professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Rules: meant to be broken?

A couple of things converged this week to make me think about rules. One was a post from an English teacher who was incensed about a story she had to use in her study, a 30 day long study, of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. One was a post from a friend who was commenting on the dress code of a local school as it pertained to hair color. And the third in this trifecta was this post about 10 Things We need to Remove from Education ( Rules. Regulations. Mandates. It seems as though there are so many of late. And as schools open for more of my friends, I know that the book of rules will be going home to be shared with parents as well. I spent quite a number of years reading the rules and talking to my kids about them.

After rearing two generations of teens, I have come to some sort of deeper understanding about rules. The first bit of wisdom that took years to acquire has to do with deciding what is important enough for a rule. If we want to get kids career and college ready, we need to cut down on the nonsensical rules, the rules that will NOT be in place when they leave K-12. Yes, rules about safety and rules about respect are important and need to be a part of school. But some of the rules are not ones that are about safety and respect; they are about control. I am violating at least 3 rules from our local schools today: I have blue in my hair (sometimes it is red, sometimes purple, sometimes green ON PURPOSE). I am wearing a tank top (with a shirt over it, but the straps are too narrow for some schools), and I have an iPad and my cell phone with me and they are ON. Which of these violations is more important than the fact that I am here, that I am working (and accomplishiung a great deal), that I am talking with my colleagues, that I am weeding books to give away, that I am grading student assignments, or that I am reading and writing? And which of these violations will be against rules in college? Answer: none. And which would be against the rules for my job? Answer: none.

Okay, on to the other items that connected. I loved the post about the things we could eliminate from a school day such as bells (the last few schools I visited had so many different bells and chimes that it was like being stuck in an audio loop. I think there are some things we could eliminate from school. Chief among them would be the modules I see like the one referenced in the month long examination of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. And this is what some schools and states and districts have opted to use to address CCSS. Why is this here under the topic of rules? Because this is being mandated, this step-by-step, day-by-day "module" learning. It is a knee jerk response to the implementation of standards that have been systematically made mandatory without sufficient time for consideration, revision, staff development, or discussion and collaboration. Hence, many teachers face monstrously narrow curriculum and are told to follow it or else.

This is a situation of more than rules, more than mandates, more than regulations. This is the slow but persistent strangulation of teaching, especially the aspect of ENGAGEMENT. So, here is a rule for those who insist on regulating what is going on in the classroom: MAKE NO RULES THAT INFRINGE ON THE FREEDOM OF TEACHERS TO TEACH AND KIDS TO LEARN. It seems like a good place to start.
Tags: ccss, mandates, modules, regulations, rules
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