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Holding On To Good Ideas In A Time of Bad Ones by Thomas Newkirk

"Teaching is profoundly situational." (pg. 7)

"It may be that there is something aesthetically pleasing in uniform action--the pleasure of watching a drill team, for example.  Yet standardization only leads to sameness, not necessarily quality, and rarely to excellence." (pg. 9)

"[Often Times] resistance is [seen as] a form of "unreason", a form of immature willfulness, a reversion to an earlier, unenlightened state." (pg. 9)

"This book, then, will challenge a growing trend in education that requires teachers to work in preestablished (invariably "research based") systems that sharply limit their capacity to make decisions about curriculum and students." (pg. 10)

"The practice of teaching involves a far more complex task environment that does medicine.  The teacher is confronted, not with a single patient, but a classroom filled with 25-30 [or 35-40] youngsters.  The teacher's goals are multiple;" (pg. 28)

"Teacher's resistance to research and that which is termed theory by academians comes not from a belief that this work is inaccurate--only that it is too general to be useful in the situations they find themselves.  It exists at a level of abstraction that they fail to find useful as they deal with the complex "messes' of classroom life.  To do their work requires a particularized, situated, child-specific, class-specific, day-specific, school-specific form of knowledge--(often intuitive and unarticulated)--that is rarely considered to be theory at all. (pg. 28-29)
  In the hierarchial models of professional knowledge, this localized knowledge never has the status accorded to research or abstract theorizing.  The teacher's place at the bottom of the hierarchy is secure--they deliver instruction....Reading one's class is an indespensable condition for effective teaching and deserves to be considered a form of theorizing, of knowledge creation." (pg. 29)

"This range of these microtheories is so vast I can only begin to suggestion their complexity.  There are child specific theories...theories of group dynamics in a classroom...professional preference and self-presentation...there are theories of school culture." (pg. 29-30)

"When we stop experimenting, we stop living as teachers." (pg. 31)

"[A] movement is afoot to base all treatment decisions strictly on statistically proven data.  This so-called evidence-based medicine is rapidly becoming the canon in many hospitals.  Treatments outside the statistically proven are considered taboo until a sufficient body of data can be generated from clinical trials.  Of course, every doctor should consider research studies in choosing a therapy.  But today's rigid reliance on evidence-based medicine risks having doctors chose care passively, solely by the numbers. Statistics cannot substitute for the human being before you; statistics embody averages, not invididuals.  Numbers can only complement a physician's personal experience with a drug or a procedure, as well as his knowledge of whether a "best" therapy from a clinical trail fits a patient's particular needs and values. (2007, 5-6)"...the number one cause of misdiagnosis is failure to listen carefully to patients." (pg. 34)

"Uncertainty is sometimes essential for success". (pg. 35)

"As in medicine, a good case is one that contains an element of the unexpected, one in which established practice is not working, or that presents a complex situation for which there is no standard.  Working in isolation, it is easy for teachers to assume that this uncertainty and difficulty indicates a lack of skill on their part; the case method sees it as inherent in the nature of teaching." (pg. 39)

"...there is a confusion of standards with standardization; of quality with uniformity; of consistency with excellence; of test scores with assessment." (pg. 41)

"[Memorable Teachers] have a passion for their subjects and their own way of teaching that breaks through the emotional flatness of American schooling.  These teachers know their students and are willing to confront them, not always gently, when they are not performing up to their ability--in fact, these confrontations are a set piece in the stories students tell." (pg. 42)

"...scientific management is built on denying the value of "impression". (pg. 43)

"...writing is colonized by literature....linking writing to reading was a way to curtail or control writing, not necessarily to develop in its own terms. (2006, 166)." (pg. 54)

"Whatever value writing might have in the wider culture, it has trouble claiming space in school where the professional dominance of reading is so pronounced." (pg. 55)

"In short, students increasingly see themselves as producers, and not simply consumers.  The balance of literacy is shifting". (pg. 56)

"So we have a vicious circle, revolving around the no. 2 pencil...they [mass testing] arise from the complexity and cost of testing a situational activity [writing] in a decontexualized way that distorts the very act it presumes to measure." (pg. 62)

