Daily Archives: October 21, 2007

Class on 10/23–Catching Up After Our Field Trip

It’s been two weeks since we’ve been in our OM classroom. I have appreciated all of your posts on your experience at SWW. If you would like to send a special thank you to any of the teachers you met at SWW, here is the teacher contact list. I encourage you to write a note to a teacher you want to stay in touch with or simply thank for her/his hospitality on the 16th.

On Tuesday night, Prof. Donna Mahar and two local Atwell style teachers and Cortland grads (from Jamesville Dewitt Middle School and Newfield HS) will be visiting our class for continued discussion of reading (and writing) in middle and high school classrooms. We should have a lively discussion. We will start with book club as usual. If you have reviewed your second title, be sure to select a new book for book club discussions this week. Your classmates can read your new review on the blog. I’m looking forward to digging into these second reviews as soon as all the feedback on unit plans is on its way to you.

Please read and post on ch. 2 — the Margaret Finders piece (the handout I gave you on 10/16) as preparation for thinking about middle level ELA classrooms, and changing constructs of English in general. Jillian commented on her reaction to that chapter in an earlier post. You have a network of texts to reference as you read and think about the Finders’ chapter.

Jillian and Ray will facilitate our discussions of Psychoanalytic and African-American frameworks for understanding texts.

We will review the requirements for the unit planning, focusing on those enduring and essential (unit) understandings and essential and unit questions. Return to the UbD template for planning support. And do post insights from the last chapters I handed out as they are relevant to your work on sequencing instruction.

If you are reading a YA title that may lend itself to your applying various theoretical frames to the text, do post discussion about it in the YA Lit blog tab above.

That tab was created for discussions of YA titles you are finding interesting and relevant for your classrooms.

We can talk more about the YA title essay assignment on Tuesday night. You will want to choose a book that will support a strong critical reading. I have lots of suggestions for books that will do just that and I’ll be bringing some of the 2007 National Book Award nominees to class on Tuesday You can read the first few chapters and reviews of SKIN HUNGER: A RESURRECTION OF THE MAGIC, one I do not yet have.

If you have not yet received feedback from me on your unit sequence it will be in your email no later than tomorrow a.m. Do continue to post discussions of your unit plans. I love to read them. You are focused on so many engaging topics. The more we share, the richer the menu of possibilities for all of us. DO BRING additional pieces of your plan to class on Tuesday night for more feedback from me and from your classmates. These may be pieces you have been refining since receiving feedback on draft pieces, or new components you have been working on in the last two weeks. KES

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Gatto’s Guide on What Not to Do

Class,

Raph here with a few thoughts on John Taylor Gatto’s 7 Lessons:

If we are to be effective teachers, noble in our cause and driven to produce free thinking individuals, I think that it’s imperative that we keep Gatto’s Seven LessonsĀ  ingrained deep within us. Given the system in which we have to work, we should make a point to highlight these lessons and make our students aware of what actions are being taken to produce the next generation of vacant drones.

1. Make sure that the students are confused and overwhelmed. If anyone is going to have any knowledge of the world around them, if they are to understand anything about the nature of our surroundings, it should be this: The world is too big and out of control for anyone to be able to make sense out of every little thing. We must realize that by putting students in an uncomfortable position (school) where they are confused about their purpose and overwhelmed by the amount of work that they must do, that they will begin to ask questions as to why it has to be this way. We must take advantage of this system for our own benefit and allow for our students to realize that it doesn’t have to be this way.

2. Gatto states that students should learn to “come to know [their] place.” We should teach them their class position. The important issue Gatto addresses here is that students should be aware that their class position is ultimately decided by them. If they do a good job, they can move up, if not, then they must accept where they have been placed. What more motivation does a person need, really?

3. I love Gatto’s statement about the “lesson of the bells.” Basically the bells state that “no lesson is worth teaching.” No matter what we discuss in our classrooms, the bells will interfere and impose the authority of those in charge. Example:

Authority Figure: “Oh really? You were learning about something that interests you? Well that’s all well and good, but the bell has wrung and there’s no time for that shit in my class!”

Basically, this lesson states that, as teachers, we should use class time to plant the seed of interest so that students will seek out the information on there own time.

4 and 5. These two lessons from Gatto go hand in hand. We must teach kids “to surrender their will” and teach them to “wait for other, better trained people to make meaning in their lives.” This is where it becomes crystal clear that this is a list of what not to do. The lesson I learned from what he addresses with emotional and intellectual dependency is that we should make students aware of their rights and make them realize that although we are the teachers, we are not the ultimate authority as to what is and what isn’t in regards to the world.

6. I found the line, “self respect should come from expert opinion,” to be quite hilarious. This statement couldn’t be any more wrong. Report cards, tests, etc. as we have all learned to an excruciating degree over the past two months, are not adequate in judging whether or not someone is smart or learning. We should instill in our students skills that allow them to function in the real world. The emphasis should not be on grades. This is one of the things SWW got right.

7. Make your students privy to the fact that Big Brother is always watching. Point out the lack of freedom in our free country and I’m sure that will get them active in seeking ways to change things.

Gatto’s points are useful in the mentioned ways. Unfortunately, it seems the system actually does promote these lessons even though they would claim otherwise. But if the system is to change, we’re going to have to work within it, which I’m assuming is what Gatto did considering the fact that he was Teacher of the Year in 1991. He has some great ideas and judging from the inherent sarcasm of this text, he has some bigger fish to fry. I especially found his look into the past very interesting. He is able to identify what went wrong in the past and relate it to what is happening now in a very clear way. This is most interesting to me because as an undergrad I wrote a paper on how our country is still recovering from the Civil War. I even quested into the idea that the civil war has not truly ended. As I learn more about the education system, I’m certain it hasn’t.

I apologize for the ranting nature of this post, but I have finally overcome my writer’s block. Thanks for your time.

Godspeed.

Raph

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