Tuesday, September 9, 2008
One of the many frills that comes with working in the library is that I am the Goddess of Lamination and Photocopying. Meaning, a half-broken laminating machine and an ancient Duplo machine are located in one of my work rooms, and I get the pleasure of teaching people to use them, change ink, change laminating film (although I leave this pain in the neck to my assistant), fix paper jams, etc. I'm very handy when it comes to Duplo repair. I also get to look at all of the items that people leave in the Duplo machine after they've made their copies and walked away. Most of the time, teachers are copying informational letters to send home to parents, or quizzes, or reading material for their students. Every once in a while, though, I get a glimpse of some hand-drawn chart or worksheet that a rushed, under prepared teacher has thrown together at the last minute. Usually, this is not a good thing. Usually, these are sloppy and meaningless. Today's example is both. Let's take a look at what is wrong with this "learning" activity, shall we?
1. If the teacher was making copies of this, that means the teacher planned to pass one out to each student. That means that the students were going to be asked to write their answers out on a sheet of paper. What do you want to bet that this teacher will also ask the students to write the questions along with the answers on that sheet of paper, thus making the activity take longer so the teacher has to do less actual teaching and can focus on something more important like reading the newspaper, surfing online, or balancing his/her checkbook? I am willing to bet a lot on this one.
2. The students are instructed to "Use pages 137-140" to complete this activity. That means that they will be asked to sit quietly with a textbook, looking for answers that correlate exactly with the questions. The questions are probably listed in sequence to go along with the text. The students will be asked to do zero thinking. They are only hunting for recognizable words and phrases.
3. The questions are poorly written. So poorly written, in fact, that if I wasn't sure that the students wouldn't need to understand what was being asked, I would worry that the students wouldn't understand what was being asked. Let's look at each question one at a time.
- 1) Why were most kids taught to read? I assume the teacher wants to know what was the main purpose of education during the Great Awakening. This phrasing, however, fails to ask that. I would tell a student who wrote this question that it lacks clarity and that the reader wonders which kids, where, when, what the heck are we talking about?
- 2) How did poor kids learn? Well, look. This is a question that just cannot be answered, even by the best experts in the fields of psychology, education, child development, etc. How do people learn? How does anyone learn, and what does being poor have to do with it? Again, the teacher doesn't actually want to spark that discussion here. The teacher wants the students to locate a sentence in the textbook that reads something like "Children from poor families usually learned by _________".
- 3) How was literacy rate measured in the colonies? Way to model proper use of the word the, Teach!
- 4) (Please note that on the original document, this question is indeed number 4, but is listed before number three.) The Primer contained what 2 things? Hmmm, let's see. Two things. Two things one might find in a book. Paper and ink? Page numbers and letters? Chapters and a table of contents? Once again, the teacher doesn't really care what was in the Primer. The students are only supposed to look for a sentence that says "In most cases, students would read from a Primer containing _____ and _____."
I don't know if I can go on. It's too painful. Let's just skip to my favorite.
- 7) The Great Awakening was a _________ movement. I'm going to say bowel. Wait, that can't be right. I'd like to change my answer. Especially since the teacher has helpfully mentioned that I'm looking for a nine letter word. How will I ever figure it out? Can't you just picture a room full of kids counting how many letters are in the words on pages 137 - 140? It was a squirrels' movement. No, a squelched movement. A stevedore movement. I've got it! A kowtowing movement. That's gotta be it!
Apart from the many questions this worksheet discovery demands that I ask myself about how our current system has failed this teacher and his students, I must also ask a more practical question. What, if anything, should I do about it? Do I alert the Social Studies department chair that someone is a lame-ass teacher and should be identified and provided with some sort of intervention? Should I show my Assistant Principal? Should I tape the page to the wall by the copier, which would both expose the teacher and allow that person to claim his distinguished work? Probably I should just file it away in my scrapbook to be used later in my memoirs. Sigh. I think this one is going to get away with it. Beware your child's tired, frazzled, hasty teacher, just looking for a little peace and quiet. The next thing you know, these kids are going to be dimming the lights for a round of Heads Up Seven Up so the teacher can get a little shut-eye.