Is there a teacher in this room? Why don’t we ever recognize the great teachers behind the great students?

over (Medium)Here is another good piece by UGA professor Peter Smagorinsky. As always, his piece is provocative and worthy of discussion.

By Peter Smagorinsky

This week, Maureen Downey published “Rockdale student: Make students work for grades and limit reliance on technology” in her AJC Get Schooled blog. The essay was written by Jennifer Lee, a 16-year-old sophomore at the Rockdale Career Academy charter school in Conyers.

Jennifer wrote what I consider to be a mature and well-reasoned essay expressing her view that technology was producing lazy minds among her peers, and that along with other “security nets” such as summer school and credit recovery, they should be removed so that students may become more responsible for their actions and their consequences.

As of noon or so on May 25, there have been 53 “comments” posted in response to Jennifer’s essay. I am moved to write today after reading all 53, not so much to react to what they say, but to comment on what they don’t say, and what that says about how readers think about public education.

First, what they do say. A wise man once opined that in reading anonymous Internet comments following op-ed pieces, you may as well stop after the first 10 or so, because everything after that either serves as a soapbox speech on the author’s favorite (and only) topic, or involves a flaming critique of another commenter. There’s plenty in what follows Jennifer’s essay to support that point of view.

Some commenters agree with Jennifer, some don’t; some consider her naïve, some defend her right to her opinion; some critique Jennifer for obviously being privileged, others wonder why anyone would try to shoot down an earnest teenager for having an opinion; some state their opinion of government intervention in our lives; some flame Maureen for not running articles on their preferred topics (although if they’d write good ones themselves, she might); some refer to the good old days of their own education when life was simpler and better; some criticize the teaching profession, and some criticize colleges of education for not preparing better teachers; some speak out against grade inflation; and a lot of them throw nasty stink bombs at other commenters for their comments or tone of their remarks.

Here’s what nobody says: Wow, that teacher sure did a great job.

Maureen introduces Jennifer as a student in the class of Joanna Anglin, and notes that Joanna was the Georgia Council of Teachers of English state Teacher of the Year in 2011.

I don’t know how many English teachers there are in Georgia in grades 7-12, but I bet there are a whole lot, and Joanna was judged by her peers to be Best in Show last year. She’s won a lot of other teaching awards as well, as this article reports, including one for being the Rockdale County Technology Integrating Teacher of the Year. I single this honor out because Jennifer’s essay is very much anti-technology.

So you can’t say that Joanna’s students are obligated to write opinions that please their teacher’s politics and sensibilities. Rather, what they need to do is argue their points responsibly.

Now, I’m Joanna’s doctoral program advisor at UGA, so I do have a dog in this fight. I’ve also coauthored two studies with her, one that took place in her classroom; and I’ve included examples of her teaching in my own publications about how to teach writing (she is featured in this book). I acknowledge my own self-interest in bragging that she’s a first-rate teacher and is learning how to become a first-rate educational researcher. So there, I’ve already gotten the ball rolling by flaming myself, albeit rather generously.

My point in writing, however, is not the aggrandizement of Jennifer, Joanna, or myself. Rather, it’s to point out that even people who write admiringly of Jennifer seem to think that she produced her essay on talent alone, or has become a skilled writer solely on the basis of her privileged social status. I don’t know Jennifer; I don’t know if she lives in a trailer home or in Lakeview Estates. All I do know is that she has written an impressive, well-argued essay, not just for a 15-year-old but for anyone entering these debates. I wonder how many of her readers and commenters could come up with something better. I say this not because I entirely agree with her, but because I think that she expresses her views cogently and clearly, and does so using examples and evidence from a nice combination of her personal observations of her peers and from sources she’s consulted.

How did she learn to write arguments so effectively? Not just by being talented, which she surely is. Rather, somebody taught her to write that way. Although I haven’t been able to visit Joanna’s classroom, I’m very familiar with how she teaches. Joanna doesn’t just give writing assignments. She carefully analyzes the goals of her teaching and designs activities and writing opportunities that walk students through a sequence of understandings that they’ll need in order to produce particular types of writing: narratives, arguments, and so on. She also allows for response and revision so that students’ writing is developed as a process involving many steps. It’s no wonder that her students write so articulately.

