Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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Disciplinary Measures
Thursday, July 9, 2009

So I recently read this article: "Yes, these children can"

Followed by this rebuttal: "KIPP Schools and What Can We Do For Urban Poor Kids?"

I've always thought the authoritarian method of teaching a class to be an interesting line. And I mean that insofar as the question of how discipline contributes and affects our ability to teach.

There's no question that an attentive class makes it easier for you to teach and for them to learn. And there's no question that it can be supremely frustrating to teach a class when you're constantly interrupted by a few students. We just posted about "keeners" and how it's important to make your class as relevant and interesting as possible so that, at least, you as a teacher have nothing to reproach yourself about as far as effort, patience, and aptitude...

But as all teachers know, sometimes, there are students who simply don't care. I've heard some teachers tell me that it happens more in Applied classes. I myself have seen it enough times in Academic classes to know that it's a little more universal than that. Every so often, you'll have students that, try as you might, just don't care to be in your class and refuse to see any value in anything you teach. When that happens, the issue is no longer a question you "dealing with a problem kid" to quote a popular catchphrase. The question becomes, is it fair for the rest of the students that their teacher's attention is constantly being diverted towards a particular student?

I have never been able to come up with a good answer for this. On the one hand, I have 1 or 2 students that I can't seem to hook into my class. We talk a lot about "classroom management" in our own education classes but I have yet to hear one good solution for dealing with 1 particular student who just seems like he/she couldn't care less about you, your class, or their peers. And on the other hand, I have 20 other students in my class that deserve better than what I am able to deliver when I have to constantly attend to a troublemaker (or two).

I know people are against the KIPP method of teaching/private schools because they find that authoritarian style of classroom management stifling. And to an extent, it's true. But at the same time, you have to strike a balance somehow don't you? If you have a school where a student that's sent down to the principal's office simply gets a slap on the wrist and sent back up to your class... I can't see how this is very good for you, the student, or his/her peers. As parents, we enforce a set of rules regardless of what our children think because it's for their own good. Should the same principle not apply, to some extent, to a class as well? I constantly worry that, in an effort to get away from control and stunted creativity and all the negative things about a harsh disciplinary system, we might have moved too far into student-driven learning where a teacher is only there to teach/guide the students that *want* to be taught/guided. Is there a point where our lack of disciplinary measures results in an actual inability to curb students who are literally unresponsive to everything else?

Being able to teach is one thing. Being able to teach despite students who don't want to learn is something else entirely. It's the reason why I've always thought that university professors don't really have any excuse not to be good teachers. I mean, think of how many elementary/high school teachers there must be who would LOVE to teach in a class where their students either pay close attention, or at least keep quiet if they don't?

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Jonathan posted at 9:11 PM - Comments (0)


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