"[For] computer-determined tendencies...the program cannot read the essay in any human sense, the developers of these programs boast a high correlation between the machine score and the evaluation of human readers.  There are even programs that can detect if the student is off topic.  It would seem that the Educational Testing Service has found the equivalent of the no. 2 pencil for evaluating writing." (pg. 63)

"Not surprisingly, the machine "reading" violates a belief held by many educators that responding to student writing is a human transaction that cannot be reduced to a lexical or syntactic database.  But how to respond to the statistical claims that humans reading these prompts make almost exactly the same decisions?  I would argue that the mechanization of reading precedes these machines and is implicit in the kind of reading that occurs in the mass testing of writing.  Organizations like Measured Progress and Pearson employ an army of readers who can give only a few minutes to each paper, with a supervisor regularly checking them for consistency with other raters.  In this situation, it is probably inevitable that a human will begin to read like a machine; a reader seeing words like 'consequently' will automatically react positively without following out the logic of the "consequence"--that would take too much time (in the same way that readers are cautioned not to be concerned if facts that students use are accurate).  In other words, there will be salient language that readers will come to recognize as indicative of writing sophistication--and this tacit agreement will make for higher reliability raters.  The machine is already operating.  Reading has already been degraded, and these systems only codify the machinelike behaviors of readers." (pg. 63)

"So the truth is out--from the Educational Testing Service, no less--that no one really wants to read the writing done under test conditions.  It is a chore, like washing dishes, that can be handed over to automation." (pg. 63)

"That compulsion to create patterns, I would argue, is the central case that must be made for writing (speaking) in the various subjects." (pg. 67)

"I always think of this as the quintessential portrait of the writing teacher, immersed in student work." (pg. 67)

"For he who scrawls ribaldry, just as truly as he who writes for all time, does that most wondrous of things--gives a material body to some reality which till that moment was immaterial...." (pg. 68)

Expect the Unexpected
"Writing exposes our thinking, our fumbling..." (pg. 76)

"Have the courage to digress" (pg. 78)

"Writing is not is a dialogue between self and text in which language can redirect consciousness." (pg. 79)

"...the way the brain produces insights:...the importance of relaxation that allows access to unconventional ideas...we must concentrate on letting the mind wander" (pg. 80)

"I am convinced that we overvalue feedback and undervalue practice-" (pg. 82)

"How can writing teachers help students hear voices that are on their side?  How can we facilitate the self-generosity needed to compose?  ....[A] good starting point is assuming a bias toward expansiveness. [pg.87]

[pg.85] Writing Prompts....asking students to download the lyrics of a song that had a special place in their lives.

"Speak to them as if their own lives are what really matters in the classroom." (pg. 94)

"...the pleasure of the writing--just as the pleasure of play itself--is in the act of improvisation." (pg. 98)

Drawing is of importance to your writers (pg. 104)

"...the "secret" to engaging also in plain view; the cultural allegiances of the students are on open display, on their backpacks, their hats, their T-shirts--in the conversations in the hallways, the reenactments of favorite TV shows, the assessment of new video games.  It is possible to view these media attractions a the enemy...or we can view these interests as a way in--as a way to connect writing in particular to plots, characters, weapons, and special effects that are crucial in their attachment to popular culture.
"In order to build fear or suspense, they need to create a sense of danger, anticipation, and fear--they need to withhold the violence, at least for a time.  Teachers can assist them by talking about the quality of suspense and helping them plan stories, perhaps using storyboards, to assist them with plotting. (pg. 108-109).

