What We Believe? (Finders’ chapter)

I wanted us to check in with this historical overview (ch. 2) of approaches to teaching English Language Arts at about our semester mid-point and as we are thinking a seriously about our own unit planning.

We began the semester with, among other readings, Bob Yagelski’s important chapter for NCTE on English Education. Do make connections between the Yagelski/Apple texts and this one and/or any of the Beers chapters and/or the Atwell text. Where would you locate the READING NEXT report* historically on Finders’ table?

For example, where among the Finders’ “approaches” do you see aspects of the classroom you may be observing? Where do your own memories of middle and high school ELA classrooms appear in her table?

Given the question we have been asking implicitly and explicitly all semester, “what does each of us believe about teaching English?” how can Finders’ Table 2-2 help us to locate and name our own beliefs along an historical spectrum?

Read her descriptions carefully. Where will we locate Prof. Mahar’s middle school practice when we speak with her on Tuesday night?

What is the significance of our having a clear understanding of historical “English?” Last night I had a call from a new teacher, Cortland MAT, who is struggling to define her practice “against the grain” as she said. Finders’ table helps us better understand that “grain” and our own positions on as Ursula Kelly would remind us, the “geography of English.” Or as Randy Bomer said in his ’05 NCTE convention keynote address, on the “map of English.”

Do you consider yourself a product, process, or socio-cultural-centered teacher? The latter, of course, is the emphasis we saw at SWW.

Note that Finders observes that product centered approaches “often coexist in a sort of schizophrenic relationship with more process-centered, social, or sociopolitical approaches which situate student learning and achievement within the context of complex social and political forces.”

Where do you observe what Finders might say is a “schizophrenic” practice?

What remains challenging about each of these paradigms? What do you think? KES

* This executive summary from NCTE is useful.


1 Comment

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One response to “What We Believe? (Finders’ chapter)

  1. allison

    Ok, so this is my third time trying to comment on Finders, so this will not be as long as my other two. I hate computers, what a waste of time.

    Reading Finders, however, was not a waste of time. I found the chapter very helpful because it very clearly divides the different teaching approaches. I think such division can be dangerous, though, if a teacher attempts to use only one of the approaches. Some might try to achieve the “luxury (or the narrow-mindedness) of philosophical purity” (41) I would never want to do this in my classroom. I think it would be incredibly limiting when there are benefits to EVERY aspect, even the unpopular “literacy as text” category.

    In the classroom I am observing, I certainly see all of the aspects at play. I would especially like to address the “sociopolitical process,” though because Finders states that this is a more controversial approach. In he classroom I am observing, the room is not a democracy. Students do not determine the curriculum nor the rubric. There IS engagement in many of the other aspects of this approach. There is much “anti-bias and anti-racist” curricula. There is recognition of class, gender, race, and other sociopolitical aspects of learning. I recently looked at the curriculum for the class and realized what an emphasis there is on examining personal bias and seeing how it plays out in reading. In fact, the mission of the school seems to embrace the sociopolitical approach. It states that students will strive for excellence in all aspects of their lives to be “moral, responsible, contributing, successful members of society.” I’m curious to see how everyone else’s schools have implemented similar ideals.

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