May 22nd, 2013
So, how about this?Gallup has a silver bullet for solving many of the world’s problems. Here it is: Every student in the world, from pre-K to higher ed, needs:
•Someone who cares about their development
•To do what they like to do each day
•To do what they are best at every day
That’s it. It should be the new bill of rights for all students -- and frankly, all people -- worldwide.
I am leery of silver bullets. But I am a huge fan of the rights of students. This list comes from a post I read this week here: http://thegallupblog.gallup.com/2013/05/the-new-bill-of-rights-for-all-students.html
. I know the site is selling something. I understand the author of the post is not a teacher. However, there is some wisdom here, particularly the suggestion that each and every child have someone who cares about their development (and I would add, more importantly, someone who cares for the CHILD first and foremost). I would add some other rights to this as well.
The right to access all a child needs to be successful is something I have been considering lately. I glance around the room that functions as my office (and the TV room and the room where Scout naps during the day and the room that serves as a catch all from time to time). I have an iPad, a mini iPad, a smart phone, and two laptops (one that is new and the old one that I still need to pull files from before it moves on to recycling). I have access. But I know that my students do not have the access I do. I can get online most days with little effort. I know there are others who have to head to a library or coffee shop for access. If I want a book to read, I simply have to access one of the double stacked shelves I have. I have access. But I know there are many houses where that access is not simple, where books are not at hand. So, ACCESS to me is one right I would love to be able for all kids to have.
And I include access at school as well. How many computers are in the classroom? How much access do kids have to books, to computers, to materials they can use to create something? I know there are schools with 1:1 tablet systems. And I know there are schools where a classroom might have one computer, an older one, that does not provide much access for the 20 or 30 or more kids in that room. I know there are classrooms where there are hundreds and thousands of books in the class library. And I know there are school libraries that have fewer books. The schools with inadequate access are generally, of course, in schools where you can expect inadequate access in homes, too.
There are other rights, of course. Many years ago, the International Reading Association generated a powerful piece in 1999. You can download a PDF of the statement here: www.reading.org/downloads/positions/ps10
36_adolescent.pdf. Note that access appears on many of these statements about what adolescents deserve. We need to go back to these fundamental statements again. This is what we need to use as we prepare lessons, gather materials, plan curriculum. ACCESS them now.
May 21st, 2013
As I was checking out of the grocery store this morning, I saw a flyer for a summer reading program sponsored by HEB. Kids read 10 books, get parent initials, and then send off for a prize. I jokingly said something about doing it since I am already reading. The check out woman said she wished she had more time to read. Conversation about book ensued. Books and reading seem to be the topic of conversation no matter where I am. When we returned from the store, the mail carrier was waiting with a huge box of books from Random House. I went through them quickly, separating the easy readers and picture books from the YA, and stacking books I already read (in ARCs) in the giveaway pile for a future workshop. Then, I settled in and read about 10 easy readers and picture books.
I recalled a paper I had read earlier in the week here: teacher.scholastic.com/products/classroo
that talked about how good books are the best intervention of all. And I concur. Finding that right book for the reader at hand is so important. It can be a life-changing moment, that time when the perfect book pulls a reader inside and demands to be read. In part, this is why I read as widely as I can. I never know which book will be the ONE.
So, I hope all of you will join Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) for this summer's #bookaday challenge. Dedicate some portion of each day this summer to read a book (or, like me, from time to time, you can read a handful or two of picture books all in one sitting to cover the week). Think of how many books you will add to your arsenal or toolbox or data base or whatever term you use to refer to the books you keep filed away mentally to talk to kids about. I attempt to do #bookaday all year (my schedule allows for a bot more flex time). It has made so much difference for me in terms of narrowing my reading gaps, of growing my list of GO-TO books, and of adding to my knowledge of the trends and fads in the children's book field. I also make many more connections and build more and more ladders along the way. So, how about having a constructive summer? Read. Share. Read some more.
May 20th, 2013
Three terrific librarians, Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, and Kelly Jensen, have dedicated May to SHOW ME THE AWESOME!, a time to highlight the awesome things librarians are doing. Here is some background information: http:///www.stackedbooks.org/2013/04/show-me-awesome-30-days-of-self.html
(and you can find it here: http://sophiebiblio.tumblr.com/awesome/
and here: http://blogs.slj.com/teacozy/2013/05/19/show-me-the-awesome-week-4/
). It's tough to toot your own horn, so some of us have joined in with Sophie and Liz and Kelly to make folks more aware of the awesomeness that goes largely unnoticed. So, here is my small contribution to the effort.
Being in a library science department and teaching online courses in literature for children, tweens, and teens means I do not often have the chance to interact with students. So, when the opportunity presents itself, I leap at the chance. My colleague Rosemary Chance arranged for the two of us to do a continuing education program for undergraduate teacher education students. “Let the Heart of a Book Touch the Heart of a Child” became our theme since we spoke to the groups on Valentine’s Day. Basically, we booktalk some of the Notables (ALSC) winners for the year. After the booktalk, students are invited to take a free book with them to begin or build their future libraries.
