0164: Teaching Denotes a Power Relationship
“but foucault! power is a relationship, and “freedom” in a classroom… i’d suggest considering discipline&punish and history of sexuality”
— I’d like to amplify mellymouse’s comment and suggest you visit http://mellymouse.tumblr.com/
Teaching is a relationship and therefore holds numerous power dynamics. It is also a mandatory institution. That complicates the power dynamic. While teachers are responsible for many wonderful things we are also, consciously or not, an extension of the state, and an extension of the companies that create the tests that drive curriculum. That power lineage could be traced back further, I’ll leave that to one of you dubious researchers.
Does holding such a belief make one a bad or ineffective teacher? Certainly, from one vantage. To some, I am and possibly should be considered an enemy. I disagree with curriculum, the management practices that are used to enforce the teaching of said curriculum, and the measures used to enforce teacher allegiance…I mean compliance, both formal and informal. However, and there must be a however, I do believe that working as a disruptor and agitator is more beneficial. By disruptor, I mean doing anything to promote the curiosity of the learners in my care, the right to function cooperatively, rather than be managed; the right for teachers to function as autonomously as possible, provided that they are devoted to the learners in their care; the right for school administration and teachers to function democratically, serving the people of their communities, and the list could go on (and will).
To say that I am anti-management would fall short. I am anti-standardization, anti-massification, and against functioning as the arm of an entity that seeks profit over humanity.
And in case I wasn’t clear, I’m anti-capitalist.
Hopefully, I’ll find compatriots who are fighting the same battle. Together, we can resist the institutionalization and colonialization of minds and truly democratic entities.
0163: A response regarding “An insidious idea behind classroom management.”
#education #SOSchat #dialogue
Note: I’ve chosen to reblog this interaction for clarity, and I’m embarrassed to say a bit of vanity, as the response I provided was not formatted in an appealing way, and I am away from my computer, composing from my phone. Up front, I’d like to thank positivelypersistentteach for the response, and for forcing me to refine my ideas.
“I think you have a misunderstanding of what classroom management entails.
In my classroom, classroom management includes rules, which we as a class agree upon.
It includes positive phone calls home, complimenting the students that are following directions, and providing time for students to calm down if they are upset about something.
Classroom management is providing routines and procedures, so we can focus on learning.
Classroom management is teaching students to think about how their actions affect others and to take responsibility for what they do.
Classroom management is teaching students to use their words, their minds, instead of their hands.
I think you have a lot more to learn about classroom management. Discipline is not a synonym for classroom management. Does is it include discipline? In most classrooms it is necessary, but aren’t there also consequences in the outside world? Discipline isn’t the whole of classroom management, and it is not an evil thing.”
I very much agree with you about your definitions of classroom management. You speak of the ideal, and I’m pleased that you are able to work in such an environment that the practice you share is the norm. Further, I agree that there should be a clearer delineation between what is known as discipline and classroom management. Or, maybe they should each be defined with less ambiguity. Unfortunately, they, like all words and phrases that are applied to human interaction, are subject to myriad interpretations based on political, cultural, regional, social, etc. factors. What you and I may understand as an appropriate way to manage a classroom may not be accepted by fellow teachers, administrators, some community members. My experiences certainly don’t speak for all of education, nor do they the regions and cultural climates in which I’ve taught. But, there are numerous schools, not all, across the country that implement such practices.
However, in this article I made little mention of any specific practice. I simply shared an idea that has roots in forms of social control. The Servan’s idea: “…When you have thus formed the chain of ideas in the heads of your citizens, you will then be able to pride yourselves on guiding them and being their masters…” uses antiquated language, but it was a part of the spawning of disciplinary practice that would work with minimal overt intervention. The idea is to transfer the locus of control to the individual, but through external means of training, conditioning, and forms of teaching. Teaching can be considered in multiple forms. One form aims to enlighten and liberate; the other works to control and suppress. Both veins have existed for centuries and each are present in our current understandings of teaching, learning, management and discipline. It’s quite convoluted now, and as a whole cannot be completely teased apart as good and bad. Something as simple as training children to walk in a line to the cafeteria can be the start of something that leads to an extension of the external rule that trains to an internalization of that outside power.
