Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Defend Your Tirade (in other words: Educate Yourself)

At lunch today my team was discussing our new district-wide phonics program (Fountas and Pinnell). Being a groupie of F&P (along with Caulkins, Boushey and Moser, etc.) I was jazzed to have a sturdy phonics program created by highly esteemed researchers.

I admit I'm a chronic band-wagoneer. For being a peacock-type person, I have serious buy-in tendencies. I love to implement whatever latest and greatest I come across. If it fits within my beliefs and philosophies, I'm game. The upside is that I'm fearless when it comes to implementing new things, including technology; change doesn't make me uncomfortable. The downside is that I find myself hurtling onto that wagon before I have done adequate research. Leap first and look later.

Our lunch conversation brought us to where we are at in the phonics lessons. Everything I've taught up to this point has been pretty cool. I love the substantial base it builds for our Firsties. I will agree that it appears the program takes us a step back from what we usually teach in first grade, but I think the thorough attention to letters and sounds is a benefit to even my advanced readers. After all, what we were doing before (Sitton) wasn't producing good spellers.

My colleagues disagreed. They thought we had taken a major step back with our students, and this was to their disadvantage. What struck me wasn't the fact that we were disagreeing; that's cool, as long as we respect each other. What I didn't hear was any facts or researched-based opinions on the appropriateness, relativity, and reason backing what we are (or are not) teaching. This included myself.

How often do we form opinions about what we teach without really knowing what we are teaching and why? How easy is it for us to create assumptions based on the small slice of students in our learning communities? It seems exhausting to dig deep into every curriculum we have no choice in teaching, but why should we blindly follow the scripted lessons, either happily or unhappily?

It's time we picked up the accountability and learned a little more about what we are teaching our kids.

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