Dead Poets Society Teaching


The Robert J. Marzano, PhD. system of teacher evaluation kind of reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Dead Poets Society. Mr. John Keating, played by the late Robin Williams, was a passionate teacher that loved poetry. He introduced the poetry textbook to the class and had one of the students read out loud the introduction…

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"Gentlemen, open your text to page 21 of the introduction. Mr. Perry, will you read the opening paragraph of the preface, entitled “Understanding Poetry” by Dr. J. Evans Prichard, PhD."

"To fully understand poetry, we must first be fluent with its meter, rhyme, and figures of speech. Then ask two questions: one, how artfully had the objective of the poem been rendered? And, two, how important is the objective of the poem. Question 1 rates the poem’s perfection. Question 2 rates its importance. And once these questions have been answered, determining the poems greatness becomes a relatively simple matter. If the poem’s score for perfection is plotted on the horizontal line graph and it’s importance is plotted on the vertical. Then, calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness. A sonnet by Byron might score high on the vertical, but only average on the horizontal. A Shakespearean sonnet, on the other hand, would score high both horizontally and vertically, yielding a massive total area, thereby revealing the poem to be truly great. As you proceed through the poetry in this book, practice this rating method. As your ability to evaluate poems in this manner grows, so will your enjoyment and understanding of poetry."

"Excrement—That’s what I think of J. Evans Prichard. We’re not laying pipe, we’re talking about poetry. How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand, “Well, I like Byron, I give him a 42, but I can’t dance to him.” Now, I want you to rip that page out. Go on—rip out the entire page—you heard me, rip it out. Rip it out! Go on, rip it out. Thank you, Mr. Dalton. Gentlemen, tell you what, not just tear out that page, tear out the entire introduction. I want it gone, history, leave nothing of it. Rip it out, Rip—Be gone J. Evans Prichard, PhD. Rip, Rip, Shred, Tear, Rip it Out, I want to hear nothing but ripping of Mr. Prichard. We’ll perforate it and put it on a roll. It’s not the Bible, you’re not going to go to hell for this. Go on, make a clean tear…I want nothing left of it."

"This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls. Armies of academics going forward measuring poetry…no…we will not have that here. No more Mr. J. Evans Prichard. Now in my class you will learn to think for yourself again, you will learn to savor words and language. No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world."

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If you replace the word "poetry" with "teaching", you begin to understand the correlation. Teaching should never be reduced to a bunch of data points that relate to 41 elements of teaching. How do you tell to what degree a teacher’s passion is affecting everyone in the classroom, yielding a total massive area of importance and greatness—deserving to be rated as innovating? Rip it out! Robert J. Marzano, PhD. Teaching will not be neatly reduced to a five point scale...teachers will be free to teach...their passion will be unhindered...rip it out...

I realize there are some that think I am being too hard on the Marzano system...but bondage is never ok, and it always runs contrary to passion and freedom. The Marzano system is part of the greater movement to tell teachers what to teach, how to teach, and when to teach...excrement. This is precisely why the army of teachers are leaving...their passion has been traded for bondage and systems of accountability. I respond to the Marzano bondage in a similar manner as President Lincoln did to those who thought slavery was ok:

"Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally,"

~ Abraham Lincoln - Speech, 1865

Most of the people I hear arguing for Marzano bondage are outside of the classroom...rip it out..."This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls--both students and teachers. Armies of academics going forward measuring teaching…no…we will not have that here."


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Political advertisement paid for and approved by Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, Non-Partisan, for Orange County School Board Chair

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