Classroom management practices aim at eliminating disruption, which is a wonderful thing. They do, however, borrow from Servan’s idea of forming a “chain of ideas” in the heads of those being controlled or ‘controlling’ themselves. Many classroom management techniques utilize behaviorist practices such as conditioning and external motivators to alter behavior. External motivators are highly effective. We work for a paycheck, the affection of a partner, a laugh at a dinner party— all external motivators. The problem can arise when the external motivators strip an individual of their ability to think and function without the reward or punishment, even worse when one is trained to believe the reinforcer does not exist.
My aim is not to demonize classroom management, simply to highlight the roots of certain practices. Further, I want to show how our current educational climate that puts such emphasis on testing opens the way to practices that focus on control (even subtle control) rather than freedom. It’s difficult to imagine education without some of these practices. They’re functional, but not best. We work with what we have. We work around red tape and things we deem ineffective or inhumane. A better way would certainly actually be more democratic, student centered, directed by curiosity; you mentioned some of this. You develop rules with your students and help them understand their actions and help them learn to take responsibility for them. I assume you lead them in the direction of truly understanding they are the masters of their own minds by actually giving them power. The successes you encourage at their own hands builds efficacy and with that comes the understanding that they are fully capable of succeeding without you. Again, this is not the norm everywhere, and isn’t always encouraged. Sometimes it’s actively discouraged, of not through word, then deed. With the weight of testing and educator witch hunts, it would be impossible to believe that all schools are actively promoting humane treatment of students. Maybe it’s sold that way, but advertising can work miracles with perception.
On a near final note, my title, “An insidious idea behind classroom management.” does not imply that it’s the only idea; rather, it’s “an idea”, a part. As discussed earlier it is nearly impossible to tease all the good from the bad. As education is a very political field, it is impossible to find a solitary version of the truth about anything in it.
Finally, if you’ve made this far in reading this, I’d like to thank you for hearing me out. It’s lovely to share in discussion with colleagues. This dialogic format of teacher interaction most certainly leads to better understanding of theory and practice, at least on my end. I hope I didn’t ramble too terribly. I’d be glad to answer any other questions you have. Thanks for your comments and commitment to education.
world-shaker answered: Most effective classroom management techniques are based around respect and rapport with the students. What the hell are you talking about?
I agree. Effective classroom management is most certainly based out of respect and rapport. However, effective management is not the norm everywhere. I think these terms, respect and rapport, are connected to teachers with a more democratic understanding of what they’re doing. Testing factories doesn’t always yield themselves to respectful classrooms where teachers and learners have good rapport and trust. The concept of building rapport and respect, unfortunately, is not universal. Rather, it has not completely replaced the older models and beliefs about discipline and authoritarian rule of schools. I dare say, testing, in some areas has increased authoritarian and punitive discipline.
For more see Post 0162: An insidious idea behind classroom management.
0162: An insidious idea behind classroom management.
#education #discipline #SOSchat
I am not yet a classroom management historian, perhaps I’ll become one, but I am quite certain that there are certain insidious motives behind it. While many classroom management techniques are necessary, I submit that their genesis has roots in behaviorist techniques based in social control. This certainly should be an almost redundant statement as some might understand public schooling was born out of the intention of managing and separating certain populations. I hope to spend some of the summer organizing these suspicions into some proper research. And, I hope my research proves my speculations wrong beyond doubt. I hope to uncover the benevolence of our current system of education and behavioral management and be made an utter fool. But, until then, I’ll remain a fool in waiting with my somewhat conspiratorial and alarmist beliefs. I most certainly believe, because I’ve seen in numerous arenas, that children in poverty and, more saliently, children of color are treated more harshly. This may not be consistent across the entire nation, but it is in my experience and the extended experiences of colleagues. But that is not the point I am trying to make. Classroom management is successful only when the following is true in some form:
“The ideas of crime and punishment must be strongly linked and ‘follow one another without interruption… When you have thus formed the chain of ideas in the heads of your citizens, you will then be able to pride yourselves on guiding them and being their masters. A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly by the chain of their own ideas; it is at the stable point of reason that he secures the end of the chain; the link is all the stronger in that we do not know of what it is made and we believe it to be our own work; despair and time eat away the bonds of iron and steel, but they are powerless against the union of ideas, they can only tighten it still more; and on the soft fibres of the brain is founded the unshakable base of the soundest Empires’” (Foucault quoting Servan in Discipline and Punish)
Classroom management is a beginning. The roots spread into other realms of existence as the child grows. Is there another way? A better way? I’m not sure exactly what. But, surely there’s something more freeing than silently imprinting allegiance and respect to one’s masters through subtle and consistent enculturation practices. Please prove that my speculations are deeply incorrect. Please show me that my experiences have simply been rare exceptions, and have driven me down a path of cynicism. Please.
