A friend in Sewickley recommended The Smartest Kids in the World: and how they got that way and I am glad they did. This was a super interesting book, and it really gets you thinking. The author, Amanda Ripley is a really great writer. She is an investigative journalist and the book is really accessible and interesting. Super well done. I had never heard of the PISA test, so it was interesting to learn about PISA and how it started this whole project of Ripley's. When I went to the PISA website I took the sample question and got it wrong. Very sad. But not surprising. It was math related and I have always had a fear of math.
I can see now that my fear of math has hurt me. It is odd that now I teach a preschool math class and it is my most favorite class in the world.
The book takes a look at exchange students from the US who travel to Finland, Poland and South Korea. These countries both scored very highly on the PISA tests. Poland's scores were particularly interesting because their changes came in such a short period of time.
I wasn't sure what I was expecting the book to say. I figured that the United States wouldn't come in super high compared to some other countries, but when it appeared as low as it did, I was surprised. Here is a nice summary of the results. Here is some criticism of the PISA test. And here is my man, Jonathan Kozol on this book, referred to in the criticism of the PISA test link. Reign of Error is on my to-read list.
Ripley then sets out to figure out some kind of explanation for these results and I was surprised by some of her findings. One of the things that she said that really made sense to me was that in Finland, teachers are held in high regard. They are the cream of the crop and they are treated as such. It makes me super mad when I hear so much criticism about teachers. I am not a teacher, nor do I have the gifts and skills necessary to be one.
Just this week one of our local news channels offered the teaser that our students might have to go to school on Saturdays because of the bad weather and teachers' strike that happened last fall. It was unreal, the hateful backlash that filled Facebook and Twitter after people heard just this teaser. This was the headline: Shaler Considering Saturday Classes to Make Up Snow, Strike Days.
Well, actual truth, as revealed in the story, is that "Saturday Classes" would be a graduation practice just for seniors.
A graduation practice.
Just for seniors.
Now I am not going to vent about this TV station's ridiculous reporting. Everyone knows that TV stations are known for this kind of garbage. It isn't even worth the typing exercise. It's like this, but warning, there is strong language in the video. This one, too. But the hateful comments that were posted on Facebook were unreal. Before knowing the story, and there wasn't even a real story here, people were ripping the teachers apart.
I wonder how many of those hateful comments came from people who really know what a teacher's life is like. There is no way that those critics have seen the teachers that I have seen. Our teachers are committed and caring professionals. Teaching is their life. Anyway...don't get me started! Why don't we treat our teachers like the folks in Finland do! Blah!
Okay, rant over.
Anyway, very thought-provoking book.
What's Going On Here?
There are SO MANY wonderful book review blogs out there and I can't compete with them, that is for sure. So this is not a book review blog. This is just a way for me to organize what I have read so that I can be better at matching the right book to the right person. The blog title comes from the brilliant mind of the most talented woman who ever lived, Ms. Judy Garland. The full quote is, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else." That is what I hope to do here and in ever aspect of my life.