Letter: Innovative teaching has been going on for years

To the Editors:

Shame on you, Bruce Likly, Board of Education chairman, for suggesting in your March 30 Notes from the Board Table that thanks to the “new” instructional coaching model, current Wilton students no longer “spend most of their time sitting in neat rows and listening to a series of 45-minute lectures,” or for suggesting that teachers can now “place less emphasis on lectures and memorization of content and more emphasis on ‘strategy-based’ learning methods.”

Where have you been for the last 25 years? In the early 90s, new Wilton teachers were engaged in cooperative learning workshops, studying Johnson & Johnson techniques for small group approaches in the classroom, such as think-pair-share, jigsaw, fishbowl, etc. We were sent to workshops to practice strategies for text-based group discussions with Junior Great Books. At Middlebrook, teams were engaged in interdisciplinary projects in seventh and eighth grades. Perhaps you are confusing Wilton classrooms with your own secondary or college classrooms.

In 1988, when I was hired to teach theater, public speaking, and English, students in Wilton High School classrooms were already collaborating and problem-solving, actively engaged in small groups, able “to master key concepts” and be “passionate about their learning.”

In 1998, when I began my 14-year tenure at Middlebrook, the 8 Red Team was still including interdisciplinary team projects which engaged all the students on the team in hands-on participatory learning: Trunk Project (Colonial America), COMPAC (Industrial Revolution), Independent Fairfield (Constitution). In my RWW classroom, students acted out Tom Robinson’s trial in To Kill a Mockingbird, created Acting Companies for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and participated in Literary Circles for April Morning to analyze characters and theme. Seventh graders presented their research on Biomes of the World; sixth graders invited the public to their Egyptian museum, King Tut’s Tomb. All the teams were engaged in these ongoing small group endeavors. We also took tests and quizzes and wrote essays — eventually on a computer — and had fun learning!

Your justification for the current coaching model seems redundant. What new techniques can enhance what teachers are already using in their instruction? How can current teachers inform your planning? Please do not assume that Wilton has been in the Dark Ages until now. Please do your homework and visit classrooms before publishing outmoded assumptions about our current teaching staffs and their methods.
Susan Graybill
Wilton resident and former Wilton teacher
Wilton, April 5