The problem with this kind of teaching [worksheets and basically all the "educating" you see in schools today] is that it creates a system in which students have no long-term responsibility in the course. Once each paper comes back to them it can be promptly thrown in the recycling bin. Once each test is taken the information learned can be instantly forgotten to make room for the next unit's information.
THis quote had me up half the night. Seriously.
It really irked me that my students would just toss their work in the recycling bin, and forget all about what they learned. Teach, assign, grade, toss, repeat. But, I couldn't figure out why it bugged me so much, except that maybe they threw away their precious work, don't they care? But it is not, was not, precious work. It was often busy work given to "master" a standard. I meant well, I really did. With my obsession of vocabulary worksheets (they had to use it in a sentence, define it, guess meaning from context, draw a picture of it, give synonyms, antonyms, part of speech- these worsheets would get the gold star and blue ribbon for model lesson, perfect worksheet, by most educators, schools, colleges, textbooks etc) and the significant rise in standardizded test vocabulary scores. I WAS effective, these worksheets WERE effective. So what was wrong?
They were, simply, part of the teach, assign, grade, toss cycle. Sure, they raised test scores but did they do anything more? No. Did they build upon each other? No. Think of learning as this: as a child, you learn to walk, of course. First, you roll on your tummy. Then inch, and finally crawl. Then you stand, creep, take a step, two steps, three, and you're suddenly running, jumping, kicking. Think of this model for education. PLEASE do. Try and apply it. Where do my vocabulary worksheets and vocabulary tests fit in? Maybe....crawling. Each week, I gave different words. Here, baby, crawl on blue carpet. Next week, baby, crawl on beige carpet. The following week, baby is taught to crawl on green carpet. Or, student, define, test, prove your proficiency in these 10 vocabulary terms. Next week, how about these ten?
Think of many lessons in school....back to your day as a student, or your children as students, or if you work in school, your own observed experiences. How many courses, classes, lessons and units teach us valuable lessons, building on one another, so that we roll, crawl, walk? Very few.
The idea that all students- if they are actually learning something they don't already know how to do- will be successful from the start of a class is preposterous....
..and yet it happens everywhere, every day, all the time. We tell students they all start with class with an A. An F is certain doom. There is no room for a learning curve, you know, the stage between rolling and walking. Students are supposed to walk from the first day of school each year, and if you mark down that it is October and they are still crawling (or "failing to master the curriculum") the teacher is neary tarred and feathered for being a "bad' teacher, the parents are angry their child is failing, administration is asking why half the class is failing. Again, I know from experience, where I tried to have students revise essays to earn an A, and most ended up with F grades, refusing to revise (even if I told them verbatim what to do, add a period here, indent, that word ends with an E not Y...) but who "failed" and got "in trouble"? Me. Instead of starting my students out crawling and telling them hey, keep at, it, you will get stronger legs and be standing and creeping in no time, and then, bam! Walking! I got....stuck. Students were so used to getting praised for walking, getting As, when they still were rolling, had yet to master the idea. They had un-edited essays, just waiting to be edited and improved. But they'd always received As, Bs, Cs for a shoddy essay, why try for a good essay? Why walk when you can roll and be told you're walking? In this instance, I had only one student revise her essay more than once. Of 35 students, 5 revised their rough draft once, so that 6 total did any revisions. The others were content with their F. I mean, they knew their parents, or the principal, would freak out and either make me change the grade to a C, fire me, or secretly change the grade behind my back anyways.
The problem here is, I've been so used to a crawl-only system, I am stuck on how to make a 100% course, in English, where things build upon each other, students begin failing or nearly so and end succeeding, where work isn't tossed because it is needed for the next task or discovery. I want to develop a curriculum based on this, but I'm stuck.....how do I do it? And, if I figure that part out, could I actually implement it in a classroom? Because NCLB, standards, tests "Claim" to build on skills, scaffold, be valuable bla bla bla, but they are anything but.
Which brings another question. I'm bolding it because it's that...wow...WHAT IF I OPENED A PUBLIC SCHOOL (CHARTER?) THAT SAID TO HELL WITH NCLB TESTS AND STANDARDS? I'd face to lose at least 11% of revenue, as that is how much comes through the fed for following NCLB and its standards and tests. What if I found some non-biased billionaire to help me out, make up for that loss of 11% revenue? Sure I'd have some major mobility in school, as parents realized OMG, my child is not assessed, neither is the teacher, how do I know they're learning, being taught, progressing? How can I grade the value of my child's education without standards and standardized exams???" again, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't- parnets will likely still embrace NCLB. But I'd also attrach students who stayed. I'd become a montessori/private school style school, but for FREE. Not a charter school that follows all the ed code and NCLB and just does the same damned things the public schools do, with just more freedom. No. It's not a "charters are so much more free, I mean, look, they can teach how they want to..as long as it meets state and federal standards, API, AYP, NCLB.....they have total freedom....to do exactly as the public schools have to do.....wait...it's the same, just one is a shade different with the same goals and procedures". No. It would be the education our children DESERVE and FOR FREE. As long as, you know, my school could get WASC accreditation, A-G requirements, state funding for all my rebellious ways. You know, as long as my credentian wasn't revoked, my school shut down or taken over, as long as I wasn't ridiculed into social and professional suicide, because the status quo is fighting to maintain their position at ALL COSTS including THE COST OF YOUR CHILDREN.