"The commitment to the silent reading of longer texts depends on the capacity to enter into what Sven Birkerts (1994) calls a 'reading state', a "fundamental and identifiably constant condition that we [readers] return to over and over" (83).  (pg. 116)

  ** Indeed, I often find that a novel, even a well-written and compelling novel, can become a blur to me as soon as I have finished it.  I recollect perfectly the feeling of reading it, the mood I occupied, but I am less sure about the narrative details. (84)  (pg. 116)

"...the goal of reading is not the mastery of specific texts, but that of enabling students to enter the reading state...unless we can persuade students that reading is a form of deep sustained pleasure, they will not choose to read; and because they will not choose to read they will not develop the skills to make them good readers." (pg. 117)

"...textbooks typically fail to provide the most basic conditions for readerly engagements. They are great vehicles for generating corporate profits, but poor ones for creating readers.  They fail young readers on four dimensions of reading--authorship, form, venue, and duration." (pg. 118)

"...readers are deprived of the very quality they typically seek in the books they choose--a point of view--which is why few popular books are multiply authored."

"...most readers know that drive to the last page, the way they smell the end, and drop everything to get there.  They know the experience of lingering after the last page, reluctant to leave this imaginary world that for a time was more real than the real one.  There can be no such satisfaction with a textbook. (pg. 121)

"As teachers, out loyalty should be to the state of reading, not to particular texts that may or may not make that journey possible." (pg. 121)

**"...the habit of reading comes from the desire to enter and reenter a state of attention, from the pleasure we gain in the encounters with characters and storytellers who become as real, sometimes more real, than actual people we know.  It is not, after all, a lonely act." (pg. 124)

"Any effort to teach analytic or reflective literacy skills, it seems to me, is built on the premise engagement, for analysis ins an unpacking of our reactions and involvement.  Without that engagement, there is nothing to unpack--indeed, no reason to read or write in the first place.  And a role for pleasure does not preclude a place for challenge and difficulty because we lose interest in routinely easy tasks.  Ask any gamer." (pg. 129)

"Plan like hell and then wing it." (pg. 141)

Habits of Mind (pg. 142-143)
1.  The habit of observation.  What do you notice?  This is the capacity to slow down, pay attention, notice the unusual detail, fact or statistic--one that is not evident at first glance.

2.  The habit of generalization.  A key question is "What do you make of this?"  What inferences, judgements, evaluations, conclusions, theses do you arrive at?  It is to think in patterns, to make connections.

3.  The habit of evidence.  What is the basis of your generalizations?  And what make you think this evidence is solid, when there is so much suspicious information available?

4.  The habit of considering alternatives.  How could it be otherwise?  What credible positions might differ from yours?  What are the 'rivals' to your own position?

Principles of Learning (pg. 144)

1.  Demonstrations and modeling.  The students need access to texts and writers who can demonstrate the craft of writing, particularly the skills they are trying to learn.

2.  Practice.  Students need to engage in a volume of writing, not all of it under the careful scrutiny of teachers.

3.  Feedback.  Students need timely and precise feedback on their writing.

4.  Instruction.  Students need to learn some of the formalized principles of effective writing (what the ancients called the "art" of writing).

Quote-And-Comment Pattern (pg. 146)
-I ask students to write a response for readings on a five-by-seven-inch note card on reading days:  They need to find an important quote and comment on why they think that quote is important (this quote-and-comment pattern is a key academic move)

Using Page Margins (pg. 151)

Range of Discourse (pg. 152)

1.  Expression.  Writing that is close to informal, loosely organized speech.  It often openly conveys personal attitudes and assumes an interested audience.  Journals, freewriting, open responses, memory pieces.

2.  Informational.  Writing that focuses on explanation, on communicating concepts, procedures, factual details.  Scientific observations and reports, research papers, field notes.

3.  Persuasive.  Writing that focusing on opinion and belief--designed to confirm or change the attitudes of readers, or at least justify the position of the writer.  Editorials, letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, proposals, literary analyses, some personal essays.

4.  Literary.  Writing that creates a story world that the reader is invited to enter.  Poems, plays, comic books and graphic novels, digital stories, short stories, or all types (science fiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, suspense).

"It would seem to follow that success in teaching is dependent not on avoiding difficulty but on finding a way to process difficulty--to think about it, talk about it with other professionals." (pg. 164)

"Yet  it has always seemed to me that great teachers are great not because they are constantly engineering revolutions in their classroom--but because they are alert to small changes, the small victories.  This alertness allows them to reinforce and acknowledge those changes, both to the student and to themselves." (pg. 172)

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