Saturday, July 08, 2006

What do politics have to do with education?

The problem with instructing educators how to teach is that you’re bound to come across conflicting theories on how to manage the classroom. I think if the education teachers knew how confusing it was for a teacher-to-be to hear two completely contrary methods of instruction they would realize that contradictory info is a very bad idea and should be completely abolished before the teachers-to-be go nuts and resign from the teaching profession in order to take up bonsai sculpting career in order to keep their blood pressure low. I’m not saying that teachers shouldn’t change their methods to suit their personalities or their class population. But when we only have seven weeks before we are expected to be responsible for teaching a class full-time it seems like a better idea to give one theory on how to teach, and instruct others once the teacher has a grasp of how to stand in front of a class and not get spit wads shot sniper-style at your head.

I’m constantly juggling these two specific educational techniques in my head these days: direct manner with students, and a more liberal touchy-feely kind of instruction. The issue here, besides the clear-cut differences between both processes is that I really don’t consider myself either. I am blunt enough that I won’t be extra super sensitive to students just because they’re special ed, they are kids! And nothing is more resilient, crafty, and adapting than a youngster in their teen years. On the other hand I’m not a shouter, and I’m not comfortable being mean.

I have one professor telling me that “students are people too” (well, duh!) and that class rules should be more positive. For instance instead of saying “no running” as a rule, you’re better off with “Please walk.” And it gets even better when you’re handling rules once their broken. During a teaching workshop we were told that once a student has broken a stated and posted rule the best course of action is the ask him or her what she’s done wrong. If a student throws a book out the window I’m going to ask: “John, should we really be throwing school property out the window?” I can just see how well that will work. If you start asking students questions like that, you’re just baiting them to start wise-mouthing you. Once one student is in mock-the-hippie-teacher-mode others will most certainly join in, and you’ve lost any control over the class.

On the other hand, like the more conservative guardian angel on my other shoulder the theory of more direct behavior control is being uttered. (And by the way, my conservative guardian angel speaks with a German accent.) The idea is that students need to be treated the way their parents or guardians manage them at home, more of a tough love idea. Newsflash: the majority of emotionally disturbed students do not have the best home life, including a severe amount of physical abuse. Should I be taking my whuppin’ stick to class now? Of course I’m being sarcastic about it a bit; the theory has more in mind direct instructions. And to some extent, it makes a little more sense to me than the liberal view that diminishes the authority of the teacher and glorifies the student by walking around them on egg shells. My cooperating teacher Ms. R pulls it of perfectly, while she says you have to give up some control to truly keep the class under control she’ll be quick with a raised voice to boom “Don’t you dare write on that desk!” and she commands instant respect, or at least the rule-breaker’s attention. The only problem is that I’m not a tall, imposing black woman who can stop kids in their tracks with a withering “Oh no you didn’t!” glare.


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