAT - 1000 on Verbal/Critical Reading, and Math
ACT - 43 on English and Math
If tested with the old GRE® format (before August 1, 2011), candidates need a GRE® composite score of 1030 on Verbal and Quantitative
If tested with the new GRE® format (on or after August 1, 2011), candidates need a GRE® composite score of 297 on Verbal and Quantitative

3. Passing score on the appropriate GACE content assessment.

4. Passing score on the Georgia Educator Ethics Assessment - Program Entry (Test Code 350).


This is not exactly a cake walk. And this is just admission to the program. I know that in the 80s when the oil industry took a downturn in Houston that many fled to alt cert programs for jobs. I had some of them in my grad classes. Many of them did not complete the alt cert programs. Many displayed an appalling understanding of what being a teacher actually entails other than "weekends off," "summers off," and "banker's hours." Some went the route of alt cert and stayed for a couple of years until they could find a better job. And a few stayed on.

But I want to challenge a misconception from this article: there is a reason beyond the recession (if it is even a factor) that people are not becoming teachers. Think of the press teachers face. They are unprepared; they are bad teachers; they do not do X, Y, or Z competently, And then there is that summer's off no weekends, short hours stuff as well. Look at what Paige and Duncan and now King say about how we need to test kids to make sure teachers are doing their jobs. Think of the endless rounds of testing where all teachers do is monitor students taking tests. Think of the elimination of school libraries and librarians and counselors and other services. Think of one of our top leaders in DC who says free and reduced lunches give kids "an empty soul."

And I think of folks who are incredulous when they learn that librarians have to possess a graduate degree. Why, they ask, when all they do is check books in and out? My response is always that the woman who does my hair has a certificate, went to school to learn how to cut and color. I would not go to an amateur. Nor would I let someone untrained, uneducated fix my car or my toilet. I do not have a "how hard could that be?" attitude about almost any task I can imagine. Heck, I had to teach the former residents of the back bedroom to sort laundry, sew on a button, plan and cook a meal. How hard could that be? HARD!

This is NOT to say that some folks can come to teaching as a second or third career. But it IS to say that the sneering attitude some have about educator preparation (looking at you NCTQ) has seriously damaged education as a career choice for some. Show some respect; pay a living wage; grant educators autonomy. Then, I suspect we will see more entering the profession.
 
 
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professornana
20 June 2016 @ 09:16 am
This morning I saw a commercial with Serena Williams and other athletes working out. Each had a child urging them to do more, try harder, etc. Of course, the child was the inner child of each athlete, that voice within that keeps them working at their craft. It is highly effective for someone like me who keeps her inner child, tween, and teen pretty near the surface when lost in a book. This morning's selection for my #bookaday was one of the BAD KITTY series books. I am certainly not the intended audience for such books, but I delight in the silly fun, in the comical illustrations and frenetic pacing. It was a nice respite after cleaning out under some cabinets this morning. I got to kick back and let the inner child come out of lurkdom.

This is not to say that I must think as a child as I approach a book for a younger audience. No, I need to do what Donna Norton exhorts in her textbook: I need to read through the eyes of a child, see the possibilities of the book through the eyes of a child. But that does not mean that the adult part of me might not see some other things. I know there are picture books, that like some Disney movies, have content that older readers might "get" that younger ones might miss.

I know that when I read a MG or YA book, I have the same challenge: to read through their eyes. It does not mean that I turn off the adult portion of my brain. I can't. But there is still a part of that inner tween and teen that "gets" it, too. I finished reading MAXI'S SECRETS last week with tears streaming. Ditto so many books. We who love books often tell stories of what happens when we read sad books in a public place and have people show concern for our tears. And the same is true for books that have great good humor. I remember reading an early ARC of a Rob Thomas (the author, not the rocker) novel and looking up to see folks staring at me because I was laughing out loud.

I think those of us who love books for kids can tap that inner child readily, can see through their eyes, can "get" it.
 
 
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professornana
19 June 2016 @ 03:04 pm
I was scanning some photos today from my childhood, pictures of me and my Dad and me and my Mom. I finally got around to posting a photo army my wedding day now that BH and I have celebrated year #43. If you are like me, you see those photos from years (decades) ago and wonder where the time has flown.

