Have you experienced what Lorraine Hong describes as serious intrusions on teaching?

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Most of us simply tolerate Armstrong’s power-struggle interruptions as a fact of life. But if we think more deeply about this issue, we might change our minds. In her article in Phi Delta Kappan, Lorraine Hong offers a different perspective, more subtle and perhaps more insidious. Hong describes how increasing intrusions caused her to lose her passion for teaching. As part of an hour-long writing period, fifth-grade teachers were told to include ten minutes of keyboarding. While administrators considered this a simple request, by the time the computers were set up and students settled, it took fifteen to twenty minutes to implement. A new math curriculum was put in place that required teaching sixty minutes per day. Hong found it impossible to schedule it on Mondays and Fridays, because students were required to leave for “gifted” programs and for special education pullouts. She summed up her frustrations with an apt analogy:

When the days are fragmented and move at the pace of fast-food eateries rather than four-star restaurants, [Hong writes] teachers have no time in which to build the provocative experiences that nourish layered learning—experiences that provide teachers with the continuing intellectual and creative challenges that allow them to be professional educators rather than short order cooks.

Four-star restaurants—what a way to visualize classrooms! So contrary to the hamster-wheel-driven lessons, spinning endlessly without comprehension because of pressures from the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB), state assessments, and overcrowded curriculums. Hong and Armstrong together articulate what most of us accept as part of school culture, but in fact contribute stress and anxiety for our students and us. We can, if we choose, decide to combat these interferences, and in Armstrong’s words, take back our classrooms.

A short but poignant entry. Your thoughts?

For more on this crucial issue see Chapter 13 “Stop the Interruptions” in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.

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