New Year's Resolutions for Teachers (Part Two)

Here is the second installment of my teacher New Year’s resolution posts (continued from January 4th-you can read it HERE).

2.) This year, I will ensure that students have a firm foundation in basic skills and cursive.

First, I teach at a parochial middle school, so my students come from a variety of backgrounds. While many have been in our school from Pre-K, others have just moved into the community or have transferred from other schools. Because of this situation, I have to be very careful to accurately assess students’ academic foundation skills.

The Common Core State Standards advocate starting “right in” with the main curriculum for the year from day one, without taking the traditional time to review material from the previous year. While this practice makes sense, trusting that students have mastered the requisite basic skills can lead to frustration and failure when unprepared students attempt to learn new material. Using a formative assessment at the beginning of the school year will help me recognize areas where students may need some remediation. I can then work independently with these children to fill the gaps and help set the foundation to build a strong education.

Second, I have an axe to grind on the issue of cursive.

I have heard from both camps:

A. “Cursive is a dying art. Let’s teach it and promote it so that we don’t lose it,” 

B. “Cursive is a dying art. Let’s smoosh it under a pillow until it suffocates.”  

I am ambivalent about learning to WRITE in cursive, but learning to READ in cursive is critical for this generation if we don’t want to have a group of selectively illiterate kids. While parochial schools stand firmly in the “Go, cursive!” camp, I have several new students who have never learned cursive. If I-even using the latest in technology-my ELMO and my Smartboard-write annotations or information in cursive, these children do not understand what I have written. So-as no 14-year-old boy wants to admit that he cannot read the notes on the board or his teacher’s commentary on a paper or project-I do two things to help. I try to print, and I acquire cursive primers for these children.

However, the problem does not end with me. Today’s managers and employers have all grown up writing cursive. If it is hard for a kid to tell his teacher he doesn’t understand cursive, how much more embarrassing and difficult will it be for him to tell his new boss? If we fail to teach our children to write in cursive, they can manage through printing and typing. If we fail to teach them to READ cursive, then we fail our children.