Monday, February 27, 2006

On Worksheets

I am beginning to discover a "chicken and egg" type situation.

I have told you before that all my English classes are "regular". Regular classes are the ones where "everyone else" goes. Honors kids are sequestered away to the best teachers, everyone else becomes "regular".

My regular classes have everyone from Special ed kids to the kids who are to unmotivated or lazy to take honors. More than once, I've had kids tell me "I didn't do honors because I didn't want to do the Summer reading".

So here we are. Kids who don't know English with kids who read at a 12.9 grade level and are bored to death. Here's the common denominator I have found: these kids have seldom been challenged.

See, those honors kids want to learn. So they get the teachers who want to teach. Presumably, everything is rosy after that (I know better, it's not always, but that's another concern). Meanwhile, those regular kids are given to the teachers who haven't worked their way up yet. This doesn't mean they're bad teachers, though, right?

I think it's fair to say that sometimes it makes them bad teachers. A friend is mentoring a first year teacher with a "bad" class--she's quit really teaching. She fights and fights with the behavior problems and so after all that, can she spend the considerable energy it takes to teach? That, my friend, is how worksheets are made.

So back to the chicken and egg. These kids have been taught for years that learning is putting an answer on a risographed page. As a result, good teachers sometimes fall to a steady diet of the worksheet, affirming that silly expectation, and then the seasons they go round and round and the painted ponies go up and down...

I am writing this for me. I am writing this so I will keep using music to teach tone and smile when the kids say "So what do we write down?" or "Don't you have anything cool?" (actually, there I will smile and say "Now that would upset the balance of the world, wouldn't it?" but I will still smile.). I will push again to make kids create questions with a depth of knowledge above two.

And maybe somewhere a pig will be wearing a necklace, but maybe not.

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