Saturday, March 14, 2015

Noticing What Tugs at Your Sleeve (#SOL15, Day14)

American Bus Stop: No Child Left Behind (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

I was thinking about teaching children to write and how very different our expectations are for them as opposed to the expectations writers set for themselves. I was reading an interview with Ian McEwan and in response to the question--'How does a germ of an idea evolve into a novel?"-- McEwan said he's "a great believer in hesitation." 
Yes, hesitation.

He added:
I think there’s nothing wrong with pausing when you’re not sure how to proceed. And in that rather dreamy, floating kind of mental state (one which I long for once I’ve started a book and can no longer have it) I go where my reading and thoughts and travels take me. 


The ELA Common Core State Standards is rooted in certainty. And that's a problem as life--yours, mine and our children--is clearly not rooted in certainty. For the next few weeks, 900,000 students in NJ will take the PARCC--the single measure touted to be a next generation (whatever that means) examination that will let us know (perhaps by next October) how ready our children are for some imagined future. 

There will be no hesitating on the PARCC.  It's all about extracting information quickly, perhaps even thoughtlessly. 

When I read the Standards and notice how its being implemented in schools, especially with younger children, I cringe. It's ironic that with all the references to being college and career ready, there's no mention in the CCSS of privileging a "dreamy, floating kind of mental state" that McEwan alludes to. 



I'm not trying for humor here. I know this is serious. How time is allotted at school and who does the allotting matter, especially if we want children to develop into thinkers, doers, makers.  For  it is often in that dreamy floating mental state, McEwan alludes to, that thinking happens. Equally important, it's the agency to choose that matters too. 

Take a moment and think about schools and how writing is taught. There's often little time, if any, dedicated to floating when the end products have already been determined before young writers have even had a moment to consider words, interests, or notice the phrase that tugs at their sleeve.

Noticing, attending to what tugs at our sleeves ought to be a measure worth a writer's time.

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