The same thing is true when I see Facebook postings about topics such as creating and support readers. These tend to trigger earlier memories in my mind. Yesterday the post was about what parents could do to develop and sustain a love of reading at home. I flashed back to a conference decades ago. I think it was a meeting of the Greater Houston Area Reading Council. This group, GHARC as we called it, often attracted more than 1000 educators at their periodic breakfast meetings. One of the reasons was, BREAKFAST, and breakfast at a nice hotel in the Galleria area. It was a chance to sit and talk to folks from surrounding districts, enjoy a good meal, and listen to a wonderful speaker. Plus, afterward, many of us would head into the mall adjacent to the hotel and so some window shopping (it was and still is a fairly pricey selections of stores).

One Saturday morning, the speaker was Jim Trelease. He was just emerging with his READ ALOUD HANDBOOK. No one had really heard too much about him other than he was a journalist who believed we should be reading aloud to kids. He began, of course, by reading aloud to us. The book was WOLF STORY by William McCleery (https://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Story-Review-Collections-Hardcover-ebook/dp/B009JUGTVQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466281034&sr=1-1&keywords=wolf+story+by+william+mccleery). We were entranced. After all, who had read aloud to us recently. The only reading aloud I could recall was the administrator who read us each page of the Faculty Handbook during an inservice. Hardly compelling. But Trelease had us in the palm of his hand. He then went on to talk about the importance of reading aloud. He told the story of reading WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS to his sons. He talked about when and how and why we should read aloud. It was an incredible morning.

I bought a copy of THE READ ALOUD HANDBOOK and chatted with Mr. Trelease as he signed it. I think it was one of what I now recognize as a fan girl moment. After, I headed out to the mall and immediately tried to track down a copy of wolf story, a book I ended up ordering from my favorite book jobber (Amazon was not an option at the time; yes, I am that old). I read that book, marked it with all manner of notes and post-its. I grew my collection of read aloud selections.

Later, when I went to the university, Trelease's book was required reading for my undergrad students. I read aloud to open and end each class meeting. I had them read aloud as well. So, when I saw the post on FB, I remembered something Trelease said that morning (or it might have been at the dozens of other presentations I heard him give over the years). He talked about the 3 Bs of the home. Here is a PDF of the brochure you can download and copy for non-profit distribution:

http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/three-b's.pdf

I will post more about the 3 Bs later, I wanted to include another brochure for parents in PDF that gives 10 facts about reading. GHARC, at tone time, provided copies of these to distribute at our parent meetings. What parent does not want to know what they can do to support reading? And I will talk more about this brochure in a later post.


http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/10-reading-facts-brochure.pdf

What I enjoy, though, is going back to these ideas decades later and finding that, by and large, they still speak with a clarion voice about the importance of reading aloud. And if you are looking for another great book on reading aloud, try Mem Fox's READING MAGIC. I need to post about THAT meeting down the line as well. Steven Layne's IN DEFENSE OF READ ALOUD is a more current book on the topic as well.

Memory Lane can be a lovely stroll on a weekend morning.
 
 
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professornana
18 June 2016 @ 08:04 am
The phrase dates back to 1884 and is considered archaic. I only wish kits were considered as archaic. I continue to see educational materials sold in kits: prepackaged stuff GFAK (good for all kids). This is a variation of the one-size-fits-all sort of materials. Here is a program, it will work for everyone. Here is a book everyone should read. Everyone who wants to lose weight should drink this before bedtime. Here is the miracle wrinkle remover. While not exactly snake oil (I must be channeling archaic terms this morning), these kits have at their foundation, some flaws.

1. Kits assume that learners in a classroom in Boothbay and in Houston and in San Diego are the same.

2. Kits assume that kids are the same despite all manner of aspects besides geography: age, grade, experiences, access, etc.

3. Kits rob teachers of autonomy. The teacher is the one best suited to select materials for her or his learners.

I understand that it is practical to begin with a set of materials and then build from the "basics." But what if the basics are not quite right? What if someone does not look beyond the basics? What if all kids end up getting is the one-size-fits-all?

Long ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the planet, as a middle school teacher, I had a classroom library that threatened to take over the classroom. Each book was selected by the class. Some were books I brought in, but others were books requested by the kids. Yes, I plunked down my $$$ to buy Sweet Valley High and Piers Anthony and Orphan Train books because kids requested them. There were kits even back then, kits that claimed to be the basic books I would need for 8th grade kids. But those kids did not know about Richard who read at the second grade level or Pete who read at the 12th grade level but was squarely a 13 year old reader or Anne Marie who loved books with risqué humor or Saba who longed for animal adventures or Deepta who read romance, etc.

