Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Lauren Cohen on Teacher Voice and the UFT Election

I've known Lauren Cohen for about two years now. She really impressed me with her quiet dignity as the UFT Unity loyalty oath signers tried to bully her into shutting up at a NYSUT Convention. But Lauren is more than that. She is quick-witted and analytical, understanding things instantly and responding intelligently. In short, she's the sort of person I'd want representing me, and as it happens, she's running for VP of Elementary in the UFT election.

In the video below, Lauren speaks of the new and coming thing, scripted and timed lessons. I've read about them and they sound awful. I mean, if you are a teacher, you should have something to offer beyond being one chapter ahead of the kids in the textbook. I say that as someone who taught out of subject for years, and actually was one chapter ahead. I'm much more comfortable teaching what I know well, and my students benefit from having a teacher who can actually answer their questions.

I have heard of teachers being timed, spending five minutes on this, two minutes on that, and actually timing themselves so they wouldn't go over. I'm very grateful to not have been subject to such things, as I'd probably have to reserve the last two minutes for jumping out a window. One of the great joys of this job is interacting with the kids. I don't see how you do that when you're on a tight schedule.

"Sorry, but I've already used up the eight minutes I'd allotted for this section of the lesson."

I'm just not feeling it. In fact, the very best lessons I've ever given were only that way because some crazy kid, or some crazy group of kids, moved them in directions I hadn't expected. If a kid gets up, pushes me aside, and takes over my class, I'm not gonna tell the kid to sit down because I had a minute and a half of silent reading scheduled.

Teachers need to guide and move the conversation about what good teaching is. I'll bet any kid in front of Lauren Cohen every day has a very good notion. I ask you to vote for her, to vote for me, and to vote for MORE/ New Action 2016.

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