stephanie jones

What do I really want out of school as a parent?

In creativity, critical literacy, democracy, family-school relations, inquiry, personal narratives, teacher education, teaching reading on August 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm

After a nearly two hour ordeal with my seven-year-old newly-second-grader Hayden this morning, who announced she was quitting school and refused to get on the bus (again – for regular readers who know this has happened in the past), we made a deal that I hope buys me some time, and I quote:

“When you can read the newspaper, talk to me intelligently about everything in it, locate all the places mentioned in the articles on a map and globe and know something about them, then we can talk about doing something other than school. Deal?”


“But I can already read the newspaper,” she said – though that’s not entirely true.

“Yes, but you can’t have an intelligent conversation about it yet,” my witty response.

I was desperate this morning. We tried 30 minutes of home-schooling (please just home-school me! she said), but that didn’t work. She tried to convince me to take her to my classes at UGA (I’m little but I can learn that stuff too!), but I told her she wasn’t allowed to go to UGA without going to another school first. I had an appointment at 9:30 and the clock was ticking…so I made the deal out of desperation and without giving any thought to what I was saying.

And now I sit, thinking about that deal.

Is that really what I want my child to get out of school? Because if it is, I’m afraid it doesn’t usually happen.

But think about it – the newspaper covers religion, politics, general science, mathematics, social issues, ecology, biology, health, nutrition, technology, innovation, medicine, entertainment, the arts, local issues, global issues, war, genocide, social relations, civics, sociology, psychology, geography, sports, education, and on and on and on and on.

And if one could read and speak intelligently about all these things – wouldn’t we have hit the mark?

So perhaps this is what education boils down to for me – at least today – and I’ll stick to my deal and see how much time it buys me.

But she better be doing a lot of studying up at home if she hopes to reach this point, because I rarely see a newspaper in schools.

  1. Stephaine, you write “I rarely see a newspaper in schools.” I teach high school chemistry in Canada and I consistently use newspaper articles to engage my students, bring relevance to the curriculum, and support literacy. I also encourage my students to bring in their own articles of interest which we read or post around the classroom. Most of the teachers in the science department, as well as social science and english teachers, use newspapers in the classroom. With internet access, school teachers have free access to a ton of online articles. It’s hard to believe that a newspaper is rarely seen in the classroom…perhaps we need to remind teachers of simple and effective classroom strategies.

  2. hi ttt33,

    i love your examples of using the newspaper in content area high school classes! and i’m really impressed to hear that most of your colleagues, in fact, use newspapers. i’m typically in elementary schools, and that may be one big difference here, but i also really agree with your basic argument, that maybe “we need to remind teachers of simple and effective classroom strategies.” in fact, i have instituted an “in the news” 15 minutes in each of my undergraduate and graduate courses to discuss local, national, and international news and their relevance to academic curricula. after the first night of a masters level course, several teachers announced they were going to begin using newspapers in their classrooms the following day.

    so many teachers are under so many pressures here in the u.s., especially in “under-performing districts” that i do, indeed, believe that some folks have simply forgotten about some of the most simple strategies that consistently promote powerful literacies in and out of the content areas.

    thanks for the reminder.

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