Thursday, July 18, 2013

Same Old, Same Old

So it's been a few weeks since I got back from the ALA Annual Convention. The books that I got there have been sorted and logged and shelved by genre, and I've (theoretically) gone back to sorting the books I already had.

I have a LOT of books.

(Aside: Getting my image to post was a pain. Apparently Google decided it wanted me to use the Google-Plus version of imagehosting instead of Picasa. It uploaded fine, no problems, but then when I tried to scroll down to the new image it stopped me less than halfway through and said "You've reached the end." I'm like NO GOOGLE I HAVE NOT. Fortunately it gave me the option of going BACK to Picasa.)

I got the Neil Postman book for the discussion over on the EC Ning but I haven't participated much. Right now it's feeling like I'm just traveling down paths I've been on before. There is tension between student choice and teacher expertise. There is tension between canon (dead white dudes) and diversity (much more recent works). What sort of homework should be assigned, how much, how often, and how should it factor into evaluation?

It all feels like conversations I've already HAD. I don't want to become complacent, because that way lies boredom and burnout, but I'm not sure where I should be exploring, professional speaking.

I have a tumblr now. It's pretty neat because it's kind of like a digital treasure chest full of all kinds of things I like. And a lot of it is text, though I have a particular weakness for puppies. Anyway, this came through my feed as a caption on a gifset (aside: I use the soft 'J' sound) from That's So Raven.

Raven actually said what most of us want to say to a teacher who picks you for the answer when you clearly don’t know it, for usually no other reason than to embarrass you and make you look stupid. One of the main things I hate and always will hate about school.

Here is what I wrote in response:

See, the thing is, I haven’t ever known - or even known OF - a single teacher who ONLY calls on students who have their hands down. Sitcoms work (when they do) because they resonate with what we feel, not because they’re an accurate depiction of real life.

If the teacher mocks or derides a student who gives a poor response, that’s a problem with the teacher. But if a student doesn’t want to respond because they don’t know the answer, that’s a problem with the student. Wrong answers are kind of the purpose of education. Wrong answers help the teacher figure out where the student has a point of confusion. Wrong answers remind other students that other people make mistakes, too. Wrong answers encourage us to consider other possibilities.

School should be a place where getting it wrong carries consequences (so that students know there’s a mistake), but ones that are gentler than those in the outside world. And for the most part, I believe it succeeds. Does that mean there’s no room for improvement? Of course not. There are significant problems - inequity in funding, racial bias, misplaced priorities, just to touch on a few. But the k-12 educational system in America, while flawed, still provides more and greater opportunities for our young people than ever before.

"Knowing the right answer" isn’t always the same thing as “learning." And that’s the purpose of education.

At any rate, I'm still muddling along, trying to figure out what I think and how to express it. :)

Image thanks to


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