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12 July 2014 @ 02:57 pm
Fold, Staple, Mutilate  
I was folding sheets this morning, part of the usual weekend routine. As I folded that blasted fitted sheet, I could hear my Mom clucking, see her shaking her head, listen to her telling me the proper way to fold a fitted sheet. I rolled the uneven edges together under and made the final product as flat as I could manage in my exhausted-from-the-week state. There were always "right" ways when I was growing up. Right way to replace the toilet paper roll, right way to fold, right way to make a bed. I understand the process having now reared two generations of kids. However, the notion of THE right way is something gone the way of the dodo in this house. I have actually learned from one of the former residents of the back bedroom that it is possible to roll towels and have more fit in a cramped space. I know that there are all manner of ways to make a bed (and I can still make hospital corners though no one seems to miss there, either).

What does this have to do with education? having just spent a week with dozens of incredible teachers and librarians and coaches, I have seen once again that there is no ONE way. Karin Perry and I modeled all manner of book talks. The members of the academy presented their book talks at the end of the week. Karin and I made notes of book after book we now HAD to read following the book talk. We were not the only ones. We did spine poems and black out poetry and remixes. Again, we were struck by the variety of pieces completed by the educators.

Recently, the reading wars seem to have re-erupted (if indeed they ever disappeared). The New York Times ran an op-ed piece which excoriated independent reading. The same old reformer/deformers are calling for more rigor, more complexity, more focus on a narrower range of texts. In short, they are supporting censorship. Denying kids CHOICE, insisting kids read books based on their magic "levels" and "lexiles" (and I love that autocorrect wants to change lexile to exile) limits their freedom to read. One of the discussions we had this week focused on what to do when a teacher insists all kids read books with a certain number of pages and at a certain level or lexile. How can we handle that situation professionally?

Telling kids to read within a narrow range takes me right back to the one right way to fold a sheet. There is a wonderful old story that goes around from time to time about a family which generation after generation cuts the end off a roast before cooking it. We have always done it that way was the rationale until one day someone tracks back the custom which came about because the original cook had a roast too big and a pan too small. And so it goes. "We have always done things this way" is not just pointless in education, it is downright harmful.
 
 
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