Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Keeping It Real

I so look forward to the day of judgement for the arrogant SOBs who fostered this on the kids and teachers of our city. There are times I question my common sense when so many just blindly drink the Kool-Aid, but then I read this and take heart that I'm not nuts: from a nyc teacher at"Workshop Model Vs. Creativity — Creativity Loses!
Filed under: New Teachers, New Teacher Diaries — Mnhttngrd4 @ 2:31 pm
Before I was assigned to what would be my new permanent New York City school, I interviewed with a principal who asked me if I knew how to teach the workshop model. What I heard was, “Do you know how to teach using writer’s workshop?”
I assumed that we were talking about the same thing. I have taught reading and writing through student differentiating and writer’s workshop style in my past teaching experience.
I came to find out shortly thereafter through a formal observation of my fourth grade class that I had no idea what the workshop model was and that everything I had learned about teaching prior was to be completely disregarded. I was now to conform to a method of teaching that involved performing like an actor reading from a script and only that script. I was to have every subject every day start with, “Yesterday we learned… and today we will learn… This is our objective.” Objective? Do students of nine years of age even know what the term objective means? This was to be then followed by a ten-minute “mini lesson”, a five- minute “turn and talk,” a two-minute “share,” and a 25-minute “independent work time.” Rinse and repeat as needed.
I’m not trying to bash the workshop model. I’m sure it would be a success given students with some prior knowledge of the subject being taught and without all the problematic behavior issues. When I’m spending 20 minutes per lesson breaking up arguments, reasoning to stay seated, and reiterating to raise their hands, and doing so by yelling because they cannot hear me otherwise, I have very little time left to actually teach academics, let alone a seriously structured lesson on the Revolutionary War workshop model style.
Another problem I come across through the workshop model is the curriculum. For reading and writing, there is nothing more than photocopied scripts of repetitive topics such as Schema and Determining Importance. It is contaminated with lackluster vocabulary without any practices, activities or ideas. Not only is the curriculum so dry, it does not make sense to teach the idea of Questioning Our Reading continuously over a 30-day period with no books.
I can only assume that while I teach, the students are supposed to take notes, basically copy what I write on to the chart paper, because they have no reference books to refer back to when they need them. Their notes are the only formal resource they have access to. I can only imagine where I would be today without having been subjected to the content-rich material through formal-written English that I was given.
My school does not have any materials to teach with; gone are the days of colorful print-rich textbooks. I was told that good teachers do not teach with a text and that I was to spend my outside time searching and creating my own printed information for students to read and learn from. Unfortunately, the adult-friendly information via the Internet does not compare to kid-friendly textbooks with pictures and activities. Needless to say, most of my students are reading one to two grade levels below the fourth grade. Hum, I wonder why?
It has been an enormous struggle to try to teach my students how to read and write without any use of my past language arts projects, science experiments, terminology, creativity and enthusiasm from my collaborative training outside of New York City. I can only hope that one day I will be able to teach creatively with the material that our children of tomorrow need and deserve."

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