But in this era of teacher-bashing, Joanna’s teaching drew no comment whatsoever, even when she and her accomplishments served as part of the essay’s preface from Maureen. People who liked the essay praised the writer’s innate abilities and personal insight. Nobody seems to acknowledge that teaching writing is hard work for teachers, both in instructional design and the time it takes to grade well over a hundred essays and provide feedback to each student that is meaningful and useful. It’s much easier to assume that educators are all incompetent boobs and that only the lucky few like Jennifer can learn in spite of the teaching they must endure in those government schools.

I know Joanna well enough to know that a lot of Jennifer’s success followed from some dedicated teaching. I know a lot of other English teachers in this state who bring the same knowledge, commitment, and passion to their work. Without such teachers in English and other subjects, a lot of smart kids would not be performing at such high levels.

The fact that their outstanding performance gets crushed in the overwhelming negativity that surrounds schools in general saddens me greatly. There’s a lot of great teaching going on in our schools, if only we could see it through the vile rhetorical fog that obscures the public vision of what I consider to be one of our nation’s greatest assets: its public school system.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Blog

58 comments Add your comment

library volunteer

May 25th, 2012
7:18 pm

wow, just wow. He certainly makes all of us look bad. I’m ashamed.

That's goofy

May 25th, 2012
7:26 pm

My dad always told me I didn’t owe him a thing. My mom and dad made a choice to bring me into the world.

My former students don’t owe me a thing either. I chose to become a teacher. I hope my teaching / my example helps them become better people. If it did then that is all the thanks I need.

I will not take responsibility for former students that end up in jail so I don’t feel entitled to take credit for their success.

Attentive Parent

May 25th, 2012
7:43 pm

Oh good grief Peter. Joanna may be a fine teacher but NCTE guidelines simply do not encourage or even want to allow the kind of direct, explanatory instruction you now want to be able to take credit for.

Maybe Jennifer is one of the lucky few who manages to learn to read fluently so that no book is a barrier they cannot imagine trying to scale.

Someone so interested in pushing Vygotsky in the English classroom cannot insist on the credit if they survive with a solid mind. And the ability to use it with print.

You are also getting ready to use this as an approach to validating common core’s approach to literacy.

And honestly, my best to joanna and jennifer.

But I am tired of the “If you can do it, thank a teacher.” If they cannot, the parents dropped the ball.

All of the credit. None of the blame.

crankee-yankee

May 25th, 2012
7:51 pm

Point well-taken.

northatlantateacher

May 25th, 2012
8:20 pm

@attentive parent: I don’t think that’s what his point is at all. I have to admit (as an English teacher AND a parent, no less) I didn’t think about complementing her teacher, rather, I thought the student is very gifted and had a natural talent for written expression.
Surely you have to agree that her English teacher should get some of the credit? No matter how talented Jennifer is, someone had to walk her through how to write a coherent and effective persuasive essay. I feel like a heel for not recognizing this myself – as someone who does this very thing daily!
I do agree that the parent vs. teacher battle is over, done, tired. Surely we can do better than where we’ve been.

catlady

May 25th, 2012
8:33 pm

The good professor is right. SOMEONE has given Jennifer some good guidance in writing. Her parents? Her teachers? A group of like-minded friends? Extensive reading? All of the above? I am grateful for young people of promise and those that influence them.

MannyT

May 25th, 2012
8:36 pm

OK, this blog community generally skipped over the positive regarding the teacher. I’ll also say that most news blogs I have seen lean 80-90% negative regardless of topic. Not saying its right, but it seems to be where the country has moved. Lots of negativity out there, particularly behind blogs w/o real names.