0141: A Critique of Classroom Management
I will not attempt bore you with a classical critique of classroom management as if it were some brilliantly constructed concept, nor will I try to awaken you to any revolutionary idea— though I can only rejoice if you awaken even more than you already are. I will, however, discuss the concept and language of “classroom management” as we have come to know it. The heavy focus is a symptom of our terribly mis-focused educational system. Rather than providing learners with interesting and stimulating activities through which they cal learn, we are being forced to coercively deposit information that has no purpose beyond a test. Naturally, our unstimulated and bored, but curious students rebel and resist the forced “education”. From this rebellion is born a new focus on keeping kids in line, quiet, and automatic. With recess, break, and talking at lunch gone, the students need an outlet—the classroom. To combat this we can implement a subtly churched-up form of brainwashing called classroom management. I will focus on two points for this discussion. First, forms of classroom management goes beyond discipline by seeking to alter or suppress certain cognitions and behaviors that result from certain thoughts. And second, the term ‘classroom management’ has no standard definition and can be used to demonize a teacher with language alone.
Classroom management is an updated version of classroom discipline. It’s classroom discipline 2.0 with an expansion packet. Where discipline punished “bad” behavior, and even overt attempts to rebel, classroom management attempts to eliminate the possibility for said “bad” behavior. Theoretically rebellion is not possible with classroom management, because it squashes the thought before it can enter the child’s head. I do not intend to say an orderly classroom is not a good thing. It allows for learning to take place and things run better; but, there’s a fine line between orderly and completely automatic. Many elements of classroom management resemble classical conditioning. If we want critically thinking people, IF we want them, conditioning them to thoughtlessly respond to stimuli only counters and complicates our goal. As teachers, we must be careful to distinguish conditioning from better practices, such as constant, high quality discourse, that encourage critical thought.
Second, classroom management has no real definition— at least, not in standard terms for practitioners. When a teacher doesn’t deliver the perfect product, administration takes a look at “classroom management”. At interviews potential candidates are asked about “classroom management”. People provide answers that include keeping students on task, engaged, and focused on the task. All good things, but the how can be a different story. Classroom management can mean myriad things. One principal may look for a quiet classroom; another may expect minimal discipline referrals. Seldom is there a clear expectation. The answers teachers are taught to provide in interviews are rarely the real desired outcome or what is supported; however, they are the unmet expectations used to put teachers on improvement plans, and put dismissal procedures into action. The point is, there is no standard definition. Classroom management can have different styles, but if someone is to be disciplined according to their “poor classroom management” ability, they should know how and why they are being put on the chopping block. This is not to say that there aren’t principals who provide a wonderfully clear definition and expectation for classroom management. These principal’s support teachers to maintain a healthy classroom that fosters learning.
*It seems the more harmful versions of “classroom management” are more present in high poverty schools. However, there are ample exceptions either way. The schools that serve the lower SES populations are often in “trouble” because of testing, and are subject to more punitive top-down measures. This makes the climate perfect for harsh classroom management practices.*
Classroom management as an idea is not such a bad thing. Some of the practices aren’t too bad either. It just takes a critical eye when it comes to implementation. Our learning environment, that of test, test, test, lays the foundation for our hollow practices. “Get it done or your job is gone,” makes taking a stand difficult. It pressures us to do some things that we wouldn’t otherwise do. But, this isn’t acceptable. We have to stand against anything that interrupts real learning. We’ve all ventured down dark educational paths from time to time. We just can’t continue that way. Keep harmful classroom management practices away. Fight the Testocracy.
