Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Assessing and Teaching

As the school year winds to a close, I find myself struggling with the balance of assessment to determine whole year progress and continued teaching to assure that every day matters.  I guess I find myself in the conundrum every single year and it certainly makes me THINK about the strange, agrarian model of education that has persisted into the 21st century.  Our kids are not off the farm work in the summer and that is not likely to change in the  near future!  PLEASE NOTE that I love a good summer week at the beach as much as the next person and I also think that ALL learners (kids and teachers) need to get away and let the learning settle in while they relax with a good read or two (see last post)! HOWEVER, it is time that we rethink our teaching and assessment model on a bigger scale so that we do not lose June and September as teaching months!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Reflecting on The Help

Usually, I have a few books I collect during the year to devour during "vacations" because there is nothing that says "vacation" like a good read!  So, as soon as I finished my grad school papers last semester, I started The Help.  It had been on my bedside for a while and I had heard that the "movie" was coming out soon so I really wanted to "read" it first!  I was indeed a compelling read and my life was put "on hold" as the characters became part of my world during Memorial Day Weekend. 
The characters were so well developed that they joined me in the living room as the story unfolded.  I "saw" the worry lines in their faces and angst in their eyes as they faced fear and the unknown.  Quietly strong women, changing the world. 
Perhaps I connected with the story a bit more than most readers as I lived in Meridian, Mississippi during the early 60's, this story's setting!  I remember driving to Jackson a few times but more importantly I remember how this little girl from Spring Valley had a zillion questions about the shanty homes that lined sections of every small city in the south.  I had a zillion questions about the separate schools and separate churches and separate entrances to stores.  I had questions that my parents could not answer and questions that I could not ask at school.  It's been quite a few years; however, those images also came back to me clearly as I savored the story's somewhat predictable outcome. 
We talk so much about background knowledge as a tool for comprehension building in reading and this thought bubbled to the surface often as I read this book.  Certainly, my comprehension and enjoyment was augmented by my background knowledge; however, the subject is compelling and important for all of us who share this planet.  While we have come a long way from the segregation of the early 60s, we as a human race still have a long way to travel before we respect the differences and embrace the similarities of all  members of the human race. 
I suggest you read it before the movie comes out and THEN catch the movie, too.