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"Thousands of kids are functionally illiterate"

Discussion in 'Education and Academia' started by pething101, Jun 2, 2005.

  1. pething101

    pething101 Member

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  2. Iceblink

    Iceblink Member

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    This is one pathetic whiner. I could tell very quickly that he wasn't a teacher for very long.

    This is someone who thought it would be fun to go into a classroom and have deep discussions about literature with his students. My guess is that he couldn't get a job in a nice suburban school and ended up teaching in a low-income, minority school.

    He wants to blame all these newfangled teaching strategies, but it comes down to a couple things.

    1. I'd bet $1000.00 that he had serious classroom management issues. I bet he had five classes full of kids he couldn't handle, and even his military training, which may have gotten him the job, didn't help, because they laughed at him. They probably even made fun of whatever disability he has that caused him to be discharged from the military. Wrong, but realistic. He couldn't handle his classes.

    **Note, I checked. Randy Murray was an English teacher at Western Harnett High School. They're primarily rural with a lot of transient kids because they serve a lot of military families.

    2. He was not prepared for the apathy. Sorry, Randy. The kids didn't like your great activities. He couldn't change his lesson plan on the fly to suit the needs of the kids and get them interested. Welcome to education. Actually, goodbye... and good riddance.

    3. Randy had a different view of what teaching was supposed to be all about. He thought he'd be interesting and the kids would all be engaged with his lecturing them or just giving them tests after they read silently. He was shocked when they didn't get the points he thought they should on their own.

    4. Randy was a ************ teacher. He'd rather give up and quit than try to make a difference in the lives of his students. It's ok. He wasn't capable anyway.

    5. Randy didn't really understand and couldn't connect with the George Orwell's 1984.

    6. Randy hated his students, and they hated him.

    I have more to say, but I'm done for now.
     
  3. IntheNet

    IntheNet New Member

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    pething101: Thanks for your post. I sympathize with Mr. Randy Murray at Harnett County School System; he, like so many, see functional illiteracy in the classroom and are frustrated by it. I found his last statement telling:

    "I can't change the system within my one little classroom; maybe I can cause a change by exposing what's going on in thousands of classrooms around the country."

    EXPOSING WHAT'S GOING ON! You're on the right track Mr. Murray! Parents all over the nation are likewise concerned.
     
  4. Iceblink

    Iceblink Member

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    You're so predictable! I knew you'd find this loser to be the greatest teacher ever.

    Sitting back and whining is NOT the solution. He was in the PERFECT position to make a change and to expose things he thought were wrong. Now, he's just a cranky ex-teacher.

    In any case, while I don't disagree that SOME students are not as far along as they should be, I disagree with his giving up... but, as I said above, I have no doubt that he was a lousy teacher who couldn't handle his job.

    You know... you need your own thread... I am going to create it. I really want to know what you think you know.
     


  5. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

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    In other words, someone's finally found a teacher you can admire... and it's a guy who quit in order to whine in public, rather than work hard and try to help the students you pretend to care about.

    Figures. Don't every blast striking teachers after you've glorified this self-aggrandizing failure.
     
  6. Ismitje

    Ismitje Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I read the story. One thing he suggests that would be useful is a public discussion of teaching practices/methods. One thing that is dangerous is assuming that the Harnett County (allegedly) systemic approach is widely practiced throughout the country. I know that if this was the dominant approach here on the Palouse, folks would go nuts. What we do have is a mix of approaches. Some group reading takes place, some teacher reading takes place, and sometimes older students come to younger classrooms to read (4ht graders to first graders, for example). Primarily, though, kids in grades 2-4 are required to read daily, both out loud and to themselves.

    He also urges other teachers to write in, though he clearly implies (and here's where his ideological approach raises its head) that anyone who speaks in favor of current practices is under the thumb of retribution-minded administrators, and therefore a less valid voice.

    Good food for thought, at any rate.
     
