Last week I displayed a picture of George Washington on the smartboard. "Who is this?" I asked with trepidation, knowing that questions without choices were not always my class' strength.
"George Washington!" one of my kiddos announced without missing a beat, even though my other friends were silent. Although he'd missed the lesson from the day before and he hadn't been exposed to GW at all this year, he apparently remembered our George Washington unit from last year.
I felt good for about two minutes. Wow, I must have rocked that unit last year, I thought. This is what you want as a teacher- to teach something and then have them remember it the next year.
Then I started to think about how after two years I'm still working on getting this friend to be able to identify the letters in his name. Two years, 5 letters- it's not going so well.
Why waste all that time on our good friend George Washington? Were there other skills I could have been teaching instead of a drill & kill recognition of a famous American? Is knowing who GW is going to help my friend at all later in life? Am I filling his head with useless knowledge when I should be focusing in on more essential skills?
Grant it, the useless knowledge I'm referring to is the exact information I am suppose to be teaching. I'm not making things up, I'm teaching the curriculum. Technically I am doing my job. But is what I'm doing the most beneficial for the students?
During a staff meeting with our cluster assistant superintendent today I made a comment similar to this. When asked what we thought would help our students I suggested that streamlining the curriculum would be huge. It would be great to be able to focus on meaningful foundational skills.
Teaching children to recognize George Washington (and let's face it, he's pretty easy to recognize since he's on paper money) is "giving them access to the mainstream curriculum." In other words, this lesson, or others like it, is not optional. When SpEd was limited to life skills, parents and other rose up and said, that's not enough. So the question is not whether to focus entirely on reading and writing because we've been told that our students' curriculum must be broader than that. And although I fully support a streamlined curriculum, I also think that students can't take 6 hours per day of foundational (academic) skills. Even if they never become readers (and let's face it, many will not), they will have some familiarity with things that make them part of their community. So don't beat yourself up over this. Im sure that you ususally figure out a way to work in some basic skills even when you're talking about George Washington!
Yes, but maybe somehow that story you told about George Washington-- a real person with a name and a funny face stuck with this child easily, and those darn letters just don't.
I agree wtih Anonymous. It is the fun facts that make the letters come alive. I wonder what else he remembers about George Washington and how that is helping him build his worldy knoweldge pool. Maybe it will be easier for him now to identify dollar bills (life skill!) because he knows GWs handsome mug.
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