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Dear Superintendent and Administrators

Posted on 2011.06.10 at 01:04
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Dear Superintendent,

In a curriculum meeting today we were discussing integrating writing into all other content areas, in addition to math and reading that we already integrate. I am weary of seeing us place band-aids on symptoms of a much deeper problem rather than just addressing it. I'm not an administrator and I know I can't see everything they do, but I am charged with the musical education of my students and that is being sacrificed repeatedly...our curriculum, even as we are working on it, will not be possible if this trend continues.

The premise of these meetings was that we need to improve thinking--which includes thinking creatively and deeply. I may hear them say that is what they want, but the actions are that they are only encouraging the same type of thinking and if the students don't get it, we should teach that subject in classes where they are thinking. This is backwards. I don't know what they aren't getting in their other classes making it difficult to even relate to them, but a connection made in my class still doesn't help them if the connection back is not made in the math class, for example. If I am teaching thinking in my content area, why would I need to teach thinking through another content area if the other content area never relates back to me to fully form the connection in the student's thinking?

Connections occur naturally in music, but asking us to teach it increasingly out of context just for the sake of teaching more (quantitative) is at the expense of their musical education. I am not a math teacher and you don't want me to teach math because I cannot give the same mathematical education a math teacher does (qualitative). Naturally occurring is key, for example--we did a music piece, Dreidel. I brought up it was an Israeli folk tune. They thought Israel was in Asia... So we looked at where it was on a map, talked briefly about where it was, who lived there, etc. Suddenly they started to connect it to the Middle East and a place of constant unrest, close to where the oil is, etc. The whole process took maybe five minutes, but it formed a connection to both geography and history, as well as the current state of the world. If I had then taken it, as it feels is being implied, to write about it, we would never have connected it to music defeating the purpose. Moreover, writing a sentence or two in my classroom to pretend it's not an intrusion on my curriculum will not be sufficient to make a true connection to writing.

My question with what we did today--what is the real problem? Is it writing or is it thinking? If it's thinking, asking the classes that force them to think and allows for multiple intelligences, learning styles, and concepts of mind was it?, to add someone else's curriculum to it will not be sufficient to improve their thinking skills; only hinder them further. Cheating one curriculum to develop another is not a viable solution to improving student achievement and preparing them for life.

My concern is the type of thinking that permeates a lot of schools and administration. When my middle school adopted new strategies, we had administrators in our rooms every week for about two years. Principals, administrators, etc.--anyone making a change must 1. commit to it and 2. be held accountable for it--at all levels. I feel the problem is ADULT thinking. There is no such thing as core and non-core; you don't think in one and not the other...this implication creates a negative environment to both teach and learn in and only separates us when we need to be unified for the sake of the students. If we are teaching thinking--all of us--we are all important and that is not the attitude in most buildings, although there are some exceptions. It's obvious where those exceptions are because those buildings are succeeding. Also, everything I heard today was from the teacher perspective...while I am sure that was just because only so much can be encompassed in one meeting, it does make me want to ask if we are looking at what is best for the students, not just the teachers?

I'm already teaching in hallways, having students pulled all the time--or completely, asked to teach across curriculum without proper resources, etc. From a teacher perspective, it feels the general consensus is my class does not matter save in the buildings where the principal decides it does...places where the principal wants the staff to work together, across all curriculum BOTH ways thus forming true and accessible connections in student thinking and improving student achievement. I believe addressing thinking is on the right path, and again I can't see all that an administrator does, but are we still limiting ourselves to previously failed solutions? Our children aren't inside the box of what the old teaching styles were centered around so to speak, so we must start thinking outside the box ourselves if we want to truly address the heart of the matter and help the students.

An Orchestra Director (Teacher)

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