professornana (professornana) wrote,
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Knowledge Is Power reprise

Imagine my chagrin (well, it was more than that, but let's start with a more neutral tome) when I read this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/13/opinion/teachers-will-we-ever-learn.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

And here is the paragraph that sent me looking for a hard surface against which to bang my head:

We let doctors operate, pilots fly, and engineers build because their fields have developed effective ways of certifying that they can do these things. Teaching, on the whole, lacks this specialized knowledge base; teachers teach based mostly on what they have picked up from experience and from their colleagues.

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Imagine my chagrin (well, it was more than that, but let's start with a more neutral tome) when I read this:

<span style="color: #310ff5;">http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/13/opinion/teachers-will-we-ever-learn.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0</span>

And here is the paragraph that sent me looking for a hard surface against which to bang my head:

<span style="color: #1333e8;">We let doctors operate, pilots fly, and engineers build because their fields have developed effective ways of certifying that they can do these things. Teaching, on the whole, lacks this specialized knowledge base; teachers teach based mostly on what they have picked up from experience and from their colleagues.</span>

<INSERT SARCASTIC FONT HERE. Gee, I guess those 30 some classes in college in the English department and the two years in education courses learning about child development lacked somehow. I guess I could have just picked it up as I went along. END SARCASTIC FONT HERE>

Here's the thing about knowledge: it continues after we are on the job. And even despite knowledge, not everyone rises to the top of her or his game. Remember those doctors who operate? In the past, they did not understand that germs were spread by lack of sterilization. Pasteur and others came along and helped. Engineers built a levee in Louisiana that could not withstand a Cat 5 hurricane. Pilots sometimes text when they fly and cause collisions (and some have been taken from the cockpit inebriated). And so it is with teachers: after we graduate, we must continue to learn. Look at how the definition of what it means to be literate continues to shift. And society and culture and other things influence knowledge and teaching and education, too. This weekend, I am following the tweets from a conference thousands of miles from here. Donalyn Miller is speaking there; other educators are also sharing their insights into kids and books and reading. I am LEARNING. Me! At 60!

So, let's talk a little more about what I want to do over the next several posts. It goes back to the "core" of yesterday's post: Children have the right to be taught by those who have a knowledge of books. What sort of knowledge do we need to have about books in order to reach as many readers as we can? What is the most useful knowledge to have as we work with books and kids? While I think knowledge of genres and criteria and awards etc. are essential, I think we need a WORKING knowledge immediately. So, what books are popular with kids and how can we assess that quickly? Are there types of books kids do not like that we do and what can we do about that disconnect? How do kids find out about good books and how can we play a role in that? What motivates kids to read and what makes kids despise reading and how can we use that information in the classroom?

These questions are fresh in my mind because I just put the finishing touches on a 3 hours workshop presentation on tweens for public librarians next month. They were the questions that guided the content of this presentation (and also guided my writing about this topic in NAKED READING: UNCOVERING WHAT TWEENS NEED TO BE BECOME LIFELONG READERS).

While I will post about these and other questions down the road (in addition to the usual ranting and raving), I suggest some steps here you can do NOW:

get a Twitter account and start following literacy leaders who are already there and having conversations in 140 character format: Penny Kittle, Donalyn Miller, Joyce Valenza, and others are offering their ideas.
build your PLN by following the people the literacy leaders follow: Colby Sharp, John Schu, Liz Burns, and others.
make sure you show up for the Twitter chats: titletalk, readadv, txlchat, engchat, and more.

Do this for YOU, do this for the KIDS.
Tags: knowledge
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