Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Changing for the Better

When I went to school, English class was about reading. We read a ton of books. English class was about writing. We had to do actual research and our papers were longer than five paragraphs. When I was in school, we learned grammar and had to use it correctly. Things have changed a lot since I went to school. Things have changed a lot in the decades since my coworkers began working.

In our department meeting, I learned we're going backwards. Despite my progressive feelings, I feel that school needs to get away from being so testing focused and get back to the basics. My students need to read more than three class novels a year (the third is one that I choose to give them, the curriculum only calls for two). My students need to learn how to write college style essays. My students need to learn how to present their writing in a mature, disciplined manner.

I have never been more excited about a change in curriculum than I am right now. Do you know that this year I had to spend six weeks on how text features help informational writing? Text features. You know, the things that help make reading easier. That was the gist of the six week unit. Text features help readers read easier.

From what I hear, that's not going to be the case anymore. Now students will focus on themes! Messages! Symbols! In short, my students will now have an English class instead of a "Get Ready for the CATS Test" class. The majority of my students were literally stumped when we tried to go over symbols this year. They focus too much on what the right answer is rather than forming their own opinions. I don't know how many times I've tried to tell them that they are free to disagree with me. They still refuse to.

There are some who would say that these are not vital skills. Reading for enjoyment won't put food on the table. However, learning to read and properly appreciate a text is what makes us human. Being able to communicate emotions and the human experience is better than regurgitating the opinion of the test maker. Learning to analyze and appreciate books, films and other media is part of what makes life worth living. Why is it wrong to learn to do something purely for the love of it? It's not.

This is a good change and I can't wait.

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