Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Monday, June 28, 2010

Better Basics

Another school year has concluded with a grand graduation ceremony and celebration. As happens annually at this time of the year, I reflect on my year and begin constructing the next year.

More than ever in these times of uncertainty in schools, lack of direction and no clear policy of leadership from the federal, state, or local educational offices; we are left to find our own way in this perpetual darkness. For me that means Better Basics. Not back to basics, but Better Basics.

Better Basics is using commonsense, sound pedagogy, and proven methodology to deliver instruction. It means using that which has proven effective and combining it with new technologies and with new and improved pedagogical theory. Simple force and demand as presented by the federal, state, and local governments has proven misguided, useless, and a waste of money.

As our schools become more and more diverse and the divide between the have's and the have not's widens, we have to devise better ways to provide basic services and education to all of our scholars. Technology is certainly a way, we know this and yet schools of education and teacher preparedness programs have still not met the challenge of training our teachers to use technology efficiently. We have a more mobile student population than we had ten years ago, fifty years ago and yet we have done little to use the technology to help them catch up or even have their transcripts catch up. Technology is being used in pockets of every state on a very limited basis with positive results. The technology is helping fewer and fewer students from falling through the cracks. The saddest part of all of this is that our students who have such a genius for technology are essentially technology illiterate when it comes to using it effectively for their advantage in business and life after high school. That is because the schools have still not figured out how to use the technology because they are inundated with useless and mindless forms of assessment that tell us nothing about the student and in the end remind us how useless those tests are when these students leave high school. The skills of high school graduates is not improving because of the current policy of assessment as begun by the federal government and then followed blindly by the states. Race to the Top is just another example of state acquiescing to the federal government for funds. If the states were dressed in pretty clothes and walked the streets, they would be arrested for prostitution. There is no research showing the federal government knows what it is doing in the area of education, but lots of evidence to show they are clueless.

Better Basics is having the schools determine what is best, since they care more for their students, know them better, and are the front line. When educational policy is absent of local input it is time to throw off this tyranny.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Declaration of Independence
This passage has always reminded me about our duties as citizens. It is posted in my classroom by my desk to remind me of this duty as a teacher. Teaching is a political act.

Some of the basics I am rethinking for next year are Vocabulary that uses Latin and Greek roots as the foundation to language acquisition. Continued use of HTML as the language my scholars use when building webpages to write and publish their essays. Using more online resources for reading and to promote Wikipedia as the voice of the people. Books will become fewer and I will probably drop Catcher in the Rye since it is not digitized. Better Basics means moving forward with that which is worthy of being carried into the future and shucking that which refuses to move forward and progress. If that which I wish to use complements the digital world than it is worthy of being used in the future. If something does not play nicely with the digital world, than leave it behind, because it is dead weight. Better Basics is not Back to Basics, because Better Basics looks forward and moves forward.

I am looking forward to recharging this summer while I refine my skills in summer school and prepare for the next school year.

1 comment:

TeachMoore said...

Bravo. You summarize the sentiments of so many of us at this point in the school year, and this point in the fight for real education reform. I especially love the prostitution analogy.

If you haven't, you might want to visit the Teachers Letters to Obama group on Facebook. I think you might find it interesting.
Best,