kitchen table math, the sequel: Project generation grows up and writes for The Onion

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Project generation grows up and writes for The Onion

Oh God, Teacher Arranged Desks in Giant Circle

“I have no idea what’s going to happen here, but it can’t be good,” said a visibly shaken Katie Wahl, 11, who according to reports began steeling herself for whatever god-awful group project, class discussion, or sharing of personal experiences the sixth-grade teacher might have in store for them.

Group projects aren't fun?

Here's a thought experiment.

What happens when there are no grown-ups left who remember sitting in rows, reading textbooks, and completing homework assignments on their own, without their moms having to shlep them across town to meet with their team?

We'll still have constructivists inveighing against 19th century schools, but everyone's bad memories will be about hands-on learning in groups.

How will that work?


Auntie Ann said...

I think we're already well past that point when it comes to the teaching of grammar and spelling. No one's left who actually knows the full panoply of rules and exceptions. And no one is left who was taught at a time when those were considered more important than "authenticity" in writing.

There is a well known children's book series written by a former middle school English teacher; though I like the stories, the author's grammar and sentence structure often make me cringe. If that's how an English teacher writes, all I can do is despair.

momof4 said...

My 31yo son's 6th-grade English teacher, only a couple of years out of college, told her class that she had never diagrammed sentences and thought it was useless. She didn't teach grammar, either; it was all teen chick lit, all the time. She admitted that she didn't like boys. Sigh

When I was in college, in the 60s, all English majors and minors in the College of Arts and Sciences were required to take Structure of the English Language, followed by Stylistics, and get at least a B in both - from a professor who was the toughest grader in the department. Sadly, the English majors/minors in the College of Education were not required to take either, although a few did. More than a few kids transferred to the ed school because they couldn't get through those two courses.

West Kentucky Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
West Kentucky Mom said...

I very much miss seeing desks in nice, neat rows. Very curious about the children's book series mentioned by Auntie Ann, what's the series?

Auntie Ann said...

Rick Riordan's books. He has a lot of them.

palisadesk said...

There will still be plenty of grown-ups in the future who went to schools with desks in rows, were expected to do homework on their own (and whose parents wouldn't dream of taking them over after school to meet with their "team", and where most work was one individually, and graded individually, but they will be people who went to low-SES schools. My district doesn't allow "group" grades, and effort, participation etc. cannot be used for grading either.

Luckily for me, I have yet to work in a school thaa had a lot of those artsy projects, group work, etc. etc -- because I've been in low-SES schools which could never get away with such stuff. Families aren't going to provide the arts materials, the school can't afford them, kids aren't going to do "projects" at home in groups -- they are helping their parents at the grocery store or baby sitting siblings.

I think our students are disadvantaged in some ways -- but in others, they are not. Our students do as well on tests etc. as kids from nearby upper middle class areas. The ultra-"progressive" stuff seems to be more a middle and upper class phenomenon, at least in my experience. I've been in more than a dozen schools by now and none had that kind of laissez-faire approach that a lot of parents in more advantaged areas report (and not only here!) You simply can't do all this "group" work in most low-SES schools, for a number of reasons, although consultants coming in are always singing the praises of such stuff. But they can't make it work and soon are gone on to proselytize somewhere else.

We still rely on a lot of teacher-directed instruction.

Anonymous said...

Just imagine what kids in the affluent schools could do with that kind of teacher-led instruction! I often wonder what would happen if my kids' old ES (kids attended before the constructivist takeover; the older teachers had no use for group work) switched to the classical curriculum and Singapore Primary Math, with individual work and teachers teaching. I'm betting that, within 2-3 years, the kids would be so far ahead of the other ESs in the cluster that the other parents would be screaming for the same - even parents who like the projects would realize that their kids weren't getting the same content. Since the kids have that cross school lines, the word would get out fast.

Anonymous said...

Oops - activities that cross school lines.

Anonymous said...

For people who grew up in the '50's and early '60's, the extreme over-crowdedness of the schools was an advantage on this point. With 35+ kids in each room, there was really no other possible arrangement of desks than rows. The skills of working in groups were learned in other venues: home, neighborhood, scouts, part-time jobs, etc.

Froggiemama said...

I went to school in the 60's and 70's, and do not remember ever sitting in rows. We had open classrooms, sat on the floor in circles, or at tables grouped together, and had "rap sessions" instead of discussions. Maybe my grandparents remembered desks in rows...

Jim said...

I know a fair amount about English grammar and usage, but

a) I learned it all outside of school, and

b) I know enough to know that I don't know much compared to what's out there.

I'm teaching French this year, and I'll try to point out a subject/verb/object, but the students only have a vague sense. The sharp ones have figured it out, but they've never gone through the basics outright.

Anne Dwyer said...

I went to a Catholic grammar school where we still had nuns teaching (for the most part). The local public school did have the 'open' classroom but my first grade class had 44 kids. Not only did we sit in rows, but the rows were straight. We had separate reading and grammar classes. I got a lot of good basic skills, but I was bored most of the time. I can remember getting a math workbook and doing the whole thing in one day. I'm sure my teachers still have nightmares about me.

In my district (high SES), the high school is just getting into the 'portfolio' type of grading. But in terms of science and mathematics, there are so many more activities that students can participate in. I mentor the local robotics team and I was a judge for the elementary school robotics tournament. Boy, was I jealous! We had nothing like this when I was a kid.

education realist said...

You all live in some bizarre alternate universe. I've taught at three different high schools, know of countless others, and I'm still the only teacher I know who sits kids in groups. I'm not opposed to rows, and the dominating ethos in school is not constructivism, but "what the teacher wants." And yes, the 70s had lots of group work.

Anonymous said...

I am taking an online graduate course at a major state university that thinks it needs to include "group work" to make itself authentic.

This most recent experience involves reading a fairly lengthy article and then making a powerpoint presentation out of it. We were to split the article into three parts and each do a third of the slides.

It is blatantly obvious that one of my group members does not understand the article. And that she can't write. So, with 12 hours left until the thing is due, do I attempt to educate her?

No. I rewrite her slides and allow her to submit my work as her own. And I don't complain about it because then I wouldn't be displaying "teamwork."

What a crock.