Sure, some of the books in the kit would have circulated. And I probably already had some of the titles in my collection. But that collection shifted often. Sweet Valley High eventually lost whatever appeal it had. Kids moved on to other authors, other series, other topics. I would rather take my $$$ and make sure I had books that worked in my classroom with my readers.

One final note, and I almost hesitate to put this in writing for fear of offending inadvertently. But kits sometimes absolve us of the need to read widely. Here is the kit. Put it out. Done. Karin Perry and I have been conducting research into the reading habits and preferences of teachers and librarians, and there are many among our ore than 1000 participants who do not read very much regularly (our initial research will be published in the fall, and we are still surveying more). With more than 5000 books published each year in this billion dollar industry that, unlike the adult end of the field, continues to grow, there is a real need for us to read as much as we can.

I read widely (and sometimes deeply). Each semester I tweak the required books and the choice areas for my classes. Some books stay; new books emerge that need to be known by future school librarians. I do pay attention to the titles on various lists, especially in areas where I need to learn more (i.e., diversity). I seek out recommendations. I am happy to recommend books to folks seeking titles for one of their students or a community read title. But the idea that a kit could meet all the needs of all the learners in a grade, a school, a state--that is something that just does not work for me.
 
 
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professornana
17 June 2016 @ 11:51 am
I am proud to be a member of ALSC, the Association of Library Services for Children, a division of ALA. Here is their recent posting following the tragedy in Orlando. How I wish I were going to be attending ALA! Look at the action of an organization in response to events/ And also keep in mind that ALSC cancelled a forthcoming institute scheduled for North Carolina in the wake of its legislation in HB 2.




ALA & ALSC are #OrlandoStrong

In the wake of this week's shocking tragedy in Orlando, we are all reminded yet again of the grave importance and urgency of creating and nurturing a culture of inclusiveness and respect in the world. Numerous efforts to support Orlando communities during the ALA Annual Conference are being planned for conference attendees. I’d like to share those here and encourage those of you attending ALA to participate however you can.

Armbands @ Annual

Conference attendees are invited and encouraged to wear black armbands embellished with the words “Equity,” “Diversity,” and “Inclusion” during the conference. The armbands, conceived and designed by the ALA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (TF-EDI) acknowledge the events following the Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander cases, and are intended to signify that all ALA members must commit to building equity, diversity, and inclusion across the organization, the field of librarianship, and the communities served by libraries. Armbands will be available at the Opening General Session on Friday, in the registration area and the Diversity Pavilion on Saturday.

Memorial Gathering

While final details are still being confirmed, a memorial gathering is being planned for Saturday morning, June 25, 8-8:30 a.m. in the Orange County Convention Center Auditorium

Donate School Supplies in Orlando

The TF-EDI, in collaboration with Orange County Library System and Librarians Build Community, is sponsoring a school supplies drive to benefit students in the Orlando area. As you prepare for your trip, put a packet of pencils or notepaper in your suitcase. Not attending conference? Send your donation along with a colleague who is. Donation bins will be placed around the Orange County Convention Center.

Summer BreakSpot in Orlando

The TF-EDI and Librarians Build Communities Member Interest Group invite you to join them in supporting the Orange County Library's Summer Breakspot, a program that provides free meals to young people 18 and under during summer break. ALA volunteers will help connect kids with lunches and help with the Summer Reading Program. A perfect volunteer gig for the creative, talented members of ALSC! In case you missed it, the ALSC Public Awareness Committee just posted a blog entry on combatting food insecurity through library programming.

Rainbow Bracelets and Ribbons

Back by popular demand, ALSC’s rainbow bracelets will be available at the ALSC/AASL booth on the exhibition floor (#719). The bracelets were a sought-after accessory during last year’s conference in San Francisco! ALA will also be offering rainbow ribbons for all members at registration. A colorful way to share your pride and support of the LGBTQ community then and now.

Banned Books Readout Booth

SAGE, the Office for Intellectual Freedom, and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table invite you to join them at the Banned Books Readout Booth on Saturday, June 25, and Sunday, June 26, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to read a passage from a banned or challenged work of GLBT literature to stand in solidarity with Orlando’s GLBT community and to show our support for the Orlando shooting victims and their families. Readings will be professionally video recorded and will be featured on the Banned Books Week YouTube channel during Banned Books Week, September 25-October 1, 2016.

The booth will be located at the entrance to the exhibit hall in the Orange County Convention Center (look out for a red carpet and cameras).

Learn More

In addition to these activities, ALA is working with many member groups and local organizations to plan events during the conference. Details will be available from the 2016 ALA Annual Conference website.

