20 July 2006

Blogging to you from Eugene, OR

On Saturday, I leave for Oregon to attend a week long conference on "Direct Instruction." I plan on taking my laptop in order to blog about my daily experiences and overall impressions on this method of "teaching."

It is with some skepticism that I approach this conference because this is about scripted teaching and implies that teachers cannot teach effectively unless they are given exact words to say to their students. Nonetheless, I will try to approach it with an open mind because afterall, my principal has entrusted me and a few other fellow teachers to take this training in order to share it with staff at our school site.

Even looking for information on what direct instruction is, I was brought to Jeff Lindsay's web site, which proclaims that direct instruction is the solution to underperforming schools. One of the quotes that stands out to me is if the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught, which is attributed to Dr. Siegfried Engelmann, the pioneer of Direct Instruction. Of course, I take issue with this quote because it lays all the blame on the feet of teachers. Kids learn and don't learn for a variety of reasons, one of which may be because of the teacher they have before them in the classroom. However, there are many contributing factors to the success or failure of kids in public schools.

One of my most problematic studens last year was truant over 2/3rds of the school year. Is his lack of success due to my not teaching him? Mind you, this wasn't some hardened high schooler, rather it was a 6th grader who looked up to his gang-banger peers and seemed intent on following in the foot steps of an older brother serving time in jail. The amount of time that I and my fellow team-teachers invested in him shows that we did everything in our power to get him in school so that he could get the education he deserves. There is only so much that one can do in a school system that has done away with counselors at the middle schools and has one VP responsible for disciplinary and truancy of over 900 students.

Overall, I just get tired of cookie cutter solutions that those on the outside of education want to throw at teachers. I think many teachers strive hard to reach all of their students through a variety of teaching methodologies because we recognize that kids have unique learning styles. Perhaps even more than that, teachers do not become teachers to fail kids, for when that happens, we question: what more could I have done?

Laugh for the day: In my e-mail today, I received confirmation for this conference. In the e-mail it states to bring cool clothing because the weather has been warmer and its predicted to be in the mid to upper 80's. G U F F A W! It's been hitting in the high 90's up to 107 in my neck of the woods.


At 6:15 PM, Blogger newdad24 said...

Sounds interesting. I'll have to check back and see what you have to report. As a teacher myself, I find that to be a responsible teacher (and to keep myself sane) I have to "shield" my students from the "latest" program to be unleashed in the realm of public education.

I appreciate your "open mind" comment, though. I make it a point to go to into each and every conference, training session, etc. with one goal in mind...to make sure I walk out with at least one useful idea that I can try in my classroom. The rest of the spiel may be junk, but usually there's one nugget in there somewhere.

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Mindful Teacher said...

I agree with the idea that there may be one useful nugget in each seminar but I have a really hard time with the idea of scripted instruction.

Scripted instruction just doesn't face reality. Students who interrupt comes to mind. And, what if it isn't working (something I'm sure the conference creators won't believe could happen to THEIR scripts), what then. Do you switch to alternate script b? It all seems very unlikely to work in the real world.

I don't know about everyone else but I'm ready for this heatwave to END!

At 9:02 AM, Blogger newdad24 said...

Yeah, the scripted instruction would be pretty tough for me to adopt in my classroom...mostly b/c I'd have to repeat the exact same thing 4-6 times per day.

For scripted instruction, they might as well just buy a DVD with the instructor on it, turn it on, and tell the kids to be quiet and watch it. They can get rid of the all the teachers while they're at it. After all, they could probably fit all the students in the gym or auditorium and watch it on a big screen. =)

Have fun with all of that.

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Mindful Teacher said...

My, an image of _1984_ pops into my mind. Just lock up all the sledgehammers.

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Dear newdad24:

You've got it! While I hate to give the folks who come up with these miraculous solutions to problems that don't exist and credit for real world intelligence, perhaps you're right. After all, with scripted instruction--teaching directly to the mandatory, high stakes test--there is literally no need for teachers. Why, even private concerns could construct long, low prefabricated buildings with thousands of little cubicles. Purchase the cheapest possible computers, arrange them in the cubicles, plunk the kiddies down in front of their screens, and voila! Meaningful education that is, no doubt, backed by RESEARCH!

Kids would attend school long enough each year to complete the pre-programmed direct instruction and would then take the tests. After that, they're out on the streets until next year. Why, you could do away with education and certification requirements for teachers--heck why would you need teachers--and replace them with true facilitators, people whose only real job would be to allow children to discover the knowledge within them, and, of course, make sure they keep their roaming eyes glued to the computer screens. No expensive facilities, no wasteful extracurricular activities, no incompetent teachers, just direct instruction designed by real experts, no doubt, research based! Why, no child could possibly fail, and all will be above average!

I just can't understand why any teacher wouldn't want to work in a school where, on September 10th at 9:15:23, every class is reading line 7, paragraph 1 of page 124 in the textbook. Surely this would be preferable to actual teacher/student interaction provided by competent, dedicated teachers?

Ms-Teacher: Good luck, by the way, with the seminar. It is been my experience here in the wilds of Texas, that 99.9% of state sponsored seminars are utterly useless, and frequently moronic. You want an example? I once attended a two day class that was supposed to make anyone attending it fully capable of successfully teaching children who cannot speak, read or write English. Did they teach foreign language skills? You're kidding, right? In this research-based seminar, we learned such gems of wisdom as:

When teaching students who do not speak English, speak slowly and loudly: W-H-Y C-A-N'T Y-O-U U-N-D-E-R-S-T-A-N-D M-E?

If you don't have scissors in the classroom, you can compensate by actually tearing paper.

Sadly, this is not a parody, but a word for word recitation of the curriculum. And you thought you had in bad in the People's Republic of California...


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