Opening the Floodgates

We are reading Readicide as a department this year, which is something I’ve wanted to do now for two years, ever since Bill Ferriter announced that he was profiling the book on his site and interviewing the author, Kelly Gallagher via Voicethread.

Today was the first meeting of one of the groups within the department, a group of middle school language arts teachers.  We met to discuss the first two chapters of the book, which, if you haven’t read it, delve into the definition of Readicide and the statistics he examined to coin the term.

Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

Gallagher also talked about something I’ve noticed since I have been in elementary buildings and secondary buildings: a gradual decline in curiosity.  Gallagher called it enthusiasm for reading, but today one of the group really summed it up by saying that by the time these students reach the upper grades in a middle school, much of their natural curiosity has been mined from them.  They don’t necessarily hate reading, but they don’t see any purpose behind it if it doesn’t either serve to get them a grade, or is required for something within their class.

My question in response to everything said today was a variation on the protocol What-SoWhat-NowWhat in that I wondered aloud that if we take what we say about our students and their inherent lack of curiosity, or their lack of attention span, or their penchant for reaching for SparkNotes when confronted with an outside reading novel, than what now?  Do we look the parents of these students in the eyes and say, “Well, what we’ve done in the past just isn’t working well here, so, I’ll just keep doing it.”

No.  And that is why I think Gallagher’s book really has legs.  We are only in chapter 2 and we are already seeing glimpses of what he prescribes as the cures to readicide, and what he is offering so far sound less like individual classroom fixes, and more like a school-wide committment to textual immersion.

Which I dig.

More to come as we get deeper into the discussions.

Image Credit: “Overwhelmed,” from Kozumel’s Photostream.
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Humbled

Chalkdust101 has recently been linked to by some insane publications, in my opinion.  Bill Ferriter, who writes at The Tempered Radical, recently had an article featured in Educational Leadership’s “How Teachers Learn” edition titled “Learning with Blogs and Wikis.” In it he dropped the following quote in reference to how he leverages his network to learn now:

This learning has been uniquely authentic, driven by personal interests and connected to classroom realities. Blogs have introduced a measure of differentiation and challenge to my professional learning plan that had long been missing. I wrestle over the characteristics of effective professional development with Patrick Higgins (https://chalkdust101.wordpress.com) and the elements of high-quality instruction for middle grades students with Dina Strasser (http://theline.edublogs.org). Scott McLeod (www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org) forces me to think about driving school change from the system level; and Nancy Flanagan (http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/teacher_in_a_strange_land) helps me understand the connections between education policy and classroom practice. John Holland (http://circle-time.blogspot.com) and Larry Ferlazzo, Brian Crosby, and Alice Mercer (http://inpractice.edublogs.org) open my eyes to the challenges of working in high-needs communities.

Bill has to be one of the clearest minds on topics of teacher leadership and assessment of teacher performance in the game right now, and this is punctuated by the fact that he is a full time classroom teacher.  Bill struggles with many of the aspects that a good portion of us only write about.  For this, and for his ability to ask outstanding questions, I consider it a privilege that he points himself here for guidance in any area.

Also, while at EduCon2.1, I had the pleasure of finally meeting Diane Cordell, who, until then, had been a vital cog in my network whom I had never met.  In addition to providing me with some excellent resources about the One Book, One Town idea that some of my English Department teachers came up with, attended my session on Saturday.  Upon leaving the conference, Diane submitted an article to the School Library Journal about EduCon (which she titled Library Media Specialist Does EduCon) and pulled this quote from me:

EduCon has a strange effect on both session participants and presenters in that there is equal learning done by both parties.

It’s a good feeling when someone actually catches you being competent!  Thanks to Diane and Bill for the mentions.