professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Touching a Nerve

Yesterday's post spoke to quite a few readers.  I do not recall recently seeing so many comments and tweets about a post.  It is heartening to see that there are plenty of terrific teachers out there fighting the good fight, trying to keep readers connected to the world of books and reading and response. 

One of the comments came from a colleague who talked about speakers suggesting that kids spend hours on one text.  It had nothing to do with the length of the text itself.  How this comes from a reading of CCSS or any other standards puzzles me.  I have been reading and re-reading CCSS standards for some time. Although Texas did not adopt them (and that is not necessarily good news either given the reasons), I am speaking in many states that have adopted CCSS and are in the process of writing new curriculum and training (indoctrinating is what it sounds like in many cases) teachers on these standards.

I am not certain where the disconnect is, but some PD folks seem to have gone overboard.  A concomitant concern are the new experts cropping up, especially in the filed of nonfiction.  I plan to write about nonfiction soon as terms are being redefined and misused like crazy (at least from the perspective of someone who for the past 20+ years has taught about this in class after class of children's and YA literature).  What I encourage you to do when you hear something in PD that just does not sound right is to dive into the CCSS and see if this is a standard, a suggestion, a model framework, etc.  Chances are, it will not be there. 

All this calls to mind the debate over balanced instruction in primary grades (remember that one?).  Some folks insisted everything be done one way; others argued for the opposite.  During this debate the term "whole language" was mangled beyond recognition.  To the phonics group, whole language meant no teacher instruction, no structure.  This (deliberate?) misrepresentation just about choked the life out of whole language classrooms.  And now this is what I see with CCSS PD.  Instead of talking about how best practices fit in, how books can be used to address standards, or how to include more nonfiction text, the claims are being made that nonfiction ought to dominate the classroom texts, that response is not important, that reading should come from the classics with little new literature being incorporated. 

And my mind springs to the movie "What About Bob?" and the discussion of baby steps.   Perhaps another good reason for those small steps is that RttT and all the new stuff to come from it are unfunded mandates.  Look at all the exemptions being made now for NCLB because, as many of us predicted from the outset, good schools and classrooms are failing when measured by these arbitrary tests and the lack of AYP.  And now another bit of media comes into play as Garrison Keillor signs off from the "Prairie Home Companion" by noting that all the kids are above average in Lake Woebegone. 

So, in the spirit of embracing literature as an ESSENTIAL ELEMENT of all classrooms, take a look at the books on the New York Times Bestseller List for Children.  Here is the list of chapter books that includes WONDER and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.  Read those (though I realize readers of this blog have probably already done that) and then tell me contemporary books are not just as wonderfully wrought:  Don't forget the list of children's books:  Last week I read aloud the first sentence of GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE DINOSAURS and showed conference attendees how that one sentence gave kids setting, characters, motifs, archetypes, and the knowledge that the book would be humorous.  So, stick to your guns; stick with those terrific books that will light up the life of a reader.
Tags: books, ccss, pd, response
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