From School Book:
When my 5th grader’s teacher told us about the social studies curriculum, she practically apologized that she had to teach about government for two months, “because the kids find it boring.” The good news, she said, was that she too was learning a lot about the topic as she prepared her lessons. When a parent asked whether the current election campaign would be incorporated into the unit, the teacher said, “Oh that’s a good idea, maybe we could have them make ads for a candidate.”
Why are such people allowed to be teachers? Why?
Structure Matters Too
Getting the content right is just part of the challenge. Our children also need much more explicit instruction in how to put that content in context.
My daughter’s first written assignment this year was to imagine herself as a delegate in 1787, and explain whether she would vote for the Constitution if the Bill or Rights wasn’t included. Since my daughter hadn’t learned anything about the small states vs. big states debate, or any of the other big ideas that roiled Philadelphia that summer, all she could express was her feelings. Like a true New York City resident, she didn’t feel the 2nd amendment made a lot of sense, but it was hard to say why.
Asked to write about the inevitability (or not) of the Civil War, my son struggled. He knew about slavery and industrialization, but years of the Teacher’s College writing model used in our local schools left him ill-prepared to organize his knowledge effectively. Judith Hochman, whose program is credited, in part, for helping save New Dorp High School correctly observes that “much writing instruction prior to ninth grade … is based around journals, free writing, memoirs, poems and fiction.”
The result, Hochman notes, is that students don’t know “how to communicate effectively to an audience. Students are given little or no preparation for the types of expository writing required in high school, college, and the workplace.”