Michael Fenton is a boss.

This is the most terrifying thing that I’ve read in a while:

If the lesson was a train, then it pulled slowly out of the station, flew off the rails, crashed into something big and destructive and flammable, and burst into flames. At least there was no ambiguity. It was undeniably horrible.

When I realized the depravity of our situation, I called for everyone’s attention in order to make an announcement:

Hey guys, this isn’t going well, and it’s my fault. I didn’t prepare for this lesson as well as I should have. I want everyone to stop working on the handout and find something else to do. You can work on something from another class or just relax and chat with your friends. I’m going to sit down to rewrite the handout. If I can fix what’s broken in 5 or 10 minutes, we may resume. If not, we’ll pick things up tomorrow.

At the center of Michael’s post is a redesign that turned this into this.

What changed?

For one, it’s certainly clear that he lightened the tone in his new version, adding a bit more expository support and generally giving kids a bit more space to work. The instructions are dished out in smaller chunks. He also added a whole prequel to the Key Curriculum worksheet that checks in on their ability to solve systems graphically in Cartesian coordinates. He also added support questions to flesh out the original handout.

What are Michael’s assumptions? What were the curriculum developer’s assumptions? Why did they diverge?


One thought on “Michael Fenton is a boss.

  1. mrdardy says:

    I found Michael’s post thought-provoking as well. My initial reaction to your questions here is to ‘slightly’ defend the Key Curriculum writers a bit here. What Michael was able to do that they were not was to incorporate in depth knowledge of HIS students and their knowledge base. I think that this is a pretty powerful object lesson about the need for us to carefully scaffold and support not only our students in the classroom but also any lesson ideas that we borrow from our publisher, from our virtual colleagues on the web, even from our colleagues across the hall. What was inspiring to me was Michael’s willingness – even insistence – on interrupting the ‘progress’ of his class that day. I wish I had that sense of perseverance and that willingness to step back and reorganize on the fly.

    So – to address your questions, my guess is that the assumption underlying the publishers work that is most important is this: Students have internalized the lessons previously presented but that is all that they have accomplished. Without specific knowledge of individual classrooms, it is impossible for text authors to reflect the rich context in each room. It is incumbent upon us to bring that knowledge to the table.

    I see Michael’s post as an object lesson to the limitations of using material produced by others and an inspiration to being aware of those limitations as we work.

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