Saturday, June 2, 2012

What Are We Doing To Kids?

Every Wednesday I tutor a former student I had 2 years ago in grade 2. He's now in grade 4 and I'm continuing to build upon the knowledge he learned from me as well as his grade three teacher and help him make sense of multiplication and division and all the other math ideas in the grade four curriculum. WELL, when I walk into the room and look on my table this is what I saw.

Are you getting ready for my rant? Here we go... I'd like to know why are teachers so focused in on giving kids worksheets at this time of the year or at any other time of the year. I'm not talking one worksheet to practice an idea or a skill but 6 pages in a booklet. 

Here's the scenario... I come in the room and see a page with 7 division questions along the top and 12 rows going down, yes you can do the math. That's 82 questions on ONE page, all division. Well that's just one page, there's another and then another with just half of the page covered with division questions. But wait, when I look further there are 3 more with various other questions, yes all division. The front page even looked like this:

 The theme of the page was Jersey Division. I'd like to know what Jerseys have to do with division? If anyone can tell me then please message me because I'm up for the discussion.

It takes us 1 hour to get through 70 questions. Remember there are 5 more pages to go but the good part is that he has until Monday to get the booklet complete. But wait, it takes one hour to get one page done and he's got 5 more to do. That means one hour each night until Sunday. WAIT...THERE'S MORE. He's got 2 other booklets to complete along with LA, Social and Science work. Remember it's June and we've got 4 weeks left of school. All of the kids are done and I mean DONE. The weather is nice and this particular boy, along with lots of other boys need to be out running around, playing, riding bikes and having fun. Not inside doing copious amounts of math worksheets and booklets.

The point of this story is why are we giving kids this amount of work? Why are we giving them this kind of math? Just so we can say we've "covered it!" Do kids really gain from this type of work? Are they really learning their multiplication and division facts by doing gobs and gobs of the same 'ol shit. Excuse my language but this makes me crazy.

After cooling off for the past couple of days and speaking to various people, I'm still frustrated by this. Why you ask? First, this amount of work is not appropriate for this time of the year. Second, this type of math isn't problem solving, thinking, critical thinking, reasoning, explaining, making connections, etc, etc. It's busy work to make it appear the curriculum has been taught. Thirdly, it's bad practice on the teachers part and it's bad leadership on administrations part. This teacher is doing this because there is support from administration to teach the drill and kill method. I've heard it several times from administration that kids need to know their basic facts and this is the way to do it. This teacher should be expected to teach the new curriculum and support should be provide. Clearly this is not the new curriculum and support is not being provided to this teacher.

There are a handful of us in our school who are working at changing our practice but it's frustrating when you work hard to get your students starting to think, problem solving, reason, make connection and talk about their learning then they move to classrooms where this takes place. What are we to do? I do not have an answer to this question but I do know that I'm not going to stop learning how to be a better teacher and helping my students make connections, problem solve, think and push them to do better and know more. It's shameful and I would be embarrassed if I was this teacher. Our students deserve more from us.