A Teacher's Day

The day in the life of an inner city large urban school district teacher after the high stakes testing ends and there is still three more months left before summer vacation.

Name:
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

I have taught school for over thirty years always in the inner city and for the most part always upper grade students. I have two children and I have been married for twenty years.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A CONNECTION BETWEEN HIGH SCHOOL AND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Is there a connection between high schools and elementary schools? I just attended another one of those meetings where you wonder why you are there and even after it is over and you have found one or two things you can value, you still wonder why you were there. At this meeting, I learned there is really no connection between what I do and what goes on in 9th grade.

Do you remember POWER WRITING? That waste of time style of writing with transition words? The writing that was staged so every paragraph by every student was fairly the same?

Example:

To begin with, I ate three things last night. First, I had soup. Secondly, I ate some meat. Finally, I had ice cream.
To start, the soup was chicken noodle soup. First, it tasted good. Secondly, I used some more salt.
To continue, the meat was beef. My mother fried it on top of the stove. It was not tough. Furthermore, you could cut it with a fork. After that, it tasted good.
Finally, I had ice cream. It was vanilla. I like ice cream.
To conclude, I ate soup, meat and ice cream last night.

We were mandated to teach this style of writing just a year or two ago. How sad for our students. (How sad for us teachers who wanted to teach writing.) Now the powers that be have changed their minds. (Just once I’d love it if they would ask us teachers for our input before they waste everyone’s time. Do you know how difficult it is to stop a child from writing “to begin with” ad nauseam?) POWER WRITING is out. Writing with an authentic voice is in. (But wasn’t it always?)

So here’s what I learned at my meeting:

There is a great gulf between 8th grade and 9th. Writing skills is at the apex of the gulf. (Why should this surprise us? We’ve been teaching POWER WRITING and high schools want writing that makes sense.)

When you write, the thesis is important. (Duh.)

Analyze what you read. (Second duh.)

Think. (I love that one.)

Practice giving your students timed rough drafts. (OK, I haven’t really done too much with this one.)

Have the students write without using POWER WRITING transition words. High school English teachers have to reteach writing to almost every 9th grader they receive. (So I’m allowed to teach writing the way it should have always been taught. Yayyyyy!)

Middle school teachers are students oriented; high school teachers are academic oriented.

And that concludes the six hour long meeting for today—but breakfast and lunch were really grand.

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