Monday, May 25, 2015

Down the Shore.

I was talking with a colleague last week who was surprised to learn that I didn't grow up in Lancaster County.  Given, I've lived here nearly 27 years, but my roots are in Montgomery County, outside of Philadelphia, with a brief stint after we were first married in Drexel Hill and Broomall.

"Wait.  you don't have  a Delco accent!" claimed my co-worker.  I began vigorously defending myself, claiming that Delaware County accents are reserved for those in Ridley Park and Folsom.  (I know this because my friend, Cathy, proves this to me all the time.   She's been out of Delco for 30 years and still has the signature sound...)

Regardless of whether one was raised in Delco or Montco, or any of the other counties surrounding Philadelphia, weekends like this were reserved for a trip "Down the Shore."   Sure, the rest of the world may call that sandy place at the water's edge "the beach," but they're clearly ill-informed.
Urban Dictionary is also wrong, for the record.  UD claims that Down the Shore   

...is what people here in New Jersey call going to the beach. What some people don't get, however, is that this is more the term used to discribe (sic) the trip taken while going "down the shore" from your home in an inland county or town. The drive to whichever beach town you are going to be spending time in is going down the shore, but once you're there you simply go to the beach. Now that we're down the shore, let's head to the beach.

I object.  Except for the part about proclaiming the next destination as "the beach" once you've arrived down the shore.

Oh, and the trip to the beach didn't involve GPS, Siri, or electronics when I was a kid.  (Except for that summer that we went to Ocean City with the Hindleys, and we used walkie talkies between the cars...)  We had good old fashioned maps, and knew that every single shore destination could be reached, simply by passing Olga's Diner, the landmark to end all traffic landmarks, in New Jersey.

Objectives vs. Outcomes

When it comes to education these days, it seems like it's more about the destination, and less about the ride.  Certainly Common Core Standards have offered a definitive end to justify the means by which we educate learners, but there is so much more focus on the planning than the journey itself.   When I was in college studying to be a teacher (admittedly, this was LAST CENTURY), we were instructed to write objectives.   The basic formula for those antiquated objectives was this:

GIVEN (something to do the task), STUDENTS will (define student performance) with (percentage) of PROFICIENCY.

We wrote these objectives, and sketched out a few steps for the lesson to be taught, within the confines of a two inch by four inch box in our plan books.  Oh, and we did them in pencil, to allow for fluidity and change.  
The focus today is much more about the planning.  So much so, that many teachers are feeling less than creative in their actual presentations of lessons, using more creativity to satisfy the requirements of using specific standards, activating strategies, and summarizing strategies to meet the demands of Common Core.  Some districts have adopted templates for lesson plans that are pages long, instead of boxes in a plan book, and gathering data upon data to justify what they've taught.  Objectives have been replaced by Essential Questions which give students ownership of the lesson -- if they remember to look at the posting on the board -- to review and compartmentalize their learning.

It's a wonder that anyone under the old paradigm learned anything, if you consider the criticism of 20th century teaching in today's world.

Bottom line:  It's still about the journey, for teachers.   It's the day to day process of seeing kids excited about learning, and discovering new things, that makes a teacher, not the scores on their performance evaluation or their students' standardized test scores.  It's that look in their eyes when they see the ocean for the first time, or find the perfect seashell.

Teachers know that there are many ways to get many students from Olga's Diner to the shore, and that the AC Expressway is not right for everyone -- because if it were, it would have everyone sitting at a standstill in traffic that would last until Labor Day.