I wrote and posted the following as a comment on a previous post entitled ‘Some Blog Encouragement.’ If you haven’t read it and want the background, I would encourage you to scroll on down and take a read. My apologies for the cut and paste here, but I wanted those who read this blog regularly to hear my remix of my own post and reactions to follow-up comments…to be honest, this post and reactions had my mental finger hovering over the big red delete button on this blog. I felt as if I was being ‘sussed’ by one post, instead of it being read from within the context of this entire blog. I am hoping that those who read my posts semi-regularly would understand the meaning behind that post and put it in the context that it is a small part of a big whole.
Flip through any book and read a page at random. The meaning you take from that page will be entirely different than if you were to read the entire book.
I will post before I ramble on too much.
Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I feel as though I am eavesdropping on a conversation and I just wanted to chime in.
First of all, I want to apologize for the errors in the original post. I was encountering some bugs with wordpress at the time of posting.
Second…I am finding it interesting hearing what people are having to say on this…and went back to reread my initial post.
I want to be clear on one thing: teaching grammar and critical reading/thinking skills are important in teaching English.
A few points from the original post that I would like to revisit:
“Sometimes we get so caught up in the curriculum or in trying to meet those demands that we forget real teaching is just loving kids and modeling passion” (me). While I agree with the sentiment behind these words (knowing that it is I who wrote them), I believe it is important to get caught up in that curriculum and trying to meet those demands. I think it is a big part of our job as educators to get inside the curriculum and know it; it is our job to sift through it and spend time wrestling with how we will deliver that curriculum in the classroom.
What I can tell you about the curriculum, however, is that it had absolutely nothing to do with my desire to become a teacher.
“The right thing to do is care for our students. The curriculum takes a distant second to this.” (me). I still stand by this statement, but would add to it that caring for our students means that we teach the curriculum. If we really care for our students, if we really want to see them succeed and help them do so, then we will teach the curriculum. I teach senior high English, a topic that has a government exam at the end of the course worth %40 of the grade. It would be a terrible disservice to my students to not prepare them for success in that exam by not teaching or covering the curriculum. If I care for my students, then I will do my best to equip them with the skills they need to face that exam and the outside world. Having said that, I find it ironic to note that the BC Ministry of Education has seen fit to remove the grammar and editing skills portion of the final exam, a move which clearly hints at their collective hand in terms of where their values are and seems to suggest to teachers that grammar is not all that important to the Ministry of Ed.
I’d like to borrow from Tracy W’s comment, “passion and caring is all very important, but passion and caring isn’t enough, some actual content has to be fit in there too.” Let me take the liberty of adding that passion and caring without content is misdirected and ineffective. While I am typing this, however, something about Maslow’s Hierarchy is sticking in my brain…something about not expecting people to move on to other needs when their basic needs for love and safety are not met…
I am also grateful for David’s comments:
“Sorry, but as a college professor, it is my experience that a large swath of students are NOT picking this up on their own. I have encountered too many students who are making elementary school level mistakes in spelling and grammar (among other things). How does it show them love to allow them get to college so ill-prepared?”
I wholeheartedly agree with these thoughts, and would add that, as a senior English teacher, I am seeing similar things. Some students (more than some) are coming into my classroom ill prepared and are lacking in essential, foundational grammar and composition skills.
A friend of mine who recently defended her Master’s thesis related a story to me that I feel is appropriate. She was going to meet her sponsor prof (not sure if that is the proper term, my apologies), but the prof, one we had both taken undergrad courses from and really respected and admired, was on the phone at the time, telling off someone’s high school English teacher for passing them and allowing them to sail through without equipping them.
I say right on to that one! Again, I think if we are passionate and caring, then we will teach the curriculum and do our best to teach it!
I want to thank everyone for their comments. I also want you to know that I spend a lot of time in the curriculum. I wade through it on a regular basis to refresh my memory and tie assignments directly to it, sometimes quoting learning outcomes verbatim from it so that students see my reasoning for assignments. Walk into my office at certain times and it may seem like a paper bomb went off, as I have curriculum spread out on the floor around my chair with a laptop on my desk and books filling in any places where carpet is showing. My apologies if the ‘passion’ in my post led you to believe otherwise.