In the spirit of inclusiveness (one of ALSC’s core values), I also encourage you to seek out other diverse programming and events happening in Orlando next week. ALA has a compiled list of diversity related events for your convenience.

Let’s join together in positive action to fight hatred with love, respect, and good will.
 
 
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professornana
16 June 2016 @ 10:11 am
I am still fine tuning my Nerd Talk for Nerd Camp this summer. It centers on censorship and the various euphemisms that some use to disguise what is, in reality, censorship. So, this piece on university life in Wisconsin reverberated with me: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2016/03/university_of_wisconsin_and_the_aftermath_of_destroying_professor_tenure.html

The finding of education is an issue everywhere and at all levels of education. We have seen our funding cut here at the university and were told to make up the shortfall with tuition. We did so. Now the lawmakers are pointing fingers at us and asking why tuition is so high. Talk about a Catch-22 (though I doubt many of my state representatives would catch this reference).

Here is the crux: "What’s at stake here is the total loss of the public research university. Anyone with functioning eyes and a pulse knows that most U.S. states barely fund their universities anymore, relying instead on ballooning tuition and big donors, both private and corporate." When we have to turn to corporations for funding, what might we be giving up, surrendering, in terms of our intellectual freedom? Whose research is deemed important from a corporate standpoint? Which gets funded?

And I have heard the arguments against tenure during my 25+ years at the university. It is the same argument we hear about tenure in the K-12 system where it exists (and it does not exist here in Texas, unfortunately). Tenure protects the bad teachers from being called into account. Um, no, it does not. Tenure is not a finite point after which we kick back and put our feet up on our collective desks and cease to do any real work until we retire or die. While there are others whose productivity puts me to shame, I am still writing, still speaking, still learning. Tenure did not change me as an educator. It did, however, offer me some job security. And for this:

"But academics don’t want tenure because they think they’re better or smarter than you. Academics, whether they have it or not, want some form of tenure to exist to protect the integrity of the knowledge that is produced, preserved, and disseminated."

If we do not #SpeakLoudly, whose ideas will be valued in the future? Who will decide what research is done? Imagine a world where a corporation corners the market in education (looking at you, Pearson) and controls not just the content of the measurements and the measurements but the curriculum as well (it's all about "alignment," right?). It is far worse than anything Orwell could have imagined (a last reference that will be missed by those who seek to control education from outside).
 
 
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professornana
15 June 2016 @ 02:56 pm
Back in the days when I did not work year round, summer days were spent with my good fired, Lois Buckman. We would oil ourselves up (we did not know then what we know now about the foolhardiness of this action), climb into the floating lounge chairs and float lazily around the backyard pool (several houses ago) for hours. Occasionally, we would dive into the water to cool ourselves off. In between dives, we read. And read. And read. Mostly romances, sappy Harlequin books with Fabio-like models on the cover standing over a woman who was looking over her shoulder at an old mansion cloaked in fog, horror showing on her face. For a change of pace, it was horror: Stephen King, John Saul, Clive Barker. If it was frightening, Lois and I read it. We would swap titles when we were finished. That was summer reading.

And then? Well, Lois finished her MLS and I finished my EdD and we went to new campuses. We both moved north of Houston. And the books we read during weekends, holidays, and other breaks changed as well. Now, we were immersed in books for kids and tweens and teens. Truth be told, we had already begin reading these books as middle school ELAR teachers. Lois and I taught 8th grade ELAR in an open concept middle school (who ever though this was a good idea?). We taught next to one another and often, during DEAR time would hand the other a book with a passage marked or would whisper a passage from a book we were reading. The kids in both our classes were curious about our conversations. When they found out we were sharing book passages, they demanded to be in on the conversation. BEST. BOOKTALKS. EVER. And unplanned to boot.

During summers, we traded diving into pools with diving into books. We still do this. We read books, plunging into the story and being refreshed and revived by our reading. In the wake of the horrific events in Orlando, I have sought escape by diving into books. Yesterday at the office, I devoured more than a dozen picture books, one after the other. Today, I plunged "heartfirst" into a story of boy and his dog. I emerged, tears streaking my face, barely controlled sobs, and a wistful smile from recalling the love of Timminy and Maxi. The catharsis was healthy as well.

My choice of reading, my exposure to the sun, my spare time to float aimlessly has changed. What has remained the same is that opportunity to dive into a book, to swim among new characters, new situations, new settings. To emerge refreshed and ready to do it again. And again. And again.
 
 
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