Friday, July 25, 2008

Anna Quindlen needs to look up the word "pedagogy".


ped·a·go·gy /ˈpɛdəˌgoʊdʒi, -ˌgɒdʒi/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[ped-uh-goh-jee, -goj-ee] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation

–noun, plural -gies.

the function or work of a teacher; teaching.

the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods.

I'm a little late with this one, but I was reading through Newsweek and came upon an article by columnist Anna Quindlen. Ms. Quindlen was irritated at firing of Connie Heerman, a teacher who used the pictured book, The Freedom Writers Diary, in her classroom against the wishes of her school administration. Basically, here's the story:

-Heerman asks to use the book in her classroom. The admin tells her to hold off on it.

-Heerman collects permission slips from most of the students in the class regarding the book.

-Heerman buys the books and distributes the books to her students anyway.

-Heerman is told to collect the books immediately and some students refuse to hand them back.

-Heerman is fired.

Now, Quindlen made this comment in her column, "A teacher who is psyched about engaging struggling students learns that bureaucracy is more important than pedagogy". The problem with this comment is, of course, that Connie Heerman didn't use successful pedagogy because she failed to follow a cardinal rule in the art of teaching; model. Heerman went directly against the authority of the district and in doing so failed to model the appropriate response to the districts wishes. Fine, Heerman doesn't like the decision by her superiors about the book, and she probably has a valid point. However, regardless of how much she cares about student education, let's remember one thing; she's an employee that basically gave the middle finger to her boss. How about modeling to the kids an appropriate method to go after the district on censorship? How about a discussion on censorship period? There were plenty of ways to teach relevant life lessons using the situation that didn't involve pissing off the employer. There were plenty of ways of modeling good behavior that would really benefit the kids in the future.

I would argue that Connie Heerman's plight is an example of bad pedagogy, and I would strongly recommend that young teachers remember that they have to follow the rules set up by the district, no matter how much they would like to "fight the power". I made a slight mistake with a movie that landed me in hot water during my second year of teaching, but that was dumb ignorance (not an excuse) and I was fortunate that my principal saw it as a learning experience. Know your district policy and then take appropriate steps to change it if you don't like it, but don't snub the bosses. I think that censorship of almost any kind is ridiculous and I think the book should be used in classrooms as inspiration, but I'm not making policy.

Great pedagogy is modeling good behaviors for kids. Anna Quindlen needs to remember that she wouldn't want her interns to do what Ms. Heerman did and give her the big kiss off.

Quindlen's article

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