Diana Senechal wrote an important book about the world we live in now, a world of buzz and noise, with no time to think, reflect, day dream.
This is a review in a magazine for Canadian teachers.
Teachers and parents will enjoy this book.
My thoughts on it
I’m currently reading “Mission Possible” (Don’t worry – I didn’t pay for it, I get books free for review through Amazon Vine), and that’s one thing that leapt out at me (one thing among many, I might add). At one point they’re describing a writing lesson and the teacher is “coaching” the kids throughout the lesson. Things like, “I see some good ones…. You still have plenty of time to keep going and going and going. Look at Tyler. That boy does not give up. Look at Katerina. This girl is going to need another piece of paper, she is writing such an amazing story [how would the teacher know? she hasn’t shut up long enough to read it.]… Use everything you know about great stories. Keep going. Justin, your focus is amazing.”
How the hell can students concentrate enough to write anything worthwhile with that kind of clamoring going on? It reminds me of a PDQ Bach recording in which he “commentates” on Beethoven’s Fifth like a sports commentator (the point being, of course, how annoying it is).
At the end it describes one kid’s story: “Tekwan, a boy with a perpetual frown on his face, titled his story “No Christmas.” “Today is the last day of November. I am not having a Christmas. My granmama is not putting a tree up. She is angry. She is not feeling well. She is sad…. She is going to put a paper on the door that says we are not having a Christmas. I am mad, very, very, very mad.”
Now, I can think of many ways a teacher might respond to such a story, but here’s the take-away as far as Success Academy is concerned: “But Tekwan found an upbeat note to end on: “I do not care. I will play in the snow. I am going to make a snowman.” Yep, sure lifted my spirits.
That’s all the further I’ve made it through the book because I had to come up for air at that point. I weep for my country.
Dienne, thank you for this comment, which made me laugh and rage and almost cry. Indeed, how can kids concentrate with that kind of clamoring going on?
Here’s the PDQ Bach (which is even funnier to me now than when I first listened to it):
Thank you for your book – it’s in my cart.
Love the PDQ Bach!
When we are engaged in writers’ workshop I try to keep my comments to two sentences: “We are going to write now. Writers need silence.” Silence is such a joy and a gift. Ms. Senechal’s book sounds fascinating. I will definitely read it.
“We are going to write now. Writers need silence.”
I am definitely looking forward to that reading this book. I wrote awhile back about my friend who left Head Start partly because she refused to perpetually question everything that the children did during their choice time, as dictated from the district level people.
Not only have I read this book, but I have marked it up heavily and commited certain passages to memory. I just left a meeting in which a teacher got verbally taken down for teaching grammar to her middle schoolers and “yammering on and on.” Shs was told she needs to learn how to maximize “flexible grouping” of students and should never be in the front of the room. She was then asked how she differentiated her practice to meet the needs of all the students, some of whom read at a fourth-grade level, others who read at a junior level in high school. Our “best practices” director said even though our ELA scores continue to bottom out, that should tell us we should be doing workshop better (and more rigorously) in the classroom. We are simply not getting it right. Here are some of my notes from the meeting:
1. Kids need time to talk to each other to work things out
2. Spelling and grammar will be learned through student self- selected reading
3. Direct teaching of grammar is forbidden
4. Kids need to find their voice and write for an authentic purpose (WTF?!)
5. We are not to correct or put any red ink on student work; no writing at all except for comments such as “looks like you’re onto something…keep it up!”
6. No whole class reads are allowed; TC has lots of resources for mentor texts that we can use
7. Kids should not be reading the same piece of writing and doing questions after the text; this writing is not for an authentic pupose
I pointed out that we currently have an eighth-grader reading the same John Grisham (yep, you read that right) book for three years. The response was that a lot of readers re-read books and get something new every time.
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