Monday, December 10, 2007

No time for titles

* As a new teacher, I've witnessed my fair share of teaching advice slash refrains, both good and bad. One of the bad: "All students can behave well, you just have to teach them how." A noble phrase to rally the troops toward in theory, but a fine mess of bullshit when followed in the classroom. All kids can behave well, if you vary your definition of "all" and "behave" and certainly "well".

Out of the standard 30 kids in a class, you're bound to have kids that don't speak English well, or are emotionally troubled, or are taking medication, or are pregnant, or hate your guts, or live in an alternate reality. Having them all behave in a certain way is just not going to happen. You have to alter your expectations for kids. Lowering your expectations for troubled kids shouldn't be considered bad if your expectations for them-- to act the same way as all the other kids--were infeasible to begin with.

* Another fun one: "You don't need a variety of ways to track and reward good behavior and academics, you just need (insert awesome tracking idea here)." Crap, crap, CRAP.

There is no silver bullet in education, and it does beginning teachers a disservice to tell them such. I have about 4 different ways to follow my kids' improvement in behavior and study skills and 4 different ways to reward them, and each one bridges the gap between the cantankerous 22-year-old teacher at the helm and just a subset of his students. Not every kid likes every one of my ideas. Shocking.

I need to put my eggs in different baskets to maximize the number of kids I motivate and engage to do better in class. It's the same way with direct teaching strategies: kids learn in different ways and so they need teachers to use different modalities (visual, verbal, interpersonal, musical, etc.) in their lesson plans to reach out to more kids. Always giving lectures or always teaching directly from the book is not appropriate, and neither is relying on just 1 type of classroom management plan.

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