Everyday Math: Still Sucks (even more, actually)

We had a staff development meeting today. This is when all the 1st and 2nd grade teachers get together and are developed. Professionally. The only problem with the moniker is that neither word fits! It is not very professional sitting in itty-bitty chairs watching some cat-lady treat us like her students as she models a lesson. Nor is there anything being developed!

The whole faculty of 3 or 4 schools left the thing complaining. We complained about the cat-lady who should never be around other adults. We complained about the chairs and lack of snacks (remember, teachers cannot just "go to the bathroom" or grab a soda whenever we feel like it. We have kids to supervise. So, if you are going to drag us to a meeting after 6 hours of kids, give us some damn food and drink.).

So...the staff development focused on our new math program, Everyday Math. It sucks. Even before we started listening to the cat-lady we were all talking about the fact that Everyday Math begins with money in 2nd grade. Bad place to start, as I mentioned in another post.

The cat-lady had lots of difficulty getting us to stay on task because we didn't understand the tasks. They are rather elusive. Like, why are we getting 1st week 2nd graders to figure out how to make change (she talked about the fact that many adults can't make correct change. Oh. Really? So fucking what?) Her answer was that it is just being introduced. They don't have to master it.

think about that answer for a minute...................................
keep thinking............................................................................

Ok? Was it an answer to my question? No! She did this many, many times. She interrupted my question, didn't understand it, and proved she has no idea why the materials ask us to introduce a concept that is ill-posed this early in the year.

Introducing small children to new concepts is fine. But creating a curriculum that does this when reality shows us that kids are too disparate to be taught all at once (which Everyday Math requires) is just silly. Kids will need to be pulled separately for remediation. Of course, this is not written anywhere. It is not written because to write it would be to show the lack of thought put into the curriculum's design and it's target--small children who are all over the map in terms of common skills.

This is the problem with NCLB, or education if you are a teacher hater.

It was an embarrassment for me to be in the meeting, and it would be an embarrassment for you if you were there and then had to tell someone who matters what you saw in the meeting.

The woman had 35 years of teaching experience (so what, McCain had nearly 30 years of Senatoring, and he is a moron). Apparently, to the administrators of school districts across this great nation, 35 years means you know what you're doing. Let's not allow this nonsense.

Also, my questions were pedagogical in nature. I do not need second grade math explained to me. What I needed explained was the basis for the claims being made by the cat-lady and the Everyday Math coach who was there (constantly asking the cat-lady to explain the materials to her! I shit you not!). My questions included things like, "What am I assessing when I make the child take the formative assessment that includes a new-fangled, highly irregular way of explaining the commutative and associative properties? Am I assessing their understanding of the new-fangled thing, or their understanding of the math standard the thing is supposed to illuminate?" Her answer was something like "I do what I'm told".

There was a principal in the room, and he felt the anger. He seems smart and he tried to validate some of our concerns. He lost me when he said "At least we are talking about math." What! At least we are talking about math! We can do better than that, can't we? Why set your math-sights so low?

This is how education is going to go. We teachers are being scripted, and we are being made to use materials that will inevitably be replaced, including the silly, made-up language for things we already have language for (I've ranted on this before, too), causing another generation of kids to have to figure out the normal words long after they have internalized the silliness.

[an aside: Before I could get into my credential program 10 years ago (I started late!) I had to take a math prerequisite. The teacher, a young college professor from Hayward (now CSU East Bay) made it clear that many of us were taught math incorrectly, and he would straighten us out. He did! And we had been taught crazy shit when we were kids, we found out.

We are doing the same thing to each generation of children as we flail to find the "killer app", the perfect curriculum that will allow make
all kids learn (my least favorite, vapid, Education phrase). Can't we use the terms those in the field use? Enough with the made up stuff!]

The worst part is that the public is being slowly convinced that teachers suck, need staff development, and the staff development works.

The truth is teachers don't suck (most of us, some of us do), don't need staff development (they need time to meet together, share ideas, visit each others classrooms to see each other in action) and the staff development does not work. In fact it sucks. Didn't you just read what I wrote above?!

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