All that said, the focus of the blog was the student’s work. It was well written, so the comments went more to what she said, which is a great thing. (Too much blog space is used to correct grammar instead of analyzing ideas.) That is another implicit positive for the teacher, Ms. Anglin.

Maybe the Get Schooled blog can focus a certain percentage of topics on positives in education. It’s definitely not all bad news. Maybe the AJC invites some School of Education academics to a future round table so us non education industry people can get a better understanding of what happens in the making of teachers.

Ron F.

May 25th, 2012
9:31 pm

Attentive Parent: you proved Smagorinsky’s point and presented your argument coherently- you get a 100 without a lot of feedback or revision.

NCTE has been a very good organization. Like every education organization, they don’t always get it right. But I have found over twenty-plus years of teaching that their ideas are often very good, and I have learned a lot from them that has directly benefitted my students.

Teachers are not perfect, they’re human. And for every example of an ineffective one you can quote, I would wager that there are one hundred that do it right, day after day, and are happy with the simple satisfaction that they did their best. Even in APS, when all the cheaters are adjudicated, you’ll still find many hard working teachers who avoided the temptation and pressure to join the lawbreakers.

Unfortunately, we’ll never really appreciate the great teachers out there until we can’t find enough of them. And the way we’re running them off now, I think that may be sooner than we like to think. My congratulations to Ms. Anglin; I only hope she and others like her will continue to stay with us and ride out the storm. We have to keep trying.

William Casey

May 25th, 2012
10:26 pm

Charles Bowen, teacher of Advanced Composition at Southwest DeKalb H.S. in the ’60’s, did more than anyone else to inspire my love of expository writing. He taught the mechanics of writing and hammered the importance of editing into my thick skull. It was the inspiration, though, that has stayed with me for 45 years. Teachers don’t get nearly enough credit for this aspect of learning. In fact, too many posters on education blogs don’t even acknowledge that this ability to inspire even exists. Belated thanks, Mr. Bowen.

Teacher2

May 26th, 2012
12:17 am

@ William Casey Thank you for acknowledging the English Department at SWD. We have many
amazing teachers in all departments.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

May 26th, 2012
3:25 am

Georgia is lucky to have many great and many more good teachers who deserve our recognition and our support.

Why don’t we Georgians provide them more of both?

Fled

May 26th, 2012
5:19 am

Interesting points from the College of Education prof. One cannot help but wonder, however, how much better teachers would be if the COE would get out of the way and let people who actually know the field of English teach high school students. As it stands, getting through all the educational mumbo-jumbo and obfuscation is a significant obstacle for many people who otherwise would be excellent teachers.

So long as the COE continues to serve up its grand doses of useless “studies” and rigid dogmatism, you won’t see much improvement in the teacher corps. The good prof, like all those in the COE, hides behind his cushy tenure-track position to cheer teachers on from the sidelines, always willing to stand and clap and offer advice.

We both know that you don’t want to get into the real classroom and teach, don’t we, Dr. COE prof? Enjoy your 2-2 load and keep on stating how much you support those who are in the classroom doing the actual work. We all have heard enough of your sanctimonious exhortations.

Jack

May 26th, 2012
6:05 am

I was so impressed by the young lady’s essay, I failed to give the teacher credit. And I failed to give her parents’ credit. Without a guiding hand from a student’s parents, the child is disadvantaged. I’m proud to have a granddaughter in the 5th grade reading at the 12th grade plus level; she’s able to do that in part because her mother had the child’s nose stuck in a book by the time she could walk.

William Casey

May 26th, 2012
6:58 am

@Teacher2: Glad to hear that the tradition continues at SWD. I’d like to see everyone acknowledge the influential teachers in their lives. We’ve all had them.

Peter Smagorinsky

May 26th, 2012
7:15 am

@Attentive Parent, with all I’ve written about the need for local control, what have you been attending to to lead you to believe that I’m leading the field in the direction of common core standards?

And: “All of the credit. None of the blame.”: The public rhetoric is just the opposite: no credit, all blame. Just what is it that you are paying attention to?

