So here I am in the MLK Ballroom of the Decatur Holiday Inn blogging. I feel so hip and cool. I could be a political pundit what with this ability to blog during important events. I guess that to prove that claim, however, I really need to talk a bit less about me and a bit more about the conference.
NOTE: I've tried to indicate the phrases that Probst spoke with quotation marks. That said, this is not a transcript of the presentation, but a rough paraphrase, typed as he talked.
Bob Probst is speaking now, after an amazing tag team introduction by two past presidents who made reference to dear old Bob's problems with the FBI. Bob says that the rumors are unfounded. He's moved smoothly into a discussion of reading and how we read, with an amazingly smooth and lovely reading voice I might add.
His presentation is focusing on an extended comparison to diving. Before he moved to the Florida Keys, his expereience was very grounded in specific, detailed rules. As a diving instructor, he insisted upon drills and skills and absolute adherence to rules. After his move, he found that all that deteriorated. That there was "a disconnect between what he thought, what he knew, and what he was actually doing."
He then went onto take a class on diesel mechanics. And again, the reading in the text, the instructions, fell short of what he actually found himself doing.
To connect to the teaching of English, he emphasizes that though there is perhaps a disconnect between what we teach and what we learn in the classroom, it has to do with how the situation of the classroom transfers (or doesn't) to the "real world." "We teach kids to deal with things like metaphor" he says. "It's an utter waste of time," Probst says. "We want students to go out into the world and see an image or hear a song and have it 'work'; not to spend all their time trying to decide whether a particular image is a metaphor or a simile."
Another example of a soldier returning from Iraq comparing his work to being in the superbowl. And yet, there are "very sharp distinctions between football and blowing up cities." "Bombing over Baghdad people died." "The soldier's metaphor, as wonderful as it was in some ways, failed in other. There are differences, subtleties, that are missing."
More examples of "disconnects." Letting metaphor go unexamined, unconsidered. "We need to ask more questions and explore things more closely, and it is our job as English teachers to help students develop the intellectual predisposition to look at what the metaphor reveals and what it hides." We must teach students to read closely.
War has a variety of definitions. War as a conflict between states. War as a social agenda. Although there are similarities, there are very important differences. These differences are what we need students to realize. If students confuse these two terms "we really screw things up." If we conduct a war on poverty by bombing East St. Louis, we really make a lot of people unhappy." When we talk about a war on terrorism, we are making a mistake.
Another example: "mission accomplished""there are a number of questions that even a competent 6th graders should be able to raise about such a statement. A well-trained student, we must hope, wouldn't let such a phrase just hang there." When s/he does, become "a victim. Become people who have been victimized by language."
Exploration of connections to Rosenblatt's work. "If we don't teach kids to read texts responSIVEly [his emphasis], if we let them forget about metaphors and what they do, if we don't explore language and raise questions, democracy is in jeopardy."
The real job of an English teacher over the next years is to teach kids to understand how language works, not how a specific poem works. We must teach students to ask questions, to not let language go by unexplored and unchallenged. The critical thing we need to be working for is to develop the habits of mind.
Sharon mentioned yesterday that Probst was doing work on the rhetoric of war. The topic came up because we were talking about Night
, which I taught in a FYC class that focused on the special topic "Rhetoric of War." It seemed interesting yesterday when Sharon mentioned it; but now I see how the topic is connecting to his thinking. His discussion drew many of the various threads together for me. He might say that he took those "disconnects" in my thinking and connected them in meaningful ways.
Without a doubt, I knew that there were important questions about the ways that we talk about "war," and I think that realization is clear in my List of Ten on the Rhetoric of War
. I've tried to ask students to explore language and how it works in several lists actually. But I don't think that I had mentally woven the connections between that kind of thinking and general teaching strategies for how we teach students to read the world
I'm not completely sure that I can explain the connections completely right now. But I felt like I understood an important connection. I still do. I just don't have the words for it yet.
Tags: English language arts |
K12 instruction |