Aside from being a lot of fun (Rosemary and I love booktalking as a team), this program has provided some other benefits we did not anticipate going into it:
1. Other faculty attend and see part of what it is we DO in librarianship. They remark on how attentive the students are and how much even they loved the booktalking (they also took free books).
2. Students come to talk to us about working on an MLS when they graduate.
3. This year we had one faculty member ask if we had some more books we could spare (we did) and if she could bring her class over to “shop our shelves.” We had 7 book carts filled with books we had weeded from the books publishers send us for our committee work (Rosemary was on Notables and I was on Odyssey this past year). Students filled boxes and hauled them off for their classroom libraries (see photos below).
4. We have been asked to speak to other classes, undergrad and graduate about books and reading and libraries.
5. Community members come to the event and also take home free books. They also have the chance to see what it is that librarians can do.
So often people confuse us with the university library staff. They have no real idea of who we are and what we can offer students, faculty, and the larger community. By taking on this small program, we help spread the word about libraries, librarians, books, and reading. And while Rosemary and I think of booktalking as something we just DO, we realize that there are others who do not know this powerful tool for connecting readers and books. We are planting some seeds here, seeds we hope will result in more people knowing what it is librarians and libraries can offer them.
Artwork by John LeMasney, lemasney.com
May 19th, 2013
I was surprised this week when NCTE posted a link to something I wrote 5 years ago: http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/CNP/0254-April08/FieldOfDreams.pdf
. I was also a tad apprehensive: how would something I wrote in 2008 hold up to scrutiny? Actually, as I read through it again, I was astonished to see that much of what I noted back then is still the focus of what I write and talk about now. Sure, there are some things I would add or delete. I know more now, of course. I have spoken to thousands of kids and teachers in the intervening years. There have been other changes to education, to technology, to the field of literature for adolescents. And yet much remains the same.
I like looking back. It gives me a sense of "history." This past week, my husband and I ate at a restaurant that, back when we first married, was a place we visited often with my parents and with our kids. We reminisced throughout the meal about those times. It was satisfying but also bittersweet: my mom and stepdad are both gone now the kids are not kids. But the memories are still there. Likewise, the books I have read in the past hold memories that are still present today. Each book read added some new thought or connection. It allowed me to see something differently, to commiserate with a different character, to feel a deeper sense of empathy perhps. Looking back
I like crystal ball gazing, too: looking for what might be ahead. In YA, there have been so many new forms and formats, a blurring of genre lines, new authors. What might the genre look like in 5 years? In 10 years? Which books will have staying power? what trends will fade?I never tire of opening the boxes of books to see what is new. Right now I am reading a forthcoming book from David Almond that is a game changer. Ditto the new book from Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett called BATTLE BUNNY. This evolution keeps the field fresh and interesting.
So, look ahead, look back. Remember the history and embrace the future.
May 18th, 2013
Myopia is one thing, but education suffers more from dystopia in terms of vision of late. Here is a posting from Diane Ravitch about Texas and education: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/05/08/texas-the-surefire-plan-to-destroy-public-education/
Look at the steps she talks about from SHOCK DOCTRINE by Noami Klein.My comments follow the statement of the steps.
Step One: impose ridiculous standards and assessments on every school. NCLB, CCSS, and our own state standards have accomplished this already. Add to this the fact that ELAR standards were written without input from literacy organizations who begged to be included.
Step Two: create cut points on the assessments to guarantee high rates of failure. How many parents understand how the passing score for STAAR is determined? Do they really think it is a set pecentage?
Step Three: implement draconian accountability systems. And change the standards and forms and reporting schemes often. Changes keep anyone from getting too comfortable, right?
Step Four: use the accountability system to undermine the credibility and trust that almost everyone gave to public schools. increase the difficulty of reaching goals annually. At the outset of testing, especially as we moved into NCLB, many of us warned that scores would drop and that eventually even high-performing schools could not meet AYP. With CCSS and RttT, the same thing is occurring. Scores are plummeting thus making the case that schools are awful.
Step Five: de-professionalize educators with alternative certification, merit pay, evaluations tied to test scores, scripted curriculum, attacks on professional organizations, phony research that tries to make the case that credentials and experience don’t matter, etc. Our state forced colleges of education to cut the number of required hours to complete the degree quite a few years ago. Now, they are talking about poorly prepared teachers. How do we battle this sort of attack?
Step Six: start privatization with public funded charters with a promise that they will be laboratories of innovation. Many of us fell for that falsehood. Apply pressure each legislative session to implement more and more of them. Despite the research that shows charter schools are not more effective, we continue to call for more of them.
Step Seven: use Madison Avenue messaging to name bills to further trick people into acceptance, if not support, of every conceivable voucher scheme. This is also known as the business model for schools. Never mind that kids are not products.
Step Eight: totally destroy public education with so-called universal vouchers. See this web site: http://www.economist.com/node/9119786
Great propaganda about how vouchers will save education.
Step Nine: start eliminating the vouchers and charters, little by little. I would add, slowly begin closing schools, ending school years early, etc.
Step Ten: totally eliminate the costs of education from local, state, and national budgets, thereby providing another huge transfer of wealth through huge tax cuts to the already-billionaire class.
