Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Rogues and rugs

It must be fun to be teaching under the dreadful Bloomberg & Klein regime in NYC. I can't figure out what so-called "balanced literacy" (another name for whole language) has to do with sitting cross-legged on rugs and limiting lessons to five minutes.

From the New York Times (By the Script by Sewell Chan):


In many New York City public schools, children sit cross-legged on rugs. Desks must be arranged into clusters of students with varying abilities, not in rows. A ''word wall'' serves as a vocabulary reference. Lessons last five minutes.

All of the above are elements of the city's ''balanced literacy'' curriculum, and it has newly minted college graduates, bursting with ideas about shaping young lives, complaining about a disconnect.

''It's not up to you what to teach every day,'' says Christian A. Ledesma, 25, who has taught for three years at Public School 9 in the Bronx, in second and fourth grades. He joined Teach for America in 2002, a year before the introduction of the curriculum, and earned his master's degree in elementary education through evening classes at Pace University. There, he learned about backward design, which emphasizes teaching with the end result -- knowledge of state reading or math standards -- in mind.

But in his classroom, he was not designing anything; instead, he was following the balanced literacy script. In a 90-minute period, actual imparting of knowledge was restricted to a lesson as short as five minutes. Then pupils broke into small groups for independent guided work, and reconvened to share their efforts. School administrators made unannounced visits to ensure that teachers were using their rugs and abiding by the ''flow of the day'' schedule posted in each classroom.

To avoid being caught if they did not follow the schedules, some teachers began ''actually training their kids to switch subjects on command,'' Mr. Ledesma says. ''They can be doing a reading lesson, and if somebody walks through the door, all of a sudden they're doing the writing lesson.''

3 comments:

Disgruntled said...

Five minutes! Followed by independent guided work done in groups, which means joking around with your friends for a while, until the teacher is looking over your shoulder.

There's nothing wrong with switching things up once in a while, but even as a kid, I couldn't sit on a rug comfortably. What teacher hasn't seen that bunching desks into groups encourages goofing off and chatter?

These children are so screwed.

NYC Educator said...

When Klein mandated the rugs, he neglected to consider the necessity of periodic cleaning. Aside from the flawed pedagogy, there are all sorts of things for kids to "discover" crawling around in them.

Anonymous said...

As a returning teacher after a 10 year childcare leave I am overwhelmed, confused, and disgusted. I have been left to fend for myself when planning the "balanced literacy block". I do not understand how the children learn to read by sitting with others with the same difficulties. The rug is filthy, we do so much moving from rug to clusters of desks there is little time for teaching. They have so many math supplies to use they are not learning the basic facts. I spend so much time planning on the weekends, I hardly have time to see the children I so lovingly raised.
The suburbs are looking up.
Absolutely fed up!!!!!!!!!!!
Would like to hear from others.