“I Let My Students Read Outside Today”

a photograph by Sonja Bingen

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U.S. educational policy today emphasizes “informational text” and performing well on standardized tests based upon a “common core” of knowledge.  The academics, businesspeople, and politicians who insist upon such nonsense have clearly forgotten what learning is all about.  My two daughters, Sonja Bingen and Mary Wood, both teachers, remember how their love of learning was originally sparked, so they are actually teachers who work to instill a love of learning in their students.  If the educational theorists would take a vacation from their heavy thoughts and the hieroglyphics of statistics generated from assessment data and spend some time in Sonja’s classroom reading with her students beneath a blooming fruit tree in early spring, perhaps they would remember that it is not knowledge, but an entertaining book or an excited teacher capable of waking a young mind that leads to learning.  Maybe then they would stop all the unnecessary testing and pontificating and begin to give teachers the support and freedom they need to generate the drive to learn that enriches those lucky enough to have lost themselves in a book on a gloriously sunny day spent outside in the school’s yard.


Filed under Essays, Photography, Thomas Davis

18 responses to ““I Let My Students Read Outside Today”

  1. This should be proclaimed from every mountain top!
    It used to be called wisdom; then knowledge; and today it is called information. When I was a school librarian my formal title was “Manager of the Information Landscape”.
    In my final week of teaching music – after 30 years – I sent the students outside in twos with a bell, a bottle and a jug of water. They had to tune the bottle with water so it played the same note as the bell. The headmaster came and screamed “EVERYONE GET BACK INSIDE AND DO SOME WORK”. That was the last time I taught. As one student said: “Sir, why not work at McDonalds where they’ll treat you with respect?”
    Thanks for that, Thomas – and sorry for going on!

  2. In the large urban high school where I taught, they began to bring in “consultants” ( people who had never worked in a real classroom but had degrees in educational administration) to conduct (for big bucks from the department of ed) “training” of veteran teachers in the latest “innovations” in methods and philosophy. The year that it became compulsory to attend sessions in which we were blasted with various games and techniques intended to make us realize that we were unknowingly racist in our “white privileged” hearts and needed to admit this…..I resigned, and never looked back.

    • My youngest daughter’s schools in Green Bay are so challenged financially. She is always spending hundreds of dollars on supplies or books. Still, the District is always bringing in high priced consultants. She travels between schools and spends the whole summer preparing for the inner city kids she loves to work with, but she is never consulted about curriculum even after a 17 year and counting career. Education as a career has been devalued, and the fewest young people in decades are choosing it for a career. The Education schools around the country are de-populated. I wonder why.

  3. extrasimile

    One of my favorite memories as a teacher is when I happened to look over at a student who was working on a project I had set for him. He has a silly little smile on his face—a secret smile, one of complete absorption and satisfaction. Have we forgotten that learning can and should be fun?.

    • I think we have, Jim. It’s become political in a tremendously unhealthy way. You look at the common core, and you quickly become convinced that it was written by academics trying to please politicians and businesspeople rather than to make learning happen as a joy in the life of a student.

  4. Too little teaching
    Too much schooling.

  5. When I was in high school we would occasionally go outside for class if the day was warm and dry. There was something very freeing about that. And it certainly didn’t make me lose respect for the teachers that initiated it. If anything, I think we felt more of a rapport with them.

  6. We have the very same foolishness here in England. Such a shame!

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