professornana (professornana) wrote,
professornana
professornana

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Complimentary, Free, Valuable?

It is bound to happen. You somehow manage to get THAT server: the one who either does not like her job or is just not suited for it. It happened recently when I went out to dinner with Donalyn Miller and Margaret Hale. From the get-go we knew there would be problems. And there were many of them. The last straw for us (we are, if nothing else, patient and kind since we know this is a tough job) was when the check was brought to the table and we instead asked for coffee and indicated we might also want dessert. Apparently, that was not in this woman's plans and she finally came back to the table with three cups of coffee that were no more than 1/3 filled with coffee. No cream, no sugar or sweeteners. We called over the manager who had been to the table earlier to help clear plates that had been sitting for some time (and not to offer to refill our long empty glasses). Back game our server with three new cups of coffee which she served with cream in their little butter containers and a murmured report that there was no Splenda at all in the restaurant). As she set the cups down, she remarked rather sullenly, "The coffee is complimentary anyhow." Now, we are three ELAR teachers so we understood the implication here: hey, it's free, why does it need to be done right?

Despite all of the awful service or lack thereof, we never lost our sense of humor about it. We knew the order would be wrong (and it was), that she would not ask us if we wanted anything else (she did not), and that we should just laugh and enjoy one another's company (which we did). But that last remark (which was not a thank you for my tip) stuck with me as I drove home that night. This idea that if something is complimentary, we should be thankful for it no matter what. I knew I would blog about it in some way, but HOW?

I think it gets back to all of the ranting and raving from CCSS supporters that teachers should be grateful for the better standards and clearer expectations, for the new assessments, etc. In some ways, it reminds me of this latest misstep from Pearson: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/textbooks-recommended-dept-education-full-errors-teachers-article-1.1512852. Teachers should be happy to get books that are late and riddled with errors.

But it is more than this as Paul Thomas reminds us in a recent blog post (http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/common-core-in-the-real-world-destroying-literacy-through-standardization-again/) citing Lou LaBrant: "Within the last few years heated discussion has centered around the question of free reading for high-school students in English classes. Critics have insisted that interest as a basis for book selection merely tends to establish poor taste; they have stressed the importance of organization in reading as in any program; they have assumed that free reading, with its emphasis upon pupil-direction, lacks content. Indeed, the arguments in slightly more abstract form are those frequently advanced against any program in whose construction pupils participate, and have been offered as criticism of the whole progressive-school movement."

Here is a case where FREE somehow is equivalent with UNIMPORTANT. After all, if we let kids pick any old book and read FREELY, what use is that? Bear in mind Lou LaBrant is writing in the 1930s here. But does this not resonate in the time of new standards and assessments as well? The same criticisms were raised about whole language, reading workshop, writing as a process, and every other approach that somehow did not follow the model of the SAGE ON THE STAGE, desks in rows, worksheets, etc. approach.

What do we value? I value books and the time to read them. I value readers who share their thinking about said books. I value teachers who share their passion for reading with kids. I value librarians who make sure there are books for ALL kids and show the kids how to find them. I value administrators and supervisors who understand that a lifelong love of books and reading is the best way to get kids college and career and LIFE ready. I value authors (like the ones I will see at NCTE in Boston) whose passion pulls readers into the worlds they have created for us. I value reading.
Tags: ccss, lifelong readers, reading
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