#JoyOfLearning Articles from @SergioRuzzier + @KateyWrites + David Brooks + @MarkBarnes19 + @MsSackstein
I'm just catching up now after traveling last week/weekend. Today I have quotes from five articles that I've recently shared on Twitter that I think are particularly worthy of additional discussion. Two are about raising readers in general, and giving kids choice about what they read in particular. One is about GPAs, grit, and finding your passion. The last two are about homework and teaching with the interests of child and family in mind. To me, all of these articles touch on the central questions of how we can make reading and learning more joyful and rewarding (and less painful) experiences for kids. I welcome your feedback!
Sergio Ruzzier: "What’s wrong with trying to read a “difficult” book, if that’s the book that is inspiring a child to read? They will understand all of it or parts of it, or they might discover something that not even the author was aware of. They might love or hate the book, read it from cover to cover or abandon it after the first few lines. All this happens to any reader anyway, no matter the age...
Age-labeling is yet another obstacle to reading, and if we restrict what kids can read freely, many may never come to love books. We should let children read anything they want, without imposing on them our adult insecurities and prejudices."
Me: Sergio Ruzzier hits it out of the park with this post at Nerdy Book Club. He defends the rights of kids to read books that adults might deem to young for them and books that might seem to old for them. His focus is on kids being able to read the books that seem right for them at the time. This, my friends, is how you raise kids who love books!
Katey Howes: "6. Your open mind: The books your child (or grandchild, or student) enjoys reading may not always be the books you WISH he would read. (I’d personally give a lot of money to not have to discuss Captain Underpants any further!) But giving children the right to choose books that interest them, without judgement or criticism based on reading level or subject matter, is crucial. Ask questions about what your child is reading, and be enthusiastic about their choices. In this way you build confident, empowered readers – who are more likely to KEEP reading."
Me: I like the mix of practicality and passion that Katey Howes brings to this article about encouraging kids to love books. From reminding us to visit the library (where circulation numbers help to influence funding) to promoting reading choice (even when this is tedious for parents), Katey clearly knows from experience what she is talking about. Even for me, someone who thinks about this all the time, this piece offered some good suggestions and reminders.
Interesting thoughts on David Brooks: "Success is about being passionately good at one or two things, but students who want to get close to that 4.0 have to be prudentially balanced about every subject. In life we want independent thinking and risk-taking, but the G.P.A. system encourages students to be deferential and risk averse, giving their teachers what they want...
I don’t know about you, but I’m really bad at being self-disciplined about things I don’t care about. For me, and I suspect for many, hard work and resilience can only happen when there is a strong desire. Grit is thus downstream from longing. People need a powerful why if they are going to be able to endure any how."
Me: This OpEd piece by David Brooks is fairly brief, but really resonated with me. Brooks talks about the inherent conflict between the skills that kids need to get a good GPA vs. the skills that they'll need to excel in life, and how that conflict plays out in the presence of focusing on grit. The part about being best at being self-disciplined when you care about something is so, so true. I'm still working for myself on spending more of my time on things that really matter to me, and I worry about my six-year-old, as she heads into the GPA-focused school years...
Mark Barnes: "Begin by discarding the worksheets, workbooks, and mundane rote memory activities. Instead, provide kids with choices about what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. Consider the skill or concept you’re teaching, and brainstorm ways that students can extend the learning in ways that they will enjoy.
Instead of assigning do-this-tonight-and-turn-it-in-tomorrow activities, provide multiple options that kids can do at their leisure outside of class and ask them to share their approaches later in the week.
Think about what students like to do: play games, use social media, read content they choose that is enjoyable and relevant to them, explore, talk to fascinating adults, and shop. How can these activities engage students in what you are teaching?"
Me: This article is a synopsis of a more detailed podcast, but I think that the text version does a fine job of capturing the essentials. I especially appreciated Barnes' dismantling, in a single paragraph, of the argument that homework teaches responsibility. He also laments how slow the pace of change is in the educational system. This is one that gets me. It seems like the research on homework is pretty clear: it is NOT helpful. But what is it going to take to get change made in actual schools? I wish I knew... But I'll keep sharing articles like this in the meantime.
Starr Sackstein: "My stance on homework has changed a lot since having a school-aged child as well. I value home time differently and therefore have worked hard to make homework (when necessary) flexible. Projects are done over time rather than on demand. This way I can respect the sanctity of what happens in the home and with the family."
Me: Starr Sackstein identifies a number of positive changes to her teaching after having a child of her own. The one that resonated with me, of course, is that she tries much harder to make homework flexible (or not assign it at all), to respect family time. I feel like if more teachers had fought this battle personally, in their own homes, there would be less homework in schools. But perhaps I am being overly optimistic.