Teaching Handwriting?

Being an elementary teacher, the question of whether or not we should teach handwriting occasionally comes up. Actually, it came up this year for our 3rd and 4th grade teachers, as they were handed a new curriculum that required 80 minutes a week to teach handwriting. To me, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Especially when they are teaching cursive and using the old fashioned “Big Red” type of sheets. You know, the ones where the lower case letters MUST hit the dotted line in the middle? But, I also know that I must be able to read a student’s work. So, I’m not complaining.

What got me thinking about this was an article I saw linked at Good. The post was titled “Stop Teaching Handwriting”, so I had to read it. The author is a college professor who is dealing with her 3rd grade son learning handwriting. She makes a lot of great points as to why we no longer need to teach the handwriting. Very few of these would be new arguments, but I still agree with her.

However, what really struck me was the comments. Comments are such a hard thing to judge on a site that seems widely read. The comments were made by people that found the article and I’m going to assume many of these people are parents and a few even claim to be educators. Here are a few and I’d like to know what you think about them.

Another Educated Idiot, evidently she has never had to decypher something important, like a password or e-mail addy that someone wrote like crap.

To even suggest that this skill should no longer be taught simply because you don’t seem to feel it is important speaks volumes. I’m sure he’s quite ready to stop trying.. after all, you are. And to make matters worse you are attempting to justify it. Don’t you think our youth has been dumbed down enough?

What a ridiculous article. Maybe you should purchase laptops and printers for every student so they never have to write anything with a pen or a pencil. Oh yeah, don’t forget to provide paper and ink for the printers.

I thought that one was funny.

If he isn’t taught cursive, what will he do when he has to write a letter?

That one’s pretty funny, too.
That’s all I can take of the comments. If you click to the article and dive in on the comments, good luck!

Thoughts?

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Live Blog

Just had the idea hit me to live blog our high school basketball games for our school website. Cover It Live works great, why not use it? Now, I wonder if I can work in some pay?

Curriculum, Rabble, Rabble, PLC

I’ve got a 1/2 day math curriculum meeting in the a.m. this week and a 1/2 day “PLC Planning Committee” meeting for the other 1/2 day.  There is no way this goes well.  Luckily (hopefully), I’m the only faculty member that is on both committees.  This should allow for a lot of ideas and discussion to take place, instead of the talk being dominated by just a couple of individuals.

I do not have high hopes for these meetings.  The meetings in the past have been unorganized with no clear objective or focus.  We will most likely discuss testing protocols, which we have done twice this year.  We will mention that we have significant gaps in our curriculum, but will not brainstorm any solutions.  Anyway, that has been how it has been approached in the past, I’ve got an itch to try and force the issue on the curriculum.  It will depend on how brave I am feeling.

Then, we get to the afternoon meeting.  PLC Planning will be a trainwreck.  We have bi-weekly meetings that are called “PLC’s”.  These do not resemble any definition of PLC that I have read.  We have done nothing this year that is focused on data, student achievement, or professional development.  They have been nothing more than faculty meetings covering what each grade level teaches.  When we planned the topics and focus last year, there were quite a few ideas thrown out.  Yet, time was never made for implementation of these ideas.  PLC’s end up being thrown together a day before we meet.  The committee is actually on the same page, we just have to get our administration with us.  We’ll see how that goes.

So, yeah.  Looking forward to a super day of meetings.  Hopefully I’m wrong, maybe we’ll reinvent the wheel tomorrow.

Did I mention this meeting was the day before our last day of the semester?  Outstanding planning on that one.

Recognition

Recognition.  No matter how vague or discreet the recognition is, we all love it. My Curriculum Director actually sent my name to two different districts this week in response to inquiries about a state sponsored math project.  This may not sound like a big deal, but I’ve been openly critical of our local curriculum.  Here and here (recent examples).  As an example of why I’m critical, just this past week I was handed 5 weeks worth of lessons for my reading students.   Obviously, because I don’t know the standards that need to be covered before our state assessment.

Math standards though are somehow less demanding (I guess?), because I was just recommended to advise two other districts in their assessment prep!

