Is Learning Stark and Bare?

There’s an interesting op-ed in the Washington Post today by Diana Senechal, entitled “Teaching Without Gimmicks.”

Now heaven knows there are lots of gimmicks in teaching, many of them pedaled by people I’m not sure have our students’ best interests at heart. What’s interesting about this article, however, is the things which the author categorizes as gimmicks; they include objectives, charts or graphic organizers, “turn-and-talk” activities, visual displays, no success slogans.”

Learning is “often stark and bare” according to Ms. Senechal. We should not try to dress it up. She goes on to describe an ideal lesson which as best as I can tell is a close reading of a poem directed by a teacher.

Look, I love a good close reading, but is that really the sum of good teaching?

I believe deeply in the beauty of the subjects that we teach, but I also don’t think I can will students into finding them beautiful. While I don’t intend to be a carnival barker, I’m also not opposed to a bit of a sales pitch to get the customer in the door.

Ultimately, I believe that learning is a joyous, wonderful, difficult, messy process, anything but stark and bare.


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