0140: #Classroom Management, General Mayhem, and Evil Sundries Pt. 2
#education #SOSchat #k12chat
Last time, we discussed some of the theory behind classroom management. It was discussed with the understanding that it has come to mean various things to multiple people, but is best understood, for our purposes, as a way of fostering a generally organized environment, free of confusion, so learning can take place. In this second installment of ‘…Mayhem…’ we’ll look at some specific elements of classroom management: rules, procedures, directives, and my favorite, discourse. As always, if you feel the need to skip ahead, disagree, or deconstruct anything please feel free to do so. This is about conversation.
Rules state the behavioral expectation of the class, school, etc. Rules are often predetermined by administration, an individual teacher, Harry Wong, and sometimes the students themselves. Ultimately, the teacher determines the rules, and how they are enforced. Regardless of which rules are posted, you determine how the class is runs, at least on a behavioral level. Rules succeed and fail for many reasons. There success and failure has a great effect on classroom and school-wide outcomes, behaviorally and academically. Rules often fail because there are too many, they’re arbitrary, they’re stated in such a way that they guarantee failure, or they’re unenforceable (this is not meant to be exhaustive). Rules should be a general list of do’s, rather than an exhaustive list of don’t’s. When rules can be combined, they should. When they can be left more open for interpretation and/or discussion, they should. Clearly this will not suffice for a highly authoritarian classroom. Open rules require constant dialogue between teacher and student. The law will not be maintained by the posterboard labeled rules; rather, they will maintained through open discussion. Of course, there must be rules, so here’s an example. Instead of the faithful, “Don’t fight”, “Don’t cuss”, “Don’t spit”, “Don’t litter”, etc., try “Respect all people in classroom (school, etc.), and respect the classroom environment.” It’s positively stated; that is, it tells students what to do, rather than what not to do, and it’s easy to remember. Such a rule will require discussion, which should probably be ongoing. But, the rule will stand. It makes sense, it’s not arbitrary, and the students can see how it applies to them in multiple places— in and out of the classroom.
If you have to dictate a student’s every move and behavior, then there is a deeper problem. So rules shouldn’t dictate every behavior. Maybe they should set the mood.
Procedures, as many of us know, dictate the way things are run. These differ from rules because they deal with the day to day operating of a classroom. They cover things such as, turning in papers, entering and exiting the room, whether or not students must raise their hands to speak, and so forth. Procedures should be clear and they should be consistently enforced; that is, of you want a consistently run classroom. The enforcement can be as simple as requiring the students to comply with said procedure before continuing. If you want hands raised, do not answer a question if the student has not raised his or her hand. If you don’t give in, they’ll eventually get the point, or be ignored. Procedures need to be set at the beginning. They need to be clear. They need to be consistently enforced. Quality procedures can eliminate wasted time, confusion, and potential disruptions. They can pave the way to a smoothly run classroom.
Procedures fail when they’re not consistently followed. They are the guidelines for how a class operates. They also should be simple, and very clear. Students can take part in their development if you so choose. And, they can be amended. If they are ineffective, fix it. There only purpose is to make the class run smoothly. Like rules, the power is not in the posterboard, but in their constant use.
Directives, Discourse, and other Communication
Finally, directives. Directives and communication are the most important of all the classroom management tools, or whatever they’re called. We’ll tackle directives first. Directives are the explicit directions you, the teacher, gives a student. They should be clear, and let the learner know exactly what you mean. For instance, if you want a student to sit in their desk, tell him, “Sit in your desk”. Be direct and clear. Don’t continue with more directives until the first one is met with compliance. This goes back to the old concept of mean what you say. It builds trust through consistency. If you don’t care if the student sits or not, don’t give the directive. A clear message prevents confusion. Confusion equals chaos, and from there the dominoes tumble.
Directives should only be used for non-negotiables. They deliver your clear expectations as a teacher and set the groundwork for learners’ success. So, they’re important. Directives can be given verbally or in written form, like directions on a test. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being clear and non-ambiguous. What directives don’t deal with should be left to discourse.
Discourse is the lifeblood of any non-authoritarian classroom. It’s a requirement for successful democracy on small and large scales. So, it should go without saying that we should concern ourselves with developing opportunities to participate actively in democratically functioning organizations, institutions, and activities. This does not mean that we just vote on rules at the beginning of the year, or vote on homework or none; rather, