Monday, November 28, 2011

One Size Fits All

I really love Chris Pearce's comic/ teacher blog. I'm fairly persuaded that it must be fun to be in his class, and see the incredible drawings he uses to illustrate whatever he happens to be teaching. Recently Chris attended a PD session in which he was urged to relate to kids via rap.

Hey, if you want to do that, and it works for you, God bless. If Chris can reach kids via his art, that's great. If you can do plate-spinning, lion-taming, opera-singing, or whatever to get the attention of your kids, that's wonderful. The thing that continually boggles my mind is that the People in Charge still observe one thing, done by one teacher, and insist it must be replicated everywhere without exception.

That shows incredibly limited imagination, a quality I would not want in any teacher. You won't see me putting on a backward baseball cap and rapping to my class anytime soon. And while I love the comics Chris draws, I'm more on a stick-figure level. In fact, I'm quite grateful I can now conjure up Google images on my iPad to show kids the things I'm incapable of drawing.

And yet, I know how to get the attention of kids. I tend to over-dramatize things. I will break down in false tears upon hearing a failed subject-verb agreement. I will feign a heart attack, or attempt to jump out the trailer window. I will do anything that comes to my mind to make a point, and I don't care how crazy I may appear. Such things seem to work for me. However, I'm not presumptuous enough to assume they will work for you, or anybody, let alone everybody.

One of my favorite colleagues is incredibly kind, calling kids "honey" and "sweetie." I'm fairly certain I'd have been in the rubber room years ago if I'd used that approach. But it really works for her, the kids feel comfortable in her class, and they do well. Had the people pushing rap walked into her class, they'd be telling us all to say honey and sweetie, and dozens of us would probably end up in jail.

There's an incredible irony in the fact that the same people who lecture us on differentiated instruction continue their quest for the educational Holy Grail--the one way to teach that is guaranteed to work no matter who uses it or who is taught.

And all they really have to do is ask a teacher. Most of us are well aware this particular magic bullet does not, cannot, and never will exist. What's really tough for teachers nowadays is that, despite all the talk of "reform," people who administrate education at the highest levels are still a bunch of pedantic, self-serving ignoramuses--people who couldn't navigate their way around real classrooms with maps, flashlights, GPS units, or even Smartboards.
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