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« Reading First. The Bane of the Boobs | Main | Effective Instruction Requires Logically Faultless Communication »

Friday, October 29, 2004


Steve LaBonne

I wish I did, but every time I try to think rationally about this story my thoughts keep reverting to fantasies of chaining all the other teachers, and the principal, of that school in a very dark, damp dungeon...

Great blog, keep up the good work, even though it reading it doesn't do wonders for my blood pressure. ;)


My instinct is to tell her to start gathering research to support her chosen style of teaching. Cold hard facts might offset some of the pressure, at least until the state assessments. Also, if any her students' parents can offer support, Missy might be able to continue with this wonderful path.

Another option: Invite the principal into the classroom to see the kids reading.

Or... since they're first graders, they can dictate stories -- or, if there's multimedia support, make video testimonies -- and then they could tell their own stories or focus on why they now enjoy reading... and hopefully, they'll say it's because of Missy and her chosen instructional strategies!

Professor Plum

Those are GREAT suggestions, Mariann! I will ask the class the same question and see if they come up with your answers. If not, I will project this page on the screen and YOU (well, not the corporeal you exactly) are up in lights! (If I have your permish.)

However, Steve LaBonne's suggestion about chains and dungeons has a certain appeal. At the very least, a harsh snapping with wet towels. Regarding blood pressure, all the nibs agree that Dr. Jack Daniels and his associate, Senor Dos Equis, are the ONLY way get through a day in edland.

Zippy The Pinhead

Well, I would advise Missy to get an M.A. or an M.S. and apply for work at her local two-year college. She can teach some of the very same kids, after they've growed up a bit, the very same thing-- how to read & write-- and I'd wager she'll be better paid for it.

She'll enjoy other collateral benefits as well: no more dealing with the parents of the little darlings; shared governance, similar to what you inhabitants of the ivory tower four-year institutions have, is far more common at the two-year college level than it is in K-12, so it is less likely she'll have to worry about administrators undermining her, and almost certainly she'll be trusted to choose whatever materials she wants to use in the classroom (academic freedom).

Zippy The Pinhead

"Regarding blood pressure, all the nibs agree that Dr. Jack Daniels and his associate, Senor Dos Equis, are the ONLY way get through a day in edland."

Not for all of us. Personally I find that a nice Havana is at least equally effective, though I'm not allowed to smoke them in my office.


I taught many years ago at a junior college. The subject was computer programming. The syllabus was horrendous. If I had taught the syllabus my students would have been half way through the class before they would have been able to see any output from their programming. All the beginning classes were to be how to add or subtract or multiply or move or compare, but nothing about input or output.

I rearranged the whole thing without telling anybody and taught them how to get input and output; then I added move and comparison instructions followed by mathematical instructions. It was amazing. My classes averaged 10 points higher than anybody else's and my students knew what they were doing.

I was lucky. The administration was enlightened to see that there was merit to my approach and they tasked me with teaching my methodology to the other teachers. The beauty of it was that I did not have to teach to the tests and the students were able to analyze what was going on. They came to class ready and able to learn and they would do almost anything I asked them to do because they saw the merits of what was going on.

My take on the whole experience was that if you actually realize the way people learn things better by doing, then get them to do it and back them up while they learn. It may take a little trouble but the end result will be people who really understand their subject. Your mileage may vary depending on the subject matter, but there has to be a better way than just to present things as fact pre-digested. Teaching pre-digested facts is a sure way to teach for now on tests but nothing will stick in the long run. To my way of thinking, and I am no longer in the teaching business, you have got to get your students interested in the process more than the facts. Show them how to get to the facts and what to do with them when they find them. Then get out of their way.


Tell Missy she's not alone. I went on Effexor, quit teaching, kept the Effexor, started grad school, and am more stressed out than ever. Don't know if I can go back to the classroom.


Hang tough kid. When the revolution comes, these whole language twits will be the first with their backs against the wall. (With a nod to Douglas Adams...Don't Panic)


Professor Plum, feel free to use the suggestions in whatever format would best suit Missy, the class, and, most importantly, those kids. A lifetime love of reading started in first grade is one of the best gifts a teacher can give her students.

Curt Wilson

In evaluating the schools in my neck of the woods, I found that the good ones have a heavily phonics-based approach to reading, but they all have lists of "sight words" for the kids to memorize, a few per week. Mainly, these are words that don't follow the standard phonetic rules, at least as a beginning reader can understand those rules. The classrooms all have a list of the currently emphasized sight words posted next to the blackboard.

Perhaps, Missy could adapt a bit of this approach, which would serve several purposes. Politically, it would give her the appearance of going along, which might reduce the stress on her. Tactically, it might help her kids prepare for the stupid tests. Pedagogically, it might even be the best way of teaching certain words.


There is something I don't understand about Missy's problem.

The whole-language test requires memorization of words. If the kids can read, they should be able to pass the WL test whether they memorized or not.


Good points, Curt and Puzzled. In fact, they (the points) are conjoined! (Such a deal!) Many of the words on the list are irregular words, and Missy has not yet gotten to many of them. Se only does a few a week. So, her kids can read regular words, but not most of the irregular ones on the test. The kids who memorize the list will look good on the test, but can't read regular words.


Advice for Missy:

Call Mark at RBA.

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