What IS Important to Elementary Kids

The Daily Five Tip of the Week had a wonderful cover story this week. In it, Lori Sabo writes about the lasting impact Joan Moser had on a former first grader, recent high school graduate. In the end, the former student describes her current self through the books she loves.

IMG_0190Beyond the well-deserved thanks that Joan received I think is a far more important message to all who work with elementary students. What matters to elementary kids, what they will take away, is a love of learning.

Clearly, Joan’s former student learned to love to read, not from the rigor of the Common Core (which was not part of our educational landscape 12 year ago), but through the nurturing environment created within the walls of the classroom. That environment included coaching this student through some reading challenges, instilling a sense of confidence and independence, and creating a safe and relaxing physical space to learn.

Planning for the upcoming year will inevitably include achievement data and plans for improvement. And there will be pressure to meet incredibly (ridiculously) rigorous curricula. But, hopefully, it will also include some serious thought given to what’s important – really important – to elementary students. A place and a space in which to learn to love learning.

A Common Thread

If you don’t subscribe to the weekly Tip of the Week newsletter from the Sisters – Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, you are missing out on something really special.

This week’s front page essay was written by Joan and it really struck a chord with me. Teachers in current education practice are often stuck between a rock and a hard place: we often are charged with a mandate that we, as teachers, as professionals, know is not in the best interest of our students. What do we do – beside the obvious choice of continually attempting to change thinking? Joan – and Gail – raise an issue that, in my opinion, makes education a different kind of career.

Or does it? When an employee in the private sector – an employee at a large corporation – encounters a mandate that just doesn’t make sense is there ever any pushback? When the directive is one that impedes or prevents the employee from accomplishing a goal, do employees abandon their own thought and analysis to blindly follow a directive “just because”?

My sense, which is anecdotal of course,  is that they do not. Maybe educators need to be more forceful advocates for what benefits our students when we get a mandate that clearly won’t be helpful.

Which brings up another blog entry that was recommended to me this week: The Real Mr. Fitz. In his “Letter to Mr. Obama”, David Lee Finkle points out the irony of some of the more head-scratching initiatives that have impacted education in recent memory. Need I mention it is statistically improbable – if not impossible – that 100% of all students will read on grade level by 2015.

As David Lee Finkle says

…reformers are saying we should put students first. That is what I try to do every single day in my classroom. But I feel the reformers are putting everything but students first: test scores, data, common standards and assessments, value-added models, and standardized curricula are all coming first. Real, flesh and blood students with real problems, hopes and dreams are the last thing on the reformer’s agenda.

Two blog postings connecting with a common theme: teachers DO know what they are doing, we are here for the kids.