Lurker

May 26th, 2012
7:18 am

I did not post a response to the blog post in question. However, if I had, my response would have been about the content of the students essay, not the quality of the essay.

I am sure that the teacher is very good, but this blog is about education. If the student had written an gramatically impressive essay about sea turtles, it would not have been relevant to “Get Schooled”.

Tad Jackson

May 26th, 2012
7:41 am

In 12th grade I had Old Burrell again for Literature. I think it was second period. He read Flannery O’Connor stories to us, word for word, which was fine with me, because Jerry finally got kicked out of school and now I was the class president and a member of the honor council and I was finally flying straight and wanted to get into a decent college. Old Burrell said one story of hers was really going to affect you. He read it. It did.

At the moment of grace in A Good Man is Hard to Find, I discovered what I thought might be my calling—good typing. I had no idea when I’d be called, but I kept my ears open for a long time after that. Thirty-one years later my first novel got published. I dedicated it to Old Burrell Brownlow. Now I’m a teacher, too, a reunited one, right across the hall from Old Burrell, but at a different school way across town, where all day long I can hear him … still reading good stories.

http://www.adixiediary.com

Bill

May 26th, 2012
7:53 am

I would add that credit is not solely due to her current teacher. This student has had many years of good teaching. Had she not entered this class with solid writing skills, it is not likely that she could have progressed to this point.

bootney farnsworth

May 26th, 2012
7:55 am

its simple.
good teaching doesn’t “sell”

look at the 6 million GPC billboards around town. they tout the students and the low costs. not hardly a peep about the people who make it happen

Bill

May 26th, 2012
7:58 am

Since this blog is about acknowledging good teachers, I would like to mention the outstanding speech and debate coaches at Grady High School. Mario Hererra and Lisa Willoughby are the most dedicated professionals I know. In four years, they helped my son achieve a level of critical thinking appropriate for graduate school. All of this is well beyond that standard curriculum that everyone likes to comment on.

redweather

May 26th, 2012
8:17 am

The back-filling some of you are doing to explain why you said nothing about the teacher has started my Memorial Day weekend off with a good laugh. Thank you for being so utterly transparent.

sloboffthestreet

May 26th, 2012
8:18 am

Some are in it for the income and then we have those who are in it for the outcome. But my, my, my, could there ever be enough apples for all the attention whores?

And if you are one of the great ones who are in it for the outcome, the true unsung hero’s, Thank You!

sloboffthestreet

May 26th, 2012
8:34 am

Some are in it for the income and then we have those who are in it for the outcome. But my, my, my, could there ever be enough apples for all the attention double u hores?

A Conservative Voice

May 26th, 2012
8:43 am

Good grief, people, it’s a job……that’s what they’re being paid to do…….TEACH. It’s like all the little kiddies getting a trophy when they lose. Don’t we have the “Star Teacher” award and don’t we have the TOTY’s? Isn’t this enough? If you give ‘em all star treatment, it would diminish their accomplishments. Next thing you know, we’ll be wanting to give this teacher an award……

A North Carolina high school teacher reportedly has been suspended with pay after she was captured on video shouting at a student who questioned President Obama and suggesting he could be arrested for criticizing a sitting president.

how about....

May 26th, 2012
8:45 am

a blog about how Clayton County teachers are about to be thrown under the bus again by their BOE and superintendent. Anyone here want to be paid on a 14 month schedule? No, I didn’t think so. Of course this comes up after everyone signed the vague contract.

Jane VV.

May 26th, 2012
8:59 am

Why do blog teachers often come across as insecure—constantly needing stroking and reassurance?

Could it be that their occupation is home to an unnaturally large population of whiners? Or is it that those so vocal about their insecurities overshadow the many others who find healthy job satisfaction in knowing they’re good at what they do?

Like GAE meetings, teacher blogs seem to be irresistible magnets for the former.

