I am taking up Doug Peterson’s (@dougpete) challenge to contribute to the #makeschooldifferent conversation. Here are the five things that I think we need to stop pretending.
Stop pretending that levelled books and classroom libraries create lifelong readers. Early readers move through levelled books in order to increase their confidence and fluency. But have you ever read these books? Each level might have longer words and sentences, but gripping plots and compelling characters? Not quite. There’s a rich world of great children’s books out there, fiction and non-fiction to engage young readers. Enjoyment of reading is what creates a lifelong habit of reading. It is important to have a text-rich environment in the classroom, and classroom libraries (most frequently full of books purchased with the teacher’s own money) do offer readers some limited options. But can a classroom library possibly meet the diverse interests of the students in that class? Let students go to the school library! Give them time and support them as they make their own reading choices based on their interests, not their level! And please consider reading engagement as a pillar of literacy, not a frill.
Stop preaching about digital citizenship. Too often schools spend a lot of time warning students about the perceived dangers of the Internet with a one-size-fits-all approach. Too often digital citizenship is framed as a list of rules rather than a set of guidelines. Fear about the Internet is overblown, and popular perceptions about what students know and don’t know are not supported by the research. Our students want our guidance, not our finger-wagging! Take a look at TALCO’s digital citizenship resource, which takes a critical thinking approach to empower students to be good digital citizens.
Stop believing in the myth of the digital native. You know the myth. Kids have inherent ability to work in digital environments because they have been in full immersion all of their lives. Kids may have facility with technology, but that does not make them digitally literate. And stop believing in the myth of the digital immigrant. Age no longer cuts it as an excuse for not learning to integrate technology into teaching and learning. And stop pretending that anyone can be considered literate these days without being digitally literate.
Stop pretending that teacher-librarians are a frill. If you can pretend that the library is a glorified bookroom then you can pretend teacher-librarians are a frill. If you can pretend that digital literacy is a frill then you can pretend that teacher-librarians are a frill. If you can pretend that the Internet makes instruction in information literacy skills redundant, then you can pretend teacher-librarians are a frill. School libraries matter. But a school library without a teacher-librarian is unlikely to have a program that is fully integrated into the school’s learning agenda.
Stop pretending that music is a frill. Music helps you be better at everything else. This is a claim that is borne out by the research, and not to be dismissed. But when music teachers are forced to justify their existence, the collateral benefits of studying music are the usual first line of defence. But let us also recognize the inherent value of music – of all of the arts – in and of themselves. And let’s stop pretending that we don’t need qualified music teachers to get at that deeper experience.