In effect, train an underclass to do the jobs for the wealthy.
Scary? It is here already. Dystopia, anyone?
May 17th, 2013
In the ongoing attack on education, there is this review of Bill Bennett's IS COLLEGE WORTH IT? http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/14/book-review-is-college-worth-it/
Once again, there is so much here that needs to be addressed, that it is tough to know where to begin, But let's start with what the reviewer calls the Bennett Hypothesis:What killed it is explained by the “Bennett Hypothesis,” which by now should be elevated to the status of a theory or a law: “College tuition will rise as long as the amount of money available through federal student aid continues to increase with little or no accountability.”
In one short sentence are so many flaws of logic. How to begin? Okay, tuition has risen. So has the cost of EVERYTHING, I think. I can speak from the vantage point of one of those elitist folks with a doctorate in education (NRO criticizes us for using what is essentially not an honorific we should use. It is pretentious.). State funding of colleges and universities has dropped precipitously in the past couple of decades. We were told by the politicians to increase tuition to make up the cost of running the university and the funds they stole from us (so they could boast about balanced budgets AND so they could begin to control who could afford a college education). When there was a hue and cry about tuition increases, these same politicians threw blame on us and our high salaries and apparent lack of running on a budget (do jnot get my started on those high salaries when the highest paid state employee is a football coach and not a teacher at any level).
But back to the hypothesis (the one this reviewer thinks should be elevated to a law; how objective is this review do ya think?). Federal student aid, in case no one has been paying attention, has also been cut in recent years. How do you take that into accont then? And student aid is one way kids from less than affluent backgrounds have any sort of chance to attend college. It is not the only way; there are many students who take loans, work 2-3 jobs, lay out a semester to save up for tuition, etc. And is college dead? Hardly if one is to accept latest enrollment numbers.
But moving on in this "review," we have more. There is a call to return vocational education to schools. It might be interesting to see when those courses were cut. I can tell you why they are not present now: they are not about scoring well on the tests.
And more: liberal arts is pointless if one wants get a job that will pay money. Better to do STEM classes. Never mind the research that suggests we do not need nearly the number of STEM folks as some politicians would have you believe.
More: college kids live in luxury. I do not know where these guys visited of late, but I can assure you luxury is not the term I would use at all. Zagat worthy dining? Really?
Still more: the "real" teachers are doing the research whole courses are being taught by grad assistants. I never once had a grad assistant for anything other than a Poli Sci lab. My college sophomore says the same thing is true for her. This painting with too broad a brush is part and parcel of those who are currently calling for reform.
Want even more: college presidents' salaries. I saw the map recently that indicated that in all but a handful of states, the highest paid employee was a coach, not a university president. Let's try yo get facts straight, shall we? And how much does former Secretary Bennett get for one speech? There is something about living in glass houses....
Now, go back to the article and see if you can spot the racism, sexism, and anti-elitism. It should not take you very long.
I am not saying there is not a need for us to change at the university level. Change we have in the 20 some odd years I have been among the elite who do not teach (sarcastic font, folks). Our classes are online. Before that, though, we traveled to where our students lived, often an 8 hour drive, to take courses and materials to them instead of vice versa. We find monies to assist students in completing graduate degrees. We have graduated 60 students on full scholarships, many of them Hispanic.
But we need to do more. We recognize that this is about more than the bottom line. We keep our eyes on the prize: graduating students to go out into schools and become school librarians. We talk the talk, but we also walk the walk. It is simple to sit in a studio or at a writing desk and call for "reform" and decry the state of affairs. What we need is more Noah Principle that Bennett Hypothesis: no prizes for predicting rain; prizes for building arks. You want to "fix" something? Come on and join us. Help us explore ways to make college affordable to ALL who have, in the words of the reviewer, the requisite gray matter.
As for me, I will go back to writing, reading, and teaching.
May 16th, 2013
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We've just brought User Cluster #9 back online, and the errors being caused by the maintenance should stop occurring. Notifications are sending again, but may be delayed as there is a backlog of notifications waiting to be sent. If you are still encountering any errors, please open a Support request so we can investigate the issue.
As the school year winds down, generally the number of challenged books seems to decrease. Not this year, apparently. Here is a link to the most recent one: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/glen_ellyn/ct-tl-glen-ellyn-d41-book-ban-20130510,0,1925459.story
This one centers on THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER. The book was selected for a type of literature ciurcle reading by the kids themselves. It was not on the shelves of the school library. One parent objected, A committee recommended the book be retained for 8th grade only. And then the school board decided they did not need to follow the procedure, and voted to remove the book entirely.
This is not the first time parents have tried to ban this book. The other attempt was unsuccessful. However, it appears as though the book has not been successfully removed from this school in any situations. One board member (one who voted against following the recommendations of the reconsideration committee), expressed regret at having cast a vote at all. Those who spoke in favor of retaining the book noted that allowing one person to determine what other kids can and cannot read is censorship pure and simple. I adore the final quote of the article:"Personally, I think books are a pretty safe way to encounter some of life's more difficult situations."
I could not have said it better myself.
SpeakLoudly, folks, the censors are winning here...
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