I read the Sunday Times Magazine article titled Building a Better Teacher with great interest. Written by Elizabeth Green the piece describes the work of Doug Lemov, a former teacher and charter school founder who's analyzed the techniques that great teachers use to get and maintain the attention and interest of students. It also discusses the research Deborah Ball, a professor in Michigan who researches math instruction. She's looked into the question of content: What material does a teacher need to have mastered to teach math well? It's compelling stuff all around, but my one point of dismay came with this:
"A Stanford professor named Pam Grossman is now trying to articulate a similar body of knowledge for English teachers, discerning what kinds of questions to ask about literature and how to lead a group discussion about a book."
I would suggest that if math requires teachers to possess and share a thorough knowledge of how numbers work, then English requires teachers to offer a thorough understanding of how sentences work. In other words, the basic information an English teacher needs isn't about what students will read but how they will write. English teachers need to know grammar. English grammar. Subject, predicate, object of the preposition, subordinate clause, the whole kit and kaboodle, because without knowing the nuts and bolts of how a language work, its use is all about guessing, habit and guessing. Habits don't make for control, guessing doesn't lead you to success in school or work. Really. What ever happened to grammar?