Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday Night Ranting

In an obvious sign that I don't think clearly on a Friday night, I just left a comment on Jay Mathews' most recent blog post. He writes about education professors' priorities as noted in a poll. His main point seems to be disappointment that education professors don't see a need for much more focus on classroom management.
This is difficult to understand. Anyone in close contact with new teachers knows that creating discipline and order are vital to their success, and they often wish they knew how to do that.
I don't doubt that new teachers do wish they knew how to manage a classroom better. I know I did. What I doubt is whether or not that can really be taught. We can talk all we want about education schools, but this sort of thing needs to be learned on the job. Without actual kids in a classroom, management is just theory and fairly meaningless. Pre-service teachers need to spend a lot more time in classrooms observing and working with master teachers. This is awfully tough to achieve.

Also, "creating discipline and order" sounds too much like a military school to me. I would hope that teachers are empowering students and encouraging them to ask questions, try new things, and explore. This won't happen in a strictly managed classroom. Children are people and deserve to be treated and respected as such.

One final note, just to get it off my chest, some of the comments really irked me. The idea that disruptive students should be removed and the message sent that such behavior would not be tolerated seems simplistic and naive. It also seems hurtful. Many children have behavior issues due to factors beyond their control. We should be helping these children, not isolating them and thus compounding the problem. They should not have to pay for the life into which they were born. We should offer so much more than that.


Anonymous said...

I agree. But what about when the thing that is beyond the child's control that makes them behave that way is also not within the teacher's control to change? What if we're talking about ODD or a child having panic attacks? Those are serious issues, and no child deserves to be punished for having them, but sometimes they are, and so is the teacher whose classroom they are in, and so are the students who are struggling to understand this unpredictable and sometimes hurtful and/or violent student who stops just short of the kind of thing you get suspended for? Absolutely, in some of these situation, the compassionate, helpful thing- not to mention legal thing- is to get that student services beyond what the classroom teacher can offer. But in elementary school it can take years for this to be diagnosed/addressed properly, and in the meantime, it has significantly affected the classroom environment for 1 teacher and 30 kids x how ever many years it takes to figure out... which can mean that many teachers are told they have bad classroom management skills (or without being told, are sure they failing at this) when they receive no help and support from principals and staff who believe the teacher is "never going to learn" if they intervene, or more commonly, they are too busy with the politics of testing and parents and the community to observe the classroom and see this problem.

Of course, these are the children I worry about when I can't sleep at night, years later....

Allyce said...

currently in a teacher education program we do a full year of student teaching. Currently we have 16 credit hours as well as two full days in our placement class. We are taking a classroom management course now so that we can see and use what we are learning while we are learning it. Seems to be working great! So it really is possible.

Laura said...

I'm definitely learning on the job! And I'm finding different things work on different days. I'm not sure any "lessons" in classroom management would have helped me. I've just had to use what works for me. My classes, because they are basically computer labs, are pretty chaotic. I've just learned to live with a certain level of chaos. :)

pHanson said...

Classroom management classes would only provide so much. At some point, your experience needs to take over (honed through your observations and experiences). But the obvious question that needs to be asked is "what is causing the student to have behavior issues?" How often could many of these issues be solved by addressing access points to teaching for those kids? That could be making the material meaningful, or providing student choice within the instruction. Other times that involves finding out that you are well above or below their instructional level.

While there are outside issues too, often a closer look at OUR instruction could solve the "problem."

peoplecallmebryner said...

Rant on Jenny, Friday nights or any other.

I remember a quote from Frank Newman - I'm paraphrasing here - that went something like, "Giving a boy a dog will teach him obedience, loyalty, and to turn around three times before sitting down." The idea being that experience alone, without instruction or a framework of knowledge is an incomplete learning educational experience.

The answer to me (a first year teacher) regarding classroom management is that teacher ed programs ought to provide new teachers with theory, best practices, resources, etc., and ample opportunities to practice through practica and student teaching.

The new teacher (all teachers really) must constantly experience, reflect, adapt, and re-experience in order to achieve success.