Creative, inquisitive classrooms are wonderful. But no matter how great the classroom looks, or how many provocations are employed, a classroom must have books.
I love to read. I’ve talked about it in this space before here. Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” It’s the freedom to go anywhere and to learn anything.
When I visits schools and classrooms (hands down, one of the best parts of the job) I see lots of wonderful practice, tested and true and innovative. I love seeing cozy nooks and corners where students of all ages can curl up, lie down or relax and…read. And listen, they don’t have to all be paper books, because ebooks and blogs work too. But we need books!
Pernille Ripp blogs at Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension and her posts are full of literacy: reading, writing, listening and speaking. But not only that, wondering, thinking and creating too. Some of my favourite Ripp posts are the lists of books: picture books, fiction, non fiction poetry. Every day, she encourages her students to read and read and read, and they do, even the reluctant ones.
Every teacher, every educational assitant, every principal, every educator needs to make a literacy rich environment a priority in our classrooms and schools. Reading is for everyone. How can you help make this a reality?
I like to spend time in classrooms with students. I work with sixteen schools and try to be in each school at least once a month. And when I’m there talking with principals and vice principals, one of my favourite things to do is go into classrooms. It gives me an opportunity to meet school staff and talk with kids. And all educators know that the big payoff of being in education is that you get to hang out with kids.
I do know, however, that my presence in classrooms can cause some stress, even some consternation. What I am there for? Am I evaluating the teacher? Will I report something negative? When I approach students and ask them what they’re working on, I get that some teachers hold their breath and hope it will be OK. Sometimes, it’s not. But teachers, don’t worry about it. It’s not your fault.
Students don’t always tell me what they know. They can get nervous too. They know that I’m someone who doesn’t often come into their classroom and I’m usually with the principal, which must mean something. Or they just forget, because the learning goal or success criteria simply isn’t at the top of their mind. That’s OK.
When I go in classrooms and see kids working together, or reading, or helping someone out, or thinking, or even texting, I smile. That’s kids! I know teachers are doing their best and want the best for their students. I know how hard you work and how thankless the job can sometimes seem.
Nonetheless, it’s my privilege to visit your classroom.
What should we wave goodbye to in education, for once and for all? There are obvious answers: word search puzzles, homework projects, some would say cursive writing, focus on standardized high stakes testing. It’s a big list.
I wish that we could change the subject and department silos in secondary school. Yes, that’s right. I want to see an end to subject departments and subject specific teachers. That system has been in place for over 100 years and it no longer makes sense. Why can’t we have multidisciplinary and inquiry courses of study in high school? We could even see the end of the final exam. That would be nice.