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06 June 2014 @ 06:18 am
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand for the times they are a-changin  
I love this folk song by Bob Dylan which was also recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary. I know I am dating myself with musical references, but I do not give a whit. I grew up with folk songs which morphed into stronger protest songs in the latte 60s. The theme of the LSU literature conference this week is a riff from a 60s protest song: YA Literature: What is it good for? Absolutely, EVERYTHING! (good god y'all)

But what made the line from the TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN enter into my head which is barely caffeinated this morning was the posting from a friend on Facebook. Here is a link to the lyrics which, IMHO, are still a powerful call for change: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bobdylan/thetimestheyareachangin.html.


Why this song about change? My friend's postings in the last few weeks have been about how his sixth grade daughter has fared in English class. First, she was told that a book she had read would not be counted toward her AR goal (don't even get me started) because it seas not within her ZPD. In other words, the level of the book did not suit the range the teacher set for this child. The child was being penalized FOR reading. Next, the teacher had the temerity to tell this child how disappointed she (the teacher) was because she (the teacher) expected more from a child whose father is well known in Reading Land. The teacher said she "expected more." The final blow came with the grade of an F on this child's reading notebook. Let's add insult to injury, shall we?

What does all this have to do with Dylan's brilliant song? The times have changed and they are still a-changin thanks to folks like Alfie Kohn and Stephen Krashen and Donalyn Miller and Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher and Linda fief and Nancie Atwell and Kylene Beers and a host of others who have written about workshop and community and choice and assessment. I know that when I began teaching, I taught the way I had been taught. But it did not work for my middle school kids. I began taking some different approaches. I read aloud in class daily. I gave kids time to read in class daily. I threw out the grammar homework opting for time at home to read. I let kids select their own books. When IN THE MIDDLE published, I had confirmation that what I was doing was good and right. I learned about other things I might do to make reading something my kids loved rather than loathed. Now, more than 35 years after I began teaching, I pay particular heed to this piece of the song:

"Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled"


I give students the option of different approaches to complete an assignment as often as I can. I am preparing for a major shift in how I determine the books they read for class. I am a-changin, too. Teachers who are stuck in some sort of time warp need to heed this call from Dylan. The times they are a-changin.
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