professornana (professornana) wrote,

Crime. Where is the Punishment?

Margaret Hale shared this photo with me (and the rest of Facebook) this week.


In case you cannot read the sign, it says that magazines are on LOCKDOWN until AR scores improve. It is signed with love by "your reading teachers." Please, I thought, please let this be an April Fool's prank left up too long. Or maybe it is for a piece for The Onion? Trick or Treat? Unfortunately, it appears to be legit.

Dear Loving Reading Teachers:

When I saw this sign, I winced. Then I wondered how denying access to reading material would make me feel if I had been one of your students. I probably would have gone home and dug up some of my Mom's "True Confessions" magazines and spent the rest of the afternoon blissed out by this forbidden reading. I might have walked down the street to the drugstore and curled up with a magazine until someone shooed me out. I would have read. But then, I am contrary (oh, the horrors, I know). And I had a Mom who fed me books, fed my love of reading all manner of materials. I also grew up in a pre-AR time where my reading was not always measured by multiple choice tests and point systems. I was lucky.

But I was not one of your students. And I am not one now. Nor are my kids of the age where they could be in your classes. My kids are grown. But they have not moved on from reading books and magazines. But I worry about the kids you teach right now, the ones who were "welcomed" by this sign recently. The ones told what they could not read because their test scores did not measure up. I wonder if you see the irony of forbidding kids to read until their reading scores increase?

I have to ask you, what is reading and why is it important? It seems to me that your definition is narrower than mine. I count magazine reading as reading. I count reading online, reading menus, reading brochures and pamphlets, reading signs, and so much more as reading. Reading is important to me because it connects me to the larger world as well as to my inner self. And I think you place emphasis on discrete skills (as measured by programs such as AR) rather than on reading as a life skill, reading as something kids WANT to do and do not HAVE to do.

I know if my kids attended your school, you would have one rather upset parent making her way to the building. I suspect she might even have bought out all the magazines she could locate and was carrying them with her to hand out in the halls on her way to the principal's office.

BTW, teachers, you are not the only ones I blame here. I wonder who permitted this sign to be placed? Did anyone ask that it be removed, or are others complicit here? Who expended the funds to make AR a centerpiece of reading? Who agreed to remove the magazines?

When teachers excoriate me for my criticism of AR, I point to instances where AR has been used to penalize and punish kids. It is a crime when educators allow a program to penalize and punish kids. Part of me wishes I could consign these loving teachers to reading nothing but books on their lexile and level, to take test on book after book, and then to make dioramas for each title, too. Maybe the punishment should fit the crime?

In the words of Donalyn Miller #letmypeopleread.
Tags: ar, idiocy
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