Maureen Downey

May 26th, 2012
9:39 am

@To all, I added two live links to Peter’s piece — they were wiped out when I added the art last night — so you may want to go back and click on them, if you are interested.
Maureen

lori

May 26th, 2012
9:43 am

A large majority of high school graduates have to do 2 semesters worth of remedial classes to prepare for regular college classes. They have never learned multiplication tables or how to spell, etc.
Don’t try to tell me that computers are the key to proper education. Simply not so. It’s just made us all lazier and dependent. Ask any employer who they will hire; the person who can write in longhand why they left their last job with no spelling errors or the one who says they need to work so they can attend COLLAGE. This is a common spelling for college believe it or not! We can’t blame the teachers; their hands are tied by the system.

dc

May 26th, 2012
9:47 am

Good teachers really (seriously) aren’t under attack. Parents, students, and taxpayers are tired of the bad teachers. There are way too many of them, and if you are a good teacher, you know exactly who they are and wonder how they survive without being removed year after year. And you cringe at the thought of how many students have been negatively impacted by this one teacher, and pray that the damage won’t be lasting.

And if you teach, and don’t think there are any bad teachers….then maybe it’s time for a long, hard look in the mirror.

It’s not teacher bashing……..it’s caring about what is best for the kids. When you get past all the garbage and griping, that’s what the schools should be 100% focused on.

d

May 26th, 2012
9:48 am

What separates good teachers from great teachers is passion and the ability to reflect on successes and failures and the willingness to make changes.

William Casey

May 26th, 2012
10:14 am

@JANEVV: I don’t think it’s insecurity. I do think it’s the fact that teaching is a rather solitary profession. I’d also chalk up what you call “insecurity” to the fact that teachers seldom actually see the long-term fruits of their labor.

ScienceTeacher671

May 26th, 2012
10:24 am

Students succeed based on talent and hard work.

Students fail because they had lousy teachers.

Or at least, that’s the conventional wisdom. :-)

A Teacher, 2

May 26th, 2012
10:44 am

Lori, you give a sweeping statement without any statistics or facts. I will not try to make a global statement, but I can definitively report that the college I used to work at saw big business in remedial classes. The “placement test” was very suspect in my opinion, and the students had to retake and “pass” the placement test after passing the remedial class before they were allowed to take regular classes. Of course, the students had to pay full tuition for each class. Remedial classes were a cash cow for the college that I worked at, and they routinely budgeted expected income from the remedial classes.

As this year has ended, I have had the occasion to counsel with many seniors who decided in April that they want to go to college. All of these students have barely scraped by throughout high school, mostly seeing little of benefit from their studies. These students do not understand that the purpose of education was to learn content that they would eventually use elsewhere for productive work. They think that their barely passing grades will get them into a college, and they think that their study habits (I use that term very loosely!) will work in college. Every one of these students will place into remedial classes, and many of them will never pass out of the remedial classes, unless they change their habits.

Each of these students has been repeatedly counseled, and, in my school, they have had the best teachers in every subject area each year. They have made a conscious choice to skate by, barely pass, and make no plans for their future until April of their senior year. All of this in spite of the best efforts of many adults throughout their school years. I spent hours and hours, much of it “off the clock” working with these students. I do not have a magic wand in my back pocket that can make students avoid remedial classes.

I totally agree that students who have conscientiously followed a college-prep curriculum should not need remedial classes. However, when some colleges see remedial classes as a source of revenue, and some students do not take care of business, I frankly resent the global bashing of caring and otherwise productive educators who are being criticized for events and policies that are beyond our control.

Cliff

May 26th, 2012
10:47 am

@ dc… If you are a teacher, I want to teach at your school. If you are not, then you are misinformed. Administrators don’t go after teachers based on how good/bad they are. Teachers that express their opinions, call out stupidity when they see it or otherwise rock the boat are targeted. A teacher that “drinks the Kool-Aid” of the principal in power is safe, regardless of teaching ability. These same people become administrators and they expect everyone to drink their own brand of Kool-aid because that is what they did when they were classroom teachers. Too often, administrators are people who were suck-up’s, mediocre or bad teachers. An excellent teacher who becomes an administrator is a breath of fresh air. Everyone SAYS they only want to root out bad teachers. Reality is that politically connected bad teachers will not be fired (most likely will be promoted). Teachers that don’t gee-haw with the powers that be are removed.