Redemption

Had a bad afternoon. It happens.

Saved it the last two days by knocking them out of the park.

Great Morning, Terrible Afternoon

Yesterday we had a couple of inches of snow falling all day.  Obviously, the students start thinking snow day (as do teachers).  We weren’t that lucky. Now, I understand the students are worked up and not exactly engaged.  Set up a lesson with a math game to introduce coordinates for my math class, went great.  Students loved it and they understood the concept.  Reading follows math, started a book on the Solar System.  Again, engaged discussion and questions.  All is well with the world.  Then…

We derailed.  Badly.

Science follows lunch and we have been using a website to research various ecosystems around the world.  The students are working in partners and have been doing a good job of reading and finding the information needed.  BUT, today the website was down.  I found another website that has similar information, but it was a different.  The students didn’t handle this well at all.  Frustration for them and me.   Science ends and my writing class enters.

Speed is out of control.  Heading for the derailment.

We’re working on a research paper and just finished up peer revisions.  Before we write final drafts, I give them a quick glance to make sure we actually did the peer revisions.  Two students did nothing yesterday on their revisions.  Guess what guys?  You get to try again. Another student has been sitting on rough draft for 3 days.  Today, I warned him that if he didn’t get started on the last paragraph that he would be removed from class (student is on a behavior IEP).  He sat there for 5 minutes.  Gone.

One more student decided he was going to throw his notes (wadded up) at a student who was working to start his final draft.  See ya!

So, science lesson went to crap and I failed to have a backup plan, but we made it through it ok.  Writing, not so much.  It’s so hard to get elementary students who range from 2nd-7th grade reading levels working together on writing.  I let it get to me.  Damn it.  I failed this afternoon.

Two students removed from class between 2 and 3!  Three for the year.

How many more days until Christmas Break?

Results Based Pay

School policy and educational policy are two very hot topics in the United States at this time. There are many reasons why and I don’t have to say much more than testing or accountability to name a few. However, before I begin I will say a large part of the controversy is the white OR black that everyone paints as the opposite. This is not any different from politics. No matter what side of the aisle you are on, the other side is evil and full of hypocrites. It is easy and convenient to paint with one color. It becomes much harder when you allow blending of colors. Hell, the colors don’t even have to blend. Some people can be all black in one area and all white in another. Very few things are black OR white.

After reading through the comments at Dean Shareski’s Ideas and Thoughts about Michelle Rhee, I came across another post that has me confused and is a perfect example of the “black OR white” I am talking about. That would be a post titled “Top 10 Reasons Why Teaching Jobs Based on Test Scores is a Bad Idea“. I take issue with a few of the reasons.

9. Teaching jobs based on test scores will attract only the most desperate teachers to the poorest schools.

Wouldn’t poorest schools be where you would want to go? If I was getting a bonus for raising scores, why would I want to go someplace that isn’t going to grow? It’d be like taking over for Pete Carroll at USC, that’s going to be a tough job. However, a “poor” school would have room to grow. Higher chance of a bonus for me! Raising the scores wouldn’t be easy, but I refuse to believe it cannot be accomplished.

7. Teaching jobs based on test scores will decimate teamwork and collaboration among teachers.

Really? Why? If I can help out a teacher and collaborate with them to become more efficient, shouldn’t I do that? Collaboration and teamwork should be improved in a place that rewards for higher test scores. Educators struggle with collaboration now because there is very little incentive to do anything different. Put a little pressure on those who are not improving and they will be more than happy to collaborate.

5. Teaching jobs based on test scores will further poison the educational climate in schools that is now almost unbreathable.

By challenging our teachers? We ask our students to accept challenges everyday, we should demand the same from our teachers. If challenging our teachers to change and do something different is poison, sign me up.

2. Teaching jobs based on test scores will extend the view of children as raw material to be exploited for their monetary worth.

Once again, really? Improving test scores exploits our students!

It’s really clear to me. Accountability and testing falls into whichever category is marked “bad”. But, it is only in that category. We teach our students to use Venn Diagrams so they can see how many things can fit into more than one category. Shouldn’t we follow the same principles?