Sunday, July 18, 2010


My mind works in a way that seems to trend away from the nitty-gritty. For an example pertinent to the subject of this post, consider contrasting methods of teaching reading comprehension. I would instantly get bogged down in assessing comparative merit on grounds of efficacy. Failing the availability of hard numbers demonstrating the superiority of either method, I would presume variance in learning propensities would call for the implementation of both methods.

My justification would cue the keen observer to my preference for a less efficient but more egalitarian distribution of resources. One method may be better suited for students with innate reading abilities, more likely to benefit from strengthening such abilities and with greater overall prospects for future success. The other method may be better suited to students who experience more difficulty in processing language. Visual learners may be better suited to develop comprehension skills by direct exposure to text, while oratory learners may benefit from listening to stories read aloud. In a community populated by a high proportion of illiterate parents, visual learners with access to books will succeed at a higher rate than oratory learners.

Who do we target? There are a number of considerations. Instead of digressing further into considerations as to the likelihood of children with illiterate parents to learn to read at all, or the cost of making books available to those children while literate families are more likely to be able to afford books on their own, I would sooner abstract to policy level considerations regarding the trade-offs between increasing the availability of books to students and a campaign targeting adult literacy. Evaluating myself as a resource, I would quickly conclude that I was better suited to aiding policy decisions of this sort than making the in-classroom decisions regarding proportional implementation of various teaching methods (where the reality is more biting: Teach this girl here, today, as best you can).

I don't see the student in front of me. I see the hundreds of students like her, and calculate teaching decisions based on the hypothetical policy level implementation of that decision: What decision would best benefit those hundreds of students? I ask myself this question before assessing the individual needs of the child standing in front of me. This is what I mean when I say my brain trends away from the nitty-gritty. Perhaps I don't want to be responsible for the consequences the decision will have on Patricia. I am more comfortable with the impact of a decision on the students of St. Andrew's Parish as a whole. Some will benefit more than others, and I want to augment aggregate benefit. I am almost irritated by case-by-case assessment. However, I am not in the position to be making such decisions. Wherever my talents actually lay, I am in the field, for better or worse, and I have to deal with Patricia.

No comments:

Post a Comment