Another teacher in the trenches

May 26th, 2012
10:48 am

I firmly believe that it’s about time we realize that there are a multitude of reasons why students fail or succeed. Some fail (or succeed) because of parenting, teaching, motivation, the quality of their heredity or environment. However, we must also realize that teaching is more than a JOB. Most teachers I know don’t stay in the classroom because of the paycheck (ever diminishing as of late). They stay in because they have a firm hope in making a difference in the life of children. As one writer stated, it is a job where we don’t see the longterm outcome of our 10 month investment in the life of a child. Most of us start every summer “vacation” thinking about what we did well that we need to repeat come August, and evaluate what we can improve upon for the next school year. You see, teachers thrive on HOPE and desire to impact lives. To all of the faithful ones who arrive early and stay late, worry about how they can help children be successful, plan lessons that will engage and enrich, THANK YOU AND KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

Prof

May 26th, 2012
11:25 am

This is as good a place as any for me to acknowledge the encouraging teaching of my 7th grade Biology teacher Mr. Herbst (I have no idea of his first name). He enthusiastically praised my account of the life cycle of a dandelion that took the form of an autobiography from the viewpoint of the dandelion, although it wasn’t a very scientific completion of the assignment.

ABC

May 26th, 2012
12:43 pm

But..but..I thought you guys said that parental involvement is all that matters. That you can’t do anything with a kid whose parents don’t care? Then the opposite is also true. I don’t owe you a DAMN thing.

Digger

May 26th, 2012
1:34 pm

If you are a ‘great’ student, chances are you’re far more intelligent than your teacher. Or else your teacher wouldn’t be teaching.

Angela

May 26th, 2012
1:41 pm

“Jennifer wrote what I consider to be a mature and well-reasoned essay expressing her view that technology was producing lazy minds among her peers, and that along with other “security nets” such as summer school and credit recovery, they should be removed so that students may become more responsible for their actions and their consequences.”

**********************************************************************************************************************************************

I 150% agree. There are far too many household that are not or no longer print rich. I have had this problem in my classroom and challenged by parents who want to know why they could not print the article or information from the compter and turn it in. When and if these students go to college much of their research is going to be via printed resources. Let’s go back to basics and teach our students and children to read hard copies and limit the computer from 100% to 50% hard physical materials and 50% technology.

I have not taken the time to read all of the post because I totally agree with this “(A wise man once opined that in reading anonymous Internet comments following op-ed pieces, you may as well stop after the first 10 or so, because everything after that either serves as a soapbox speech on the author’s favorite (and only) topic, or involves a flaming critique of another commenter.)” However, I am going to stick my neck out there in my usual less than tactful way: Any negative comments about Jennifer means that these people really don’t understand or know what really goes on in education or the classroom. I will also, say as I have stated time and time again. Teachers in the United States are the least respected professionals. Also, all of the negative and overly critical comments are from those who have yet to accept my request for a volunteer to come and work with me for a day to really learn first hand what really goes on in a real classroom. I will be back in the classroom for the 2012-2013 school year PLEASE sigh-up NOW I am willing to make all of the arrangements. And, again my request will be gracefully ignored and the lack of knowledge will continue along with the less than respectful comments.

P.S. I tried to be as tactful as possible.

[...] just by being talented, which she surely is. Rather, somebody taught her to write that way.”(more)    Comments (0) Return to main news [...]