  7. dj43

    dj43 New Member

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    I just showed this article to my wife who has been a Language Arts teacher in middle school for 18 years. She has also served on the curriculum committee for our district. Her response to the article? "Amen."

    While the author may have had some issues in classroom management as Iceblink suggests, his observations about the "learning" methods being advocated in California are right on. I could go on for an hour detailing specific issues that we are constantly facing around here, and in California as a whole, that are only all too typical of the problems facing education, but most would go crazy. Summarily, we don't "educate" kids, we "process" them.

    His recommendations for the "cure" are also right on; until parents and the community get involved and force changes, there will be no changes.

    Too bad that another, potentially good teacher has become frustrated and left the profession.
     
  8. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

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    Well, they don't even need to "get involved and force changes." Literacy begins at home. If more parents cared enough to read to their kids when they are young, then take them to the library a couple times a month once they start school, and show their kids that reading is an important and enriching part of one's life by reading themselves, then it pretty much won't matter what bandwagon school districts are jumping on.

    Personally, I think schools should only be expected to enhance someone's literacy. If we have to rely on schools exclusively for improving literacy (or ethical development, or athletic development), then we'll have sorts of problems that we have.

    As far as this guy goes... I have little respect for him. I know several people who were discouraged in the Chicago Public schools (to a person, they blamed the bureaucracy and the school board for killing their enthusiasm, not the students). Some went into other lines of work, others found jobs in other schools. If this guy was really concerned with education, he'd be looking for another job AND working on ways to improve the situation, not writing a letter to the editor that sounds more like he's angling for a gig in a think tank than anything else.
     
  9. dj43

    dj43 New Member

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    Agree 100%. Start as soon as they can hold their eyes open.

    Agree again.

    This is SO frequently the case. My wife knows of 4 specific cases in her district where teachers are quitting for exactly this reason. Not the lack of money, not the classroom size, but a lack of support from admin and resultant working conditions.

    While we may criticize the writer for some reason or other, he is by no means in the minority when it comes to his reasons for frustration with the profession.
     
  10. Paddy31

    Paddy31 New Member

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    Modern, trendy teaching methods are not evil. They are effective for a large number of students.

    Traditional teaching methods are not a panacea. Many students find them alienating.

    A good teacher has a range of methods and can tailor them to the individual student.

    A good educational administrator allows the teacher room to be creative.

    I believe one of the biggest problems in education, certainly in the UK, is the blanket introduction of nationwide schemes without proper testing. For example, where is the proof that phonics works? There are numerous research papers that show the advantages of phonics but none of them have been peer tested (as far as I am aware). None of the research meets the standards required in the scientific community, it's not repeatble or properly controlled or even on a suitable sample. But we are expected to embrace whatever idea is en vogue with the government at a time.

    This article is a massive whinge. I can't go along with someone who will advocate one style of teaching to the exclusion of another. Until there is decent evidence I will continue to use ALL the tools at my disposal to teach the little blighters. Whether they like it or not!
     
  11. dj43

    dj43 New Member

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    Some are, some aren't.

    Nothing is.

    I don't believe this. But then of course we haven't defined what we mean by modern and traditional so we're both using a pretty wide brush.



    The first is true, the second should be allowed but with some general controls.

    I believe one of the biggest problems in education, certainly in the UK, is the blanket introduction of nationwide schemes without proper testing. For example, where is the proof that phonics works? [/QUOTE]

    I wish I had time to look for some proof of how wrong "whole language" is in comparison to phonics. There is just no comparison between phonics-based reading and anything else. You sound like you are in the UK so you may not have the same frame of reference as here in California so I'll let it slide.
     
  12. Jacen McCullough

    Jacen McCullough Member

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    Both approaches should be used. Why exclude one over the other? I learned to read using whole language. I became very adept at figuring out what things meant through the words on the page. Starting with that approached made me a better reader. On the flip side, I had no idea how to pronounce many of the words that I was learning. I was terrified of public speaking for years because I was worried that I would horribly mispronounce a key word. I've overcome that problem, but I was nervous speaking in even small groups throughout much of my schooling. Phonics helps with fluency. Whole language helps with understanding. Both combined help to make better readers.
     
