Posted in Education, Summer Reading, Teaching

Thoughts on Summer Reading Part 18: One Right and a Wrong

Growing up, I used to play this game with my friends called Two Truths and a Lie.  The key was to tell truths that sounded less believable than the lie.  If I were to play this game today I might go with these: When interviewing the band Guster in College, they threw cookies at me; I once got kicked out of a college class because I wrote a highly inappropriate how-to essay; On a cruise to the Bahamas with my family when I was 15, I broke my leg while running on the ship’s deck.  Which one is the lie, you ask?  They all sound equally unbelievable, or believable depending on your perspective.  I did in fact interview the band Guster when they came to my college.  They are an awesome group of guys and did throw tiny chocolate chip cookies at me.  I was only able to catch one in my mouth.  In my junior year of college, I took this non-fiction writing class taught by this awful professor.  She hated men and made it known in the class.  When we had to write a how-to piece on something we knew how to do well, I chose a very raunchy topic on which to write my essay.  Needless to say, when I went to her office to conference about the story, she handed me a letter kicking me out of the class.  Don’t worry though, I graveled my way back into the class after having a sobering conversation with my advisor.  The last statement was the lie.  I have a horrible fear of ships ever since the Titanic hit that iceburg and sank.  Yes, I know, I wasn’t alive when that happened, but whenever I think about going on a cruise with my family, I am reminded of how quickly chunks of ice are breaking apart from the Arctic slab.  It’s scary.  I also never broke my leg.  However, once when I was on a vacation with my friend and his family in HOTlanta, Georgia I broke my pinky toe when my friend and I were playing tag inside the round hotel in which we stayed.  Boy did that hurt.

Why did I tell these epic, personal stories, you’re probably thinking right now?  To prove a point.  Not everything in life is like a bowl of ice cream with a cherry on top.  Sometimes, life throws nuts your way and you have to deal with them.

In Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, he makes great point and a bad point.  Does the bad outshine the good?  Well, I’ll let you decide.

Great Point: One of the reasons why our students are becoming non-readers is because of all the focus being placed on test preparation.  Teachers are focusing so much on preparing students for various high-stakes tests, that there is no longer time in the curriculum for reading.  I agree, that is a big issue.  So, how do we solve this?  By getting rid of the tests.  Why do we need a standadrized test for students?  If we are effectively teaching our students to be creative problem solvers and critical thinkers, then a multiple choice test will prove nothing.  We need to remove testing from the equation so that we have more time to teach our students how to be avid, life-long readers, writers, thinkers, and problem solvers.  We can’t do this, Gallagher states, by skimming over various topics.  We need depth, not breadth.  I’m with him on this 100%.  This issue is killing our students’ love of reading.  They now hate to read because they are taught to read certain types of material in a particular manner.  We’re suffocating their reading enjoyment with too many restrictions.  Read this and not that.  Read it this way and not that way.

Bad Point: However, in almost the same breath, Gallagher then advocates teaching to the test.  While he does state that it needs to be an effective test, he still suggests that we need to prepare students for a life of test taking.  Where’s the creativity in that?  When in our adult lives do we have to take standardized tests?  We don’t.  So why do we need to prepare our students to live lives like cogs in a machine?  Teaching to the test removes deep dives into subject matter, reading and writing for pleasure, and exploring and observing the world.  I disagree with the author on this point.  We can’t foster a love of reading within our students when we have to prepare them for a high-stakes test.  We need to give our students time to read what they want to read, write what they want to write, and play.  The next big, world-changing idea or innovation isn’t going to come from a student forced to prepare for a test year in and year out.  Students who are given the opportunity to explore, tinker, read, write, and collaborate are the ones who will change our world.  Let’s not suck the creative marrow from our future leaders.  Instead, let’s help them build upon that marrow and make it even stronger and more resilient.

So, one good idea and one bad idea all in the first chapter.  I’m hopeful that the smart ideas will outweigh the negative thoughts in the rest of the book.  But hey, nothing is perfect and I do like to be challenged.  So, bring it on, Kelly Gallagher.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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