disrespect · learning · making amends · punishment · retribution

Defiance and Disrespect

Have you ever had an uncomfortable encounter with a student who was defiant and disrespectful?
I have, and on more than one occasion.
I am always shocked when this happens because I feel that I am the opposite, or at least I try to be.
When it seems that I’m not, then I apologize and try to make amends.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because perhaps I’m too easy on kids when they behave inappropriately.
I talk too much and explain things too carefully.
Maybe, I need to be a little firmer when these situations arise.
Fewer words and zero tolerance.
Of course, we all make mistakes, including me, so there’s always the opportunity to make amends.
But, when students are recalcitrant and have no regrets for their actions, I worry.
It makes me think that there’s a powder keg in there ready to explode.

How can I help a student like this reflect on his or her actions in order to make retribution?
How can we help children learn how to handle emotions and think before acting?
How can we teach the child who doesn’t seem to care who she or he offends with his actions
that there are boundaries of respect and consideration
that need to be observed if we are to work well together?
How can teachers effect change in student behavior without resorting to punishment?

Sometimes I feel alone with these questions.
When teachers feel a student has been defiant, they are often looking for ways to get revenge.
Yes, revenge.
I know this sounds severe but I truly think this is what happens:
I’ve been wronged, now you need to pay.
Instead, I want students to learn from their mistakes.
This process should not be easy or unduly difficult, either.

Learning to be respectful means that we own our mistakes and recognize our false steps.
It is about making amends to ourselves and to others.
It is about learning how to live with others peacefully.

Schools need to take the lead in this area.
Are they?

#sblchat · assessment · differentiation · learning · PLN · responsibility · Rick Wormeli · standards based grading · standards based learning

Who is responsible for making sure students learn?

Over the next few days, I am going to try to respond to some of the questions I posed in yesterday’s post about assessment. You can read that post here. I don’t pretend to have all the answers to these questions but ruminating about them allows me to consider some possible solutions or points of view. I invite readers of this blog to engage in this conversation with me. 

I also want to acknowledge my PLN – #sblchat – for bold discussions on standards based grading and learning that are enriching my thinking about assessment.

Whose responsibility is it to make sure students learn? 
Is it the responsibility of parents? 
Teachers?
Students?
Or, perhaps a combination of two or more of the above?


The short answer to this question is: everyone who touches the life of a child is responsible for his or her learning. This includes the child, of course. However, when it comes to learning in schools there is no doubt in my mind that the primary person responsible for a child’s learning is the teacher herself. 

As the more expert learner in the room, it is the teacher’s responsibility to do everything she can to make sure that students learn. 

It means puzzling over a child who isn’t learning according to expectations, however this is defined. 

It means trying out many different ways to reach a child who poses a challenge to the teacher either through resistance or something else.
It means dispensing with blame and looking for solutions. 

It means seeking the help of colleagues, if necessary.

It means not giving up on a child.

It means withholding judgements about aptitude, family life, etc.

It means recognizing what a child brings into the classroom and capitalizing on that in order to be a better teacher to that child.

It means that if a child “fails” then the teacher has failed also. And, the teacher needs to determine what went wrong in order to improve her teaching.

Teaching is an intriguing profession. There’s no teacher’s guide that can address the many needs and peculiarities of a classroom full of individual students. A teacher who abides by a one-size-fits-all mentality cannot meet the needs of her students. In fact, every teacher needs to be many different teachers depending on the child. 

I think this is what some people miss when talking about differentiation. It’s not only about adapting tasks to different levels of understanding or skills. It’s about knowing each student so well that the teacher is able to change her strategies according to the needs of her students.

Some teachers can’t do this; I’m beginning to think they should be coached out of teaching. 

Since schools are places of learning for adults and children alike, teachers cannot abdicate this responsibility. Students need teachers who are learners, first and foremost.   

As Carol Ann Tomlinson said in the foreword to Rick Wormeli’s book on differentiation: ‘look for the learners in your school and become their friends.’
(Please note that this is paraphrased since I don’t have a copy of the book with me at the moment.) 

Cross posted to March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #27.



challenges · learning · next year · reflection · self-doubt

Not in my class…

          "He's just bored, " she said. 
          "No. I don't accept that. In this class, he has lots of opportunities to challenge himself," I responded.  Although seemingly calm when I said this, I was seething inside. This is what I was really thinking: "Not in my class." 
     "Maybe he needs a nudge. Some kids need that, you know," she countered. 
     "Maybe," I responded.  This is what I was really thinking: "Maybe that would be true if he were in the class down the hall where all they do is worksheets day in and day out. But not in my class." 
     Then, as I'm wont to do, I started to doubt myself.  
     I sat down with Todd (not his real name) to talk about his math work. I wanted to get a better sense of how he thought about this particular problem since his thinking wasn't clearly evidenced in the explanation on his paper. Admittedly, the math in this problem was not very difficult for him. As we talked I helped him find a way to connect to this problem, and I challenged him to write his own related story problem.  He took me up on it right away.  Was it the one-on-one engagement that did it?  The individual attention that was missing?  When he didn't know something, I directed him to use the internet.  Now, he was hooked.  When I handed over my classroom to another teacher for my regular release time, he was still working away.  Later I heard that he  sought advice when his research led him to two different measurements - feet and centimeters - and was wondering whether he was allowed to combine the two.  Bingo! 
     Later I thought, "Maybe she was right. Maybe he has bored at times or at least not challenged enough. Maybe I dropped the ball on this one sometimes and now it's two weeks before the last day of school. What was I thinking?" And, almost as quickly, an internal dialogue with my two selves ensued. 
     Me: "But, in my class he has lots of opportunities to explore and expand his understandings." 
     Second me: "And, what did you do to ensure that he'd tap into these opportunities once you realized that he wasn't going to do it on his own?"   
     Me: "I made suggestions and he rarely took me up on any of the challenges I offered, at least not for very long." 
     Second me: "And, how long did you take before you tried something else?" 
     Me: "How much hand holding do I do as a teacher before I'm working harder than my students? Where was he all these months? Didn't he get the message that in this class we need to meet each other half-way?" 
     Second me: "He was probably reading his book or chatting with his friends and not listening." 
     Me: "OK. So, what could I have done to engage Todd in the learning of the classroom?" 
     Second me: "What could you have done to engage with Todd in his learning?"
     Me:  (Silence.)
     Ultimately, I believe it is my responsibility to make sure that my students are learning, and to do something about it when they're not.  I also believe that you can't make anybody learn anything they're not ready to learn or don't need to learn.  That's why it's so important to figure out what makes every child in the classroom connect to learning.  Of course, what a child wants to learn may not match the learning that the teacher has planned.  Although this poses a different kind of challenge, it's not an impossible one.  In fact, it's one of the things that invigorates me as a teacher.    
     So, did I do enough? Or, maybe my self-doubting is clouding my memory?  Maybe I didn't do enough of the right things, whatever those may be?  But, more importantly, how do I reconcile this experience so that I am better prepared to address a similar situation in the future?

Posted to https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/the-weekly-slice-of-life-story-challenge-5/