professornana (professornana) wrote,

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I was lost in thought as BH and I drove from Boothbay back to Portland to fly home the other day. During the retreat, Linda Rief had asked us to draw and use watercolor. It was disaster for me. My seashell looked like a piece of pizza. Linda, bless her, tried to help me. I opted instead to move on to the writing part of the exercise and wrote of my baby sister's love of shells of all kinds. It was a lovely piece, and I was pleased that the writing part went well.

But it made me flash back to my teen years. I was taking the second half of the required Home Ec course which girls had to take (the boys, dang it, got to take woodshop. It was the 60s, and that's the way it was. The first half of Home Ec was cooking, and I aced that sucker. I had been cooking for years since I was the oldest child of a working mother. I knew how to cook things much more elaborate than chocolate cookies and Welsh Rarebit (which we all thought was Welsh Rabbit). But sewing? Ugh! I made a shirt with sleeves that were inside out when it was done. My apron did not look like all the other girls' aprons. So when it came time to make a dress (yes, remember the time, we made dresses), the teacher used my dress to model how to: put in a zipper, how to baste seams, how to pin the hem, etc. The dress ended up quite nicely, but I did not make it. The teacher made the dress while we all watched.

I will note that much later in life, I did make my own clothes for a time. I made shorts, shirts, and an occasional dress. I eventually learned how to make clothes on my own with lots of trial and error at first. Then, I learned how to assess what a pattern might call for, what fabric might fit, what skills i would need BEFORE I undertook the project. And I asked for help when I needed it.

There is new professional book with a title that intrigues me. I have yet to read it, but just the promise of the title lures me: Who's Doing the Work?: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Yaris and Burkins. THIS is the question I have been thinking about every single time I see a new kit being touted as the answer for busy teachers. But who does the work in these programmed approaches? How can readers ever become independent if we are doing most of the work? How can teachers select books to add to the classroom library and recommend to readers if they don't read? At some point, the scaffolding has to come down. At some point, the training wheels need to come off. At some point, the choice has to be with the reader.

So, we can continue to do the work or we can release the work to the reader. So, we can continue to offer pre-planned lessons from sources outside the classroom or we can give teachers time to plan for their OWN kids with their OWN knowledge in their OWN style. So, we can offer boxes of pre-selected books to add to the classroom library or we can suggest resources for locating books and give teachers time to read and decide which books fit their OWN classrooms. This idea that a single "kit" will work for kids across the district let alone across the state or the nation is flawed. And how do those collections get weeded and updated? We have to curate classroom libraries.

I weed my own collection regularly. And I add to it regularly. Right now, I am asking folks on Facebook to recommend authors for PK-5th grade readers. Notice that I m asking for authors and not titles. So far, I have more than 200 authors suggested. The next step in this process will be a survey asking educators to narrow down the list to their top 5 or maybe 10 authors at a particular grade level or range. I am doing this as some preliminary research to be sure. But mostly I am doing so to make sure that when I recommend authors for my children's lit classes, I have a wide range from which they might select. And I am making certain I am not missing authors, too. I am far removed from elementary school classrooms. So, I am turning to some experts for advice.

I still am not as adept at putting zippers into dresses, but I am gaining skills each and every day in reading. I am doing the work. I am not relying on kits, programs, lists, etc. to help me find my way as a reader and as a teacher.
Tags: idiocy, kits, knowledge, selection
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