There are dark afternoons when I think that the school day has been squandered yet again, and the kids are bogged down in ridiculous test drill homework that eats their time. Those are the days when I’ve given serious thought to abandoning institutional schooling altogether.
Yet, there are days when Ms. M reminds me of why my children often benefit from having an experienced classroom teacher. Both of my children have been fortunate enough to be placed in Ms. M’s class. She is my son’s teacher for second grade; when she was teaching third grade, my daughter was in her class.
Ms. M and I have talked about the importance of exposing children to good writing, and over and over, she demonstrates her commitment to this idea. She has built an excellent classroom library and is expert at readers’ advisory. A few years ago, the booklists Ms. M gave parents at back-to-school night were reasonably good, improved by her notations. A few years later, she distributed a list that clearly is her own. Many of the titles are from the old list, yet she’s added many she’s found since that time. She has organized the titles with goals and growth in mind. She’s even included titles for the years beyond second grade.
When my son brought his copy of D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths to school, Ms. M asked to borrow it for a while. It turned out that she wanted another copy in the classroom so that she could do an enrichment project with my son’s reading group. She later told me that it was one of the best group project experiences she had ever done with a small group.
At a recent parent / teacher conference, I asked Ms. M for recommendations of non-fiction writing. I had been having trouble finding well-written books at my son’s reading level. My opinion was that many non-fiction books for second grade have too little text and too many sidebars that break the flow of the writing. Ms. M picked up a Bobbie Kalman Lifecycle book and showed me what to look for in a non-fiction book at my son's reading level. She explained how the illustrations in the book enhance the text and are part of the language acquisition process. She pointed out how the author has chosen the illustrations in these books to help structure the textual information in a mindful way. They are not mere decoration. Without Ms. M, I may not have come across this explanation at the right time, when my son became ready for and needed this next level of non-fiction.
Ms. M also recommended that I make sure that my son is reading poetry. She is looking forward to doing a poetry project with the children based on non-fiction poems. Ms. M somehow manages to provide depth of knowledge in spite of the time challenges of a test-driven curriculum and a ridiculous amount of interruption to class time by the school administration and PTA.
She even sends each child a poem on a beautiful postcard for their birthdays (see photo above for this year’s).
Post deleted: 4/21/2011 by JTD