Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Teachable Moment Missed

I happened upon a blog called running reflections run by a teacher. I found this:

My sixth grade students leaned forward as I read to them, almost as though they would better be able to capture the words in the book. We were reading “Out of My Mind,” by Sharon Draper. This book is about a bright student named Melody who has cerebral palsy. Melody uses a wheelchair to get around, gets assistance with eating and bathrooming, and relies on a communication board to talk. When we got to page 52, Melody explained that her aids, “do stuff like take us to the bathroom (or change diapers on kids like Ashley and Carl), feed us at lunch, wheel us where we need to go, wipe mouths, and give hugs.  I don’t think they get paid very much, because they never stay very long.  But they should get a million dollars.  What they do is really hard, and I don’t think most folks get that.”
At this point, a sixth grade girl quietly raises her hand and patiently waits to be called on. Encouraging thinking while reading, means stopping to discuss questions and thoughts my students are having. I pause to call on her and she asks her question with concern in her voice, “Does Mrs. Saad get more money than the teachers, because she does a lot of extra work for the students she works with?”
OK then. We have a character in a novel who thinks her teachers aid should earn a million dollars, we have a girl asking questions about the pay of the teachers aid in her school and we have teacher who claims to be "encouraging thinking." What a great teachable moment!
The teacher dodges the question. What a shame.
Should the teachers aid earn a million dollars? If yes, or a lesser amount, where does the money come from? With a little guidance, the students could learn a little something about taxes and school funding. They could learn that the teachers pay is determined by wrangling between politicians, school board members, unions and, one would hope, taxpayers. And they should learn that the desire or need for money or resources will always exceed the supply, a situation that forces some form of rationing. 

I have my doubts that "encouraging thinking" was the objective in the classroom. From the choice of material to the teachers failure, it seems perhaps emoting was the real goal.

But one young girl asked a thoughtful question anyway and was brushed off by her teacher. We can't have children learning meaningful, easily understood economic ideas. That would conflict with the unions goal of producing reliable Democratic voters. It's for the children.

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