Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Readicide Book Study, Chapter 3. No, Really, It's Not You; It's Me.

This chapter tackled what individual teachers do, within their classrooms, to cause Readicide.

This is where it shows that the author's a high school teacher; his students have had several more years' of practice reading novels, and so one might assume that they don't really need instruction like our elementary-aged kids would. On the flip side, his students have also had more years to solidify their expectations of how a school novel works, all chopped up, and I imagine some wouldn't have the foggiest what to do if they had to manage on their own, which is  a point Gallagher didn't address.  Learned helplessness and all that.

He describes his district's pacing guide for To Kill A Mockingbird, a 122-page document of every aspect that could be taught with the book, ever. We have unit pacing guides from the county, too, but they're much more general. Still, when a former teacher mentioned to our county literacy person that she was taking a long time with a book because she was trying to do everything on the guide, the literacy guru looked at her funny and said, "You know you're supposed to pick and choose from that, right?" Obviously, she didn't.

Thankfully, in our county,  literacy instruction isn't a who-can-use-the-most-stickies contest. We're expected to adapt our instruction to our needs. That's not to say it's a free-for-all; downtown's also very into TCRWP, but if your classroom is happy and active and your kids are doing well, you're deemed intelligent enough to paddle your own canoe. If you find yourself up the proverbial creek without a paddle, there's help.

I've mentioned before, I've got a high-schooler at home (He just finished his sophomore year.) who had his English class this past semester, and his teacher was also reading Readicide. He had implemented a solid half-hour of daily recreational reading time into his block. It was a hit, at least at our house. I know he's read at least one class novel, The Book Thief, and a Shakespeare play, Julius Caesar,  so I asked said child how they had been taught. His answer, "He pretty much just let us read them. He'd give us questions, sometimes, to make sure we were reading, but that was about it." Not entirely true; I remember his writing an essay at the end. His self-selected topic was how the change in narrator (from Death in the book to a character in the movie) really damaged the story. I asked if, being a teacher's kid, he thought just letting a class read was an effective teaching strategy. He answered that it was. "I was reading anyway. It's a good book. I mean, it's an honors class; you shouldn't need to have your hand held. I imagine some of the lower classes might need more of that, but we shouldn't."

Which brings us to the real point. In the end, we need to make mindful choices about what and how we teach. If we, as teachers, expect to just follow along without picking and choosing, holding the county's hand while we hold our students', how do any of us expect to teach anything well?

Gallagher goes on to illustrate how he's met teachers across the country making well-intentioned but very poor instructional choices and asking him why they were failing to engage their kids. It must have been horrifying, especially since some of those choices were serious miscues taken from his own advice. (One teacher applied a single strategy from another of the author's books in every single teaching situation, and her kids hated it.) You're left wondering how he responded.

I once had a professor who said regularly, "Curriculum is what happens when the door is closed." It's your classroom. Own it. Make choices based on the needs of each year's/section's needs. Work so that your kids love being in your class because they're engaged, trusted, and growing; the rest will come.

When your lesson plans are so crowded that you hate writing them, chances are, the kids will hate doing the work. If you feel yourself getting lazy, or fried, make a change, look for a new spin, hang out with some young teachers, take a break if you have to. (A friend from down the hall is taking a year to do some missionary work. While she's excited for the opportunity, she's just as relieved by the belief that she'll like teaching again when she comes back.) If your teaching choices are closing more minds than they're opening, dude, you're doing it wrong. You're committing readicide, mathicide, and everything else-icide. (If you're an elementary teacher, you get it all! There's a thought that should really scare the author!)

This chapter focused on what not to do; next time, there will be more solution. I'm looking forward to it.

Next up on the hop is our Whimsical Teacher, Jessica!
Is this your first stop on the hop! Back up the truck! You've missed a few! Begin at the Research-Based Classroom


  1. You are so right, mindful choices are important. We can make curriculum choices that ensure we are giving our students the best we can. Best instruction, best materials and best research.

    The Research Based Classroom

  2. I think there's a real common thread running through our posts and this book. If kids are hating your lessons, you're probably hating them too. Lessons shouldn't be tedious to teach. I like the author's connection to getting so lost in a book during a flight that you forget the time completely. I think that's how reading block should go too (for the kids).

    The Whimsical Teacher

    1. Jessica, I think it goes both ways. When I am hating a particular lesson, the students are certainly not going to love it either. This book has definitely made me realize that I need to make some different choices next year.

      Quinnessential Lessons