October 28, 2014

"I waited 14 years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day."

Says Alexis Wiggins, who has 3 big observations:
Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting....

High school students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90 percent of their classes....

You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long. I lost count of how many times we were told be quiet and pay attention.... In addition, there was a good deal of sarcasm and snark directed at students.... Of course it feels ridiculous [to the teacher] to have to explain the same thing five times, but suddenly, when I was the one taking the tests, I was stressed. I was anxious. I had questions. And if the person teaching answered those questions by rolling their eyes at me, I would never want to ask another question again. I feel a great deal more empathy for students after shadowing, and I realize that sarcasm, impatience, and annoyance are a way of creating a barrier between me and them. They do not help learning.

18 comments:

Big Mike said...

The notion that members of either teachers' union are in any way, shape, or form interested in the education of their students was disproved decades ago.

MadisonMan said...

I read both blog posts over the weekend (Nice to see the WaPo catching up -- I suspect this will be in the local paper today or tomorrow). I can't say that anything in the posts surprised me, either as a former student or a teacher.

I'm glad my kids were never weighed down with homework in High School. I'm not sure how they managed it, but they did.

Henry said...

Very good comments.

But (and this is redundant to comments collected by Grant Wiggins), the fact that students sit all day long on their butts is a known problem. Everyone knows it. And yet there continues to exist a class of "reformers" who will do away with physical education, recess, and other outlets for kids' physical energy.

One common recommendation for ADHD kids is to give them opportunities to get up and move around. For example, a teacher might allow a kid to run quick errands to the office on occasion. This may be part of a formal IEP.

But this kind of accommodation should be built in for all students.

The kid who repeatedly falls off his chair and knocks over his books because he can't control his fidgeting may get an IEP; but the kid who spends class period after class period drawing in her notebook to assuage her boredom and distraction needs a break just as much.

The Godfather said...

"I had questions. And if the person teaching answered those questions by rolling their eyes at me, I would never want to ask another question again."

My advice: Don't go to law school.

Char Char Binks said...

Couldn't she just remember what it was like when she was in school?

viator said...

Further everything is directed at some mythical lowest common denominator, which from all indications is getting lower and lower with each passing year.

CStanley said...

I've recently been made aware of Rick LaVoie, who does workshops to help adults understand what school is like for kids with learning disabilities. There are excerpts of his "How Difficult Can This Be?" Video on You Tube.

My favorite bit was when he pointed out that rhetorical questions directed at kids are passive aggressive. His suggestion to cure teachers of using them is to pair such teachers with a kid who answers: "Johnny, how many times do I have to tell you..."

"Seventeen, I think seventeen times would be about right."

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Couple quick thoughts:

My kids' elementary school is experimenting with giving the kids yoga balls instead of chairs, to allow them to move about a bit while sitting at their desks. I LOVE this and wish I could have one at my desk at work.

I was unhappy when in the halls at my oldest's junior high to hear the downright nasty way some of the teachers speak to the kids. Sarcastic, disrespectful, even bully-ish. I'm not special-snowflakey, with myself or with my kids, and I let most crap slide off my back and encourage them to do the same, but even I was really put off. Is it too much to ask for the adults to speak to the kids respectfully? I don't know; I've never been a public school teacher.

Eleanor said...

When I went to teacher school, I learned the least effective way to teach kids is to stand up in front of them and talk at them. I learned this from a professor whose class was 100% lecture.

Shanna said...

I was unhappy when in the halls at my oldest's junior high to hear the downright nasty way some of the teachers speak to the kids

I was one of the 'good' kids (honors/ap classes, no disciplinary problems, etc) so usually my teachers were pretty nice. I was kind of shocked one day though when I and a few other students were late to calculus because my band director had kept us back to gripe at us about something or other that happened on the field. We were wandering in the hall between classes, and one of the 'administrators', ie a coach or someone involved in the athletic department in some way, found us and got very angry and insisted we couldn't go to class without a note. Now, I know for a fact my calculus teacher knew us all and would have had zero problems once we explained why we were late, but that jerk made us miss more class time to go back and get a note from the band director. That was just a tiny, minor thing, that I mostly was shielded from during high school but it made me realize what a jerk some of these people could be.

And then my brother went through the same school a few years later and got a completely different education than I did so that was also an education.

Dave Schumann said...

@Char Char I had the same impression. Yes, good piece and all valid criticisms. But this woman seems to be in her early 40s. High school in the 80s had most of these problems. She forgot?

Dave Schumann said...

Late 80's / early 90's would have been her high school experience, I think.

It wasn't quite what it is now -- there was a little more recess, for example, and there were a few more 'active' classes -- but it was essentially the same.

Birches said...

The same could be said for parenting.

Brian said...

"I realize that sarcasm, impatience, and annoyance are a way of creating a barrier between me and them. They do not help learning."

Well, it's not like this is some carefully thought-out approach to maximize classroom productivity, is it? Teachers exhibit these behaviors because they fall somewhere on a continuum between "excellent but still subject to normal human frailties" and "temperamentally unsuited to the profession."

(I know that there are teachers who spin elaborate theories about how their 'egdy style' or whatever helps learning. I also think they all know, at some level, that they're bullshitting.)

surfed said...

There should be a 20 year retirement for teachers. You get burned out pretty quickly. Snark, impatience and sarcasm are defense mechanisms. How would you respond to a 16 year old that asks - Mr. Smith. What be this curly line with a dot?" Only to answer "That is called a question mark LeCharles." I had to carefully monitor my reaction to my inner city students. Truth be told, I needed to retire long before I reached the 38 year mark and was hooked on xanax to get through a day of overt violence, verbal intimidation and wild uncontrollable behavior. The sarcasm, eye rolling and impatience were minor faults when lined up against being thrown out of the bleachers in the gym trying to stop a fight and having your arm broken.

traditionalguy said...

OMG is treating students with respect a new discovery?

campy said...

"It's a very ancient saying / But a true and honest thought / That if you become a teacher / By your pupils you'll be taught."

~ Oscar Hammerstein II

mikee said...

I learned about being a student by being a Teaching Assistant in lab classes for freshmen, when I was a grad student.

1. Teachers can see everything that happens in class. If they want to.

2. Some kids need more attention than others. Some kids need zero attention and do fine on their own.

3. Some kids are hopeless and will fail, no matter what you do with or for them.