Finally2

May 26th, 2012
2:16 pm

A “Great Student” is a culmination of great, involved parents; great students have been exposed to teachers that can have rigor in the classroom, yet still relate to all the student; proper usage of techology, passion for the profession and good, professional relationships with students are all part of the formual. It also is a student who has the drive to be a good student and the vison to see where he/she wants to go in the future. A “Good Student” does noy just happen; they are formed and this should begin at an early age. This is why early interventions with parents, teachers and coomunity is necessary to make a truly great student.

bootney farnsworth

May 26th, 2012
2:19 pm

@dc

“its about what’s best for the kids”

since when?

when we are unable to remove disruptive kids from class?
when we are unable to issue the grades so many truly deserve?
when the idiots who run the systems have no knowledge how a classroom works?
when idiots vote legislatures and school boards based more on race and politics than capability?
when Joe average is more concerned about the HS football team than the contents of the library?
when parents obviously don’t give a damn?

nothing in this is about what’s best for the kids. it’s all about what makes parents feel good about themselves, administrators look good to people like you, good old boy corruption, social/racial engineering, and how good the football team is.

of course there are bad teachers. there are bad doctors, lawyers, firemen, ect.
I’ve had them, I suspect Maureen has had them, my kids have have them – you obviously have had them.

in Georgia we demand the absolute best of everything for the Dawgs. and we’ll move heaven and earth to get it. and demand results. but the classroom? who cares? the average Georgian sure doesn’t.

education gets the least tangible support, has virtually zero political support until race kicks in, and almost nobody outside our community is willing to get their hands dirty and help us.

I’m curious: would you expect our best and brightest to go into a profession with low pay, little chance for advancement, intense public scrutiny, proven corrupt administrations, and with an intensely meddlesome government telling us how to do a job they don’t understand or respect?

frankly you’re damn lucky to be getting the quality you do.

bootney farnsworth

May 26th, 2012
2:21 pm

oh, and dc,

if it’s all about “what’s best for the kids”….

why are there so few parents willing to volunteer for school functions?
why -if we’re lucky- do we get around a 50% turnout for parent/teacher conferences?

Tony

May 26th, 2012
2:59 pm

I firmly believe that good teachers truly make a difference and have an impact upon their students. And that impact goes far beyond the details of the curriculum taught in that teacher’s classroom. There is no doubt that poor teachers also have an impact – a negative one. Most of us work to keep the the good teachers and we help the poor teachers find another career pathway.

Part of the discussion today links to a growing concern that I have regarding the new Common Core curriculum that is sweeping our nation. As details emerge about the plan for its implementation, I’m finding that there is plenty for us to worry about, especially with the new English and Language Arts standards.

As Georgia is releasing more details of its plan, I am finding severe limits being placed upon teachers regarding the use of literature in their classrooms. There is an overemphasis upon nonfiction and an almost complete lack of inclusion of a multitude of classic literature. Our state provides a convenient disclaimer by stating that it does not endorse a particular book and schools should choose a variety of literature for students to use in class. BUT school systems are taking the documents provided by the state and turning them into prescriptive lesson planning guides.

Many times we have talked about how our testing frenzy is narrowing the curriculum. This is a very disturbing matter to me. The way the details are unfolding reminds me of the story about the emperor’s new clothes. It seems all our state leaders and central office leaders and many principals are so enamored by this new CCGPS that they cannot see that the emperor is naked.

The worst part of all this plan is that it has been pushed into our schools by people who are lining up to make a profit from the implementation.

I guess the professor was right about people using this space to get up on their soapbox. I’m stepping off mine for now.

Prof

May 26th, 2012
3:20 pm

My rather round-about point in my 11:24 am post is that I agree with “That’s goofy,” May 25, 7:26 pm, when he/she wrote: “My former students don’t owe me a thing … I chose to become a teacher. I hope my teaching / my example helps them become better people. If it did then that is all the thanks I need.”

Using Professor Smagorinsky’s reasoning above, then HE is really to thank for Jennifer Lee’s good essay, since he is the UGA doctoral advisor of Jennifer’s teacher, Joanna Anglin. Lee was merely taught well by Anglin, who was merely taught well by Smagorinsky.

Attentive Parent

May 26th, 2012
3:53 pm

Tony,

I am not a fan of Common Core. I have spent the last 2 years full time working full time figuring out what is really going on, documenting it, and then tracking through the consequences of the actual reality.

