I just finished reading the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and basically… I was SO inspired by Donalyn Miller’s passion for authentic, thoughtful, intentional teaching and her commitment to teaching in a way that brings about real, life changing, learning for her students. Ms. Miller shows us how she brings about genuine learning that becomes internalized, as opposed to the kind of temporary superficial learning that is often the result of unexamined teaching practices ( “unexamined wallpaper”) or practices is which the main objective is to produce an acceptable score on a standardized test. She demonstrates the motivational power of tapping into children’s interests and building honest, respectful, trusting relationships with students.
Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:
When people criticize or question how she is preparing her students for the negative experiences they will no doubt face as they move on to other grade levels she writes…
“Why should I subject students to negative experiences now in order to prepare them for negative experiences later?”
She also says, “The purpose of school should not be to prepare students for more school. We should be seeking to have fully engaged students now.”
This is often the frustration we feel in early childhood education when there is pressure to be teaching preschoolers as if they were kindergarteners or first graders, all of which is developmentally inappropriate. What results is most children feeling frustrated and they fail to see themselves as learners. I think we are doing children a terrible disservice if children leave our classrooms feeling school is a negative thing.
I appreciate her stand on standardized tests. “I have no issue with standardized testing per se; I believe that students who cannot pass the minimal expectations set by these tests are not good readers. What I have grown to mistrust is how the high-stakes nature of these tests has disrupted quality reading instruction.”
I agree that accountability is necessary in this day and age. However, when good teaching practices are being jeopardized in order to guarantee high test scores, I think teachers and administration have a responsibility to reevaluate those teaching practices and ask what is best for the students “real” learning… Not just how do we get them to pass this test… Miller has shown that with authentic, intentional, instruction, students will pass those tests, no need to “teach to the test.”
I love that she addresses the use of promotional programs that give out rewards…
And I love that she addresses practices that are left unevaluated because they are “… so entrenched in school culture or a teacher’s paradigm that their ability to affect student learning is never probed.” She goes on to ask, “Are the activities and assessments we use accomplishing our intended instructional goals, or are them simply what we have always done?”
Miller offers a priceless insight into her very successful Language Arts program but more than that she gives us a glimpse into a reflective teachers mind, helping us as teachers rethink not just how we teach children about just one subject like “reading” but how we teach everything!
LOVE THIS BOOK!