I observed an elementary class recently that my child was in. The teacher was so rude. She would say “stop talking” or “go put that away.” Ever hear of “please?” If we want our children to be polite themselves, teachers should try modeling it for their students.
I don’t think teachers should be deliberately rude, but I would not call this rudeness. It’s direct and honest. A teacher once pointed out to me that when a teacher says “Please stop talking” to a child, it can create problems.
This teacher reasons that “please” implies an option. This gives the child the illusion of power. It makes him think that by giving you what you’re asking for, he’s doing you a favor. A child saying, “please can I have a candy bar, Daddy, please, please, please?” does not mean “father, you will get me a candy bar now or there will be consequences.” But when a teacher directs a child to obey a rule, there likely will be consequences if it is disobeyed, even if she hangs a “please” on the front of it.
A simple, clear, controlled imperative is sufficient for the purpose. “You need to stop talking and sit down right now” is an honest and accurate wording of what the teacher expects the child to do. Once the expectations are clear and the student has obeyed, learning can commence.
And everybody can now be happy and polite.
Teachers who don’t give group work are hurting our kids. The kids need to learn how to work in a team and get things done by designating responsibilities.
The primary responsibility of a teacher is to teach his or her course content. I don’t know of any course called Teamwork 101. When a teacher uses a specific method to teach a certain lesson, it is for the purpose of having the kids understand the lesson, not the method.
I don’t disagree that the things you identify are important skills, but they can be learned in a 100 different ways in school. If a teacher wants to use group work to teach the lesson, that’s fine, but don’t judge the teacher if she doesn’t do it that way. The chief responsibility of a science or math teacher is to teach kids about cell biology or the quadratic formula, not labor distribution and staffing efficiency. That’s like buying a dog to teach your child about coping with death.
Your recent column on individualized instruction missed the mark. It’s an abomination that we still teach students the same lessons the same way. That’s why we have the achievement gap. Teachers need to determine their students’ deficiencies and give them targeted, personalized lessons to meet their needs.
If you really think such individualization is the answer, then here is what you should do. Get about a thousand of your friends and go down to a school board meeting and demand these three things:
1. That they stop sticking 30 kids in a classroom. For individualized instruction to have a prayer, you need to get it down to 15 or less.
2. That they stop taking away teachers’ planning time with useless meetings, repetitive conferences and endless paperwork. It takes time to plan individual lessons for 15 (giggle) students. Lots of it. And teachers don’t have it.
3. That they start enforcing a discipline policy that actually permits teachers and principals to sustain an orderly learning environment. It’s impossible to work with one group of students when you’re constantly demanding that the others get off the desks, stop throwing things, get on task, and quit yelling across the room.
Now when you’ve got those three things accomplished, write back and we’ll talk about your plan for revolutionizing school. Just keep in mind that it’s hard to have an orderly, reasoned, successful revolution when your number one objective in the classroom is survival.
I used to argue with my parents about everything. I remember once foolishly yelling at them “I hate you.” Imagine my surprise and sadness to hear my obstinate daughter say the very same thing to me last week. Remind your readers that the apple never falls far from the tree.
I’ll also remind them of the cosmic injunction that we will reap what we sow. As poet Thomas Randolph said (and many of us can ruefully affirm), “Whoever makes his father’s heart to bleed, shall have a child that will revenge the deed.”