We may have different reasons. But you and anyone else is welcome to challenge my points. I have a truly astonishing level of evidence at this point. Many trees have died recording my backups.

You and other Get Schooled readers are welcome to visit my blog http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com

where i have been posting on this issue for the last several weeks.

I mentioned to Maureen a few weeks ago when she forwarded me an email from a reader that I was about to step out of the shadows. What better time than a beautiful holiday weekend.

Peter & Ron-my concerns and study of NCTE go back to the 1966 Dartmouth conference. In my common core work I have focused on what the actual implementation is to look like using actual curricula materials. They exist if you know where to look. My next to last chapter is on what a cc actual classroom will be emphasizing. And what it will not.

The entire embedding of literacy standards in course content strikes me as yet another attempt to limit literacy and prevent actual fluency. I am familiar and have copies of Wertsch’s work in the 70s and 80s on vygotsky, Peter. Both the 1990s ed reform efforts and this time around seem intent on using his research to prevent the mental liberation genuine fluency with print inevitably creates.

schwartz

May 26th, 2012
5:35 pm

Never posted before but am a follower as my lovely wife is an educator in Dekalb. PSmagorinsky made me think about my 6th grade teacher back in ‘61 (whew!), Ms. Murphy who was a delight but exacting and easily recall a turning point in understanding expectations. Everyone had to present in front of the class a topic of interest for 5-10 mins, standard fare. A small wild card was we did it in our rather expansive auditorium (for elementary) and I froze up and fumbled along and failed the assignment easily. Ms. Murphy was wise, pulled me aside (privately, but not so much so) and explained ‘unacceptable and disappointed and surprised at my lack of preparation’. I was humiliated and embarrased but sure learned the lesson from there on. ‘Be prepared’, minimum requirement and am forever thankful for Ms. Murphy in Weehawken, NJ back a few ago straightening out a young guy.

northatlantateacher

May 26th, 2012
6:51 pm

@attentive parent: I’m involved in CCGPS for my county and we have not had any discussions whatsoever about getting rid of classical literature at all. As far as I know, the plan is to do what we’ve always done and add more non fiction works, which I find to be be a good thing. Could you provide more details? Forgive me, but it all sounds a little conspiracy theoryish to me. What are you saying is the final goal of the powers that be with regard to common core? I’m very curious.

Brandy

May 26th, 2012
8:55 pm

Peter,

Love your writing, as always. But, one caveat–We shouldn’t just recognize the impact of one extraordinary teacher, we should recognize the sum total of teachers who have contributed to the life of this brilliant young writer.

Attentive Parent

May 26th, 2012
9:38 pm

North atlanta-if your school district wants to keep the emphasis on content, thank goodness and you must not be a Race to the top participating district.

I honestly am trying to keep as much content available to every child possible while we air this out.

Or as I say on the blog, while we negotiate the icefield slowly in the daylight. So we do not sink like the Titanic.

Is there a bit of a conspiracy? Yes but it surrounds PISA and how to game accreditation for the most part. And certain colleges of education.

The rest is just old fashioned rent seeking. People wanting to make money off their political connections or use them to restrain a competitor. That’s not the road to economic prosperity for most of us. It is what creates a stagnant economy that benefits only a small portion.

The final goal? Oh I wrote a whole book using real quotes and have had time to think about it. People who can be manipulated and are not anticipating a problem are very useful to politicians and current powers that be. You have taken the destructive but energetic progression out of the economy. But it is predictable.

Conspiracies, outside of English murder mysteries, are actually quite common when you have the political power of the purse (TAXES or debt we all owe) combined with lawful coercion to make people do something. Because of the encouragement in education to think of everything as a System, people just doing their assigned part have broader implications. They need not be a conspirator for the whole thing to work quite well.

That’s the engrenage I mentioned in my most recent post. You just do your own part on your own gear. How they fit and where they turn is not a concern or maybe even an awareness.

That’s the beauty of systems thinking.