Northeast Times

Adaire School teacher speaks out in support of writing

FROM WIKI­ME­DIA COM­MONS

Fishtown Eng­lish edu­cat­or Christina Long says that when next year’s dis­trict cur­riculum shifts, stu­dents must be pre­pared to write well.

Christina Long has taught Eng­lish to 7th and 8th grade stu­dents at Fishtown’s Al­ex­an­der Adaire School, 1300 E. Palmer St., for six years, and she’s pas­sion­ate about her work.

So pas­sion­ate, in fact, that she wrote an opin­ion-ed­it­or­i­al let­ter that was pub­lished in The Phil­adelphia In­quirer at the end of Janu­ary en­titled, “Bet­ter writ­ing, bet­ter schools.”

In the piece, Long dis­cussed the im­port­ance of a co­hes­ive writ­ing pro­gram in the school dis­trict, which she wrote she feels is lack­ing in fa­vor of “dumbed-down for­mu­las for an­swer­ing es­say ques­tions on stand­ard­ized tests.”

“They’re so bored,” Long said in a phone in­ter­view last week, of stu­dents who ex­per­i­ence writ­ing tasks catered only to stand­ard­ized tests.

“The writ­ing has to get out there,” she said. “They don’t want to write a story and put it in a folder.”

At Adaire, Long said, she helps her stu­dents put their writ­ing “out there” by cre­at­ing unique activ­it­ies to de­vel­op their writ­ing and think­ing skills. Last week, she said, her stu­dents wrote ar­gu­ment­at­ive es­says, with evid­ence and quo­ta­tions from ex­perts, on chal­len­ging top­ics like gun con­trol, gay mar­riage and con­dom dis­tri­bu­tion in schools. Then, they de­bated the top­ics with one an­oth­er.

“It really works,” she said of such activ­it­ies that en­gage stu­dents and chal­lenge their minds. “Some of them even said [after the de­bates] ‘my brain hurts,’” Long said with a laugh.

Long wrote in her piece, “Des­pite the area’s high poverty [at Adaire], most of our stu­dents read and write at grade level by eighth grade…For my stu­dents, who have read en­tire nov­els and writ­ten com­plex es­says, tak­ing the state tests is akin to jump­ing the low hurdles after be­ing trained on the high.”

She ex­plained over the phone that when the state’s com­mon core cur­riculum stand­ards are im­ple­men­ted next year, all stu­dents will have to pro­duce in­form­a­tion­al and ar­gu­ment­at­ive es­says like the ones her Adaire stu­dents pro­duce, and all teach­ers have to start pre­par­ing stu­dents now.

Long wrote in her piece that the city has plenty of ex­perts who could help de­vel­op a writ­ing cur­riculum and train teach­ers.

The shift to the core stand­ards, she said on the phone, is a great one.

“The core stand­ards are go­ing to force teach­ers to fo­cus on writ­ing,” she said. “I think it’s go­ing to get us back to the good stuff.”

Christina Long can be reached at christin­along1@ve­r­i­zon.net.

Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on can be reached at 215-354-3113 or mjam­is­on@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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