Friday, September 20, 2013

Bulldozing and Bulldozed

It looks like my husband's latest engineering project payment is going toward building us a pond.  There is a tiny little bulldozer digging out a pond which will be six feet deep at it's deeper end.  It's sloping, like a pool with a shallow end but round like a pond.  I've seen small homestead farmers use those ponds with good effect - to water plants, to grow tilapia, and to water animals.  I am confused, because I thought that was where part of the ram pen was going, but very happy it isn't in the middle of the main pasture - and that it is downhill from our house.  I am sure I will be grateful later, but right now I feel bulldozed.

That's because I just spent two days in a workshop on the Common Core State Standards.  No, I don't believe that these came from the states or a grass roots initiative, as billed.  I see bits and pieces of things I have seen in the 24 years since I started teaching.  The main thing is that they want kids to read primary sources and harder texts, because texts have been getting easier and easier for decades.  Just look at the Newbury winners from the earlier part of the 20th century and then at the more recent ones.  Sentence length, complexity, and vocabulary have all been lowered.  I can see that, but this thing about having them read 70% informational and only 30% literature seems like a big march to a population lacking in empathy.

On the other hand, the presenter says the average percentage of kids actually reading, as opposed to skim and scam or checking out the movie version, is only 5%.  I think it's higher - but maybe only 25%

I feel bulldozed, not just because of my irritation with being handed a bunch of new standards and being told that since kids have to read widely and add twice as much informational text, that I now have to give them tiny snippets of text from lots of sources instead of fewer whole texts.  That's like going back 30 years, in a lot of ways.  I was already asking them to do evidence based claims, back when people were asking for their feelings about the literature, so this is like "Yeah, and?" for me - but showing up for a workshop and being given a 300 slide powerpoint and 221 files on a flashdrive - and then, I kid you not, being flown through nearly all of them over 12 hour of sitting - a bulldozer just flattened me.  I think fluency comes from reading whole texts - kids get short snippets of informational text when they go on Google. 

On the flip side, I do feel validated, because the unit I did, with which the kids struggled mightily, was right on the money - except I think I want to beef up my writing task at the end of it in two weeks.  I redid my Quarter Two unit a bit while she was covering math stuff.  I gave them whole texts, though shorter ones.  I don't think I can compromise on that. 

I am flattened, tired, and so I will say good-bye for now.  Thank goodness it is Friday.  


Barry said...

I agree wholeheartedly with you about the abomination called "Common Core".
"Bulldozed" is an apt choice to label it. Using snippets is akin to the way the Devil can cite from the Bible to make his case...

Ruth Dixon said...

Oh crud... I'm sorry on both parts. I don't understand why our school system expects teachers to do more, with the limited time they have, and demands more "progress" from our children.

As to the hubby, mine is famous for that. We discuss a project, he changes it midstream, or totally disregards getting my opinion. Then, they expect "praise"... Grrrr.

Hang in there!

NancyDe said...

Well, Ruth, I think I am just not so good at visualizing spatial things - I was thinking the fence line would go further than he had planned. This pond is going to work out nicely!

Barry, I know that there is only so much time in a school year, so I know we do just give portions, but the trend to actively encourage shorter texts is worrying.