"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, September 14, 2006

On beyond thirty...

When you look at my teaching contract for this year it says "Years Experience: 30."

Things have changed since I started teaching in 1976. The curriculum has exploded, the kids are socially older, and the world is smaller.

In 1976-77, my first class of third graders had no clue what a personal computer was, and had never heard of an iPod, an SUV or a hybrid car. They listened to music on records made of vinyl, or on cassette tapes, watched movies on film projectors in theaters or on TV broadcast, didn't have cable TV, and would have thought that "internet" had something to do with moving fish from the end of the hook to the boat.

I was 28 when I started teaching. I had tried life in "the real world" and discovered, with the help of my 4 year old daughter, that child development and the science of learning was much more fascinating.

I've taught Kindergarten through 6th grade (somehow missing 5th, but hitting all the others) and have never stopped learning. I have studied reading extensively and now, modestly refer to myself as a "reading specialist." I've got a reading endorsement and a computer endorsement along with my Masters degree in elementary education and was a Reading Recovery teacher for 6 years. I've been on both sides of the "reading wars" and have learned that most children will learn to read despite what we do...

So here I am, now a part time pull-out reading specialist in a suburban/rural school in the midwest, still trying to figure out a better way to teach even after 30 years. I still find learning fascinating. It's still hard for some children...easy for others...and I still want to know why.

I'm going to explore that here...as well as why I think No Child Left Behind and the obscene obsessive focus on standardized testing is destroying public schools in the United States.

I'll also talk about my students and what I'm doing with them...how I hope to help them and why they have the problems they have. Feel free to make suggestions. The truth is, I need help to help them.

I want to look closely at what's happening in our schools and try to determine why it's the politicians who are determining the curriculum and teaching methods. I want to figure out why teachers have become the enemy to so many Americans and what I can do to rectify that misconception. I want to help re-make the public schools in the US into places where children learn and teachers teach and discover the joy of that interaction. I want to figure out ways to make readers and thinkers out of my students...and I want to find ways to help them let go of the pain of failure and learn to enjoy learning.

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