One of the first conversations that my principal engaged me in was about the use of “workbooks”. While it wasn’t a practice that his mindset and philosophy embraced, he acknowledged that it was a means to an end. Scores were inevitably higher, skills were inevitable ingrained, and it seemed successful.
While in technology, we worked a lot with test prep programs. No names needed, you know which ones I’m talking about. I embrace these programs, I do. I’ve even done some consulting for them. That being said, I don’t feel that they replace authentic teaching and learning. Nor do I think a workbook does.
What I do think is that they resemble a candy bar. A snickers, if you will. It serves its purpose in the short term. Your belly is sated, your brain thinks you’re full, and it seems successful. In about an hour though…you’re hungry again. This was the analogy we used when talking about test prep, whether it be a program or a workbook. Short term memory is great…in the short term. When we’re talking about authentic learning, long lasting learning…applicational learning that can be drawn on for the years to come…we’re not talking about a snickers bar.
Which brings me to the magic bullet. I mentioned on Twitter that I was really resistant to using ANY of our limited budget monies for workbooks, even as a reference tool. Had a teacher in my PLN (@JamieVanderG) tweet me that “we use them because anything but top notch test scores mean we get told we don’t do enough and have to do better”, that “on paper kids feel the pressure too”, which made me SO sad. I really hope none of my LL’s feel that the only way they can be effective, that their “silver bullet” is to use a workbook. Another tweep, @ScottElias, said, which I thought was genius, “Why are we always looking for the silver bullet? We have time & instruction directly in our control. There’s your silver bullet”.
YOU are the silver magic bullet. YOU are the difference in a child’s learning. YOU can manipulate the time in your day to make SURE a student sees the lesson objective and grasps them. Teachers are the masters of invention. Utilize every minute of your instructional time. I saw a class on Friday reviewing vocabulary words while lining up in the hall on Thursday. Every single minute counts.
Todd Whitaker, on a previous post here left a comment that “One of the best things about teaching is that it matters. One of the greatest challenges about teaching is that it matters every day.” That’s never been more true!