  13. dj43

    dj43 New Member

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    I don't disagree that there is value in "whole language." However, your own example is a very basic reason why phonics should come first. Wouldn't your life have been easier if you had the confidence to step right up and speak without that fear?
     
  14. Paddy31

    Paddy31 New Member

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    I agree we need to specify what we mean by traditional, but essentially I mean the extremely academic, teacher-led, didactic, whole-class methods used in the 1950's. Old-fashioned teaching, standing at the front, giving the class individual exercises to complete - in silence. The content in these lesson is very knowledge based, facts, dates, figures - with no room for interpretation or imagination.

    What are you thinking of?
     
  15. Jacen McCullough

    Jacen McCullough Member

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    Yup, but without the whole language approach, I wouldn't have been able to find out for myself what many of the words meant. It becomes a question of, "do I want to be able to speak fluently" or "do I want to fully understand what it is I'm saying"? My answer is, why not both?

    There is merit in both approaches. Why not use both of them equally?
     
  16. Paddy31

    Paddy31 New Member

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    Have you seen this?

    Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

    It indicates that we read by looking at word shapes. I know it's hackneyed now but it is interesting. What I'd love to see is an understanding of how we actually develop from phonics to whole word reading, if that is how it happens.
     
  17. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

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    I suspect I am not alone in initially thinking, "man, Paddy's had an awful lot to drink tonight" before it became clear what he was up to. Interesting point.
     
  18. Iceblink

    Iceblink Member

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  19. Naughtius Maximus

    Naughtius Maximus Member+

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    Sorry to necro a VERY old thread but can I ask, what IS the current thinking regarding phonics vs. 'whole language' teaching?

    I ask because it's being discussed over here atm and some of the data being produced seems to indicate that, whilst phonics starts kids reading quicker initially, what it actually does it get them reading 'phonics' quicker and they then have learn to read 'normally' again. Apparently, since we've moved more towards phonics the test results of younger UK children have maintained an improvement but we've then gone backwards in comparison to other countries as the age groups rise.

    I should also mention that the current findings reflect what my late mother in law, (who taught primary school for almost 40 years), always said about phonics... that they were a useful tool but she found the best results were achieved by using them alongside 'whole language' methods.

    Of course, she also said that she insisted on hearing every child read for a MINIMUM of 5 minutes a day, giving special help to any that were struggling until they improved. I can't help thinking that was probably a large part of her success.
     
  20. Iceblink

    Iceblink Member

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    Holy crap. I just looked at my response. I'd like to see that original article, but the link no longer works. What a high-and-mighty prick I was being. I've now been teaching in minority public schools for years, and I'm willing to bet that I agree with whatever he said at this point. Wow. I need to find that. My life sure has changed, and the skill levels of the students I'm receiving has dropped significantly. All of the expectations are on the teachers. The students no longer have any responsibility. It's a sad state of affairs in education today, as it's become a money-making scheme.
     
    Auriaprottu repped this.
  21. Naughtius Maximus

    Naughtius Maximus Member+

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    What sort of class sizes do you have and what ages are they?
     
  22. Iceblink

    Iceblink Member

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    Average - 28, FRESHMEN!
     
  23. Naughtius Maximus

    Naughtius Maximus Member+

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    Just remind me what age that would be?

    I was under the impression that people of that age, (it's about 17 or 18, isn't it?:confused:), probably KNEW how to read and write.

    Presumably I'm wrong about the age?
     
  24. Iceblink

    Iceblink Member

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    Yes, 14. Freshman year is 9th grade. They're supposed to know how to read and write as well. Most do to some extent, but I have students who are documented 3rd grade reading level (that's 8-9 years old).
     
  25. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

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    Rural area with kids from transient military families. Always going to be a tough assignment. That's pretty much it, no?
     

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