People who work in schools moan and moan all the time about how “the kids don’t read” but you know what… the people who are moaning aren’t really reading either. At least they’re not, in large part, doing the professional reading necessary (IMHO) to stay up to date with what’s going on the world of literacy and language arts.
I’ve got administrators screaming about how we need to make “data-driven decisions in the English Department” but these folks aren’t reading what I consider to be some of the best, most useful, most insightful books about the world of ELA Instruction — works that are replete with not only data, but reflections upon that data so that the reader/teacher/educator can make methodological decisions based on something other than “I am doing this because it came from above — and I must always do what comes from above — where it appears they simply pulled it out of their butt” mentality.
Here’s a list of a few books NOT read by the folks who are barking at my department with orders as to how to improve, of course, our test scores:
Holding On To Good Ideas in Times of Bad Ones
The Reading Zone
A Whole New Mind
I Read It but I Don’t Get It
Why Students Don’t Like School
Now I could go on. And please do not ask me how I know that most of the top-ranking folks have not read these books because I’ve surreptitiously tested them in my own nefarious ways. However, the point is not to embarrass anyone. The point is to question how can anyone taking on the challenge of improving ELA in the 2009/2010 school year really be considered seriously if they haven’t done this type of reading. (And yes, I know there are more titles as well.)
Sure, it’s hard, time-consuming and dense. But not having the time is, to me, just an excuse. I mean me, I teach, I write YA fiction, I blog, I spend good time with my family and I try to exercise… but I also read! Why? Because I find it absolutely necessary to the development, implementation and application of my professional craft. And I am not drawing an administrator’s salary, either. I do this as a regular ol’ classroom teacher.
So when these folks come to me with “strategies for success” that seem to have ben taken right out of some field book from a Master’s Class in the 1990’s to deal with the problems we are facing in the here and now, I just gotta shrug and say, “Yo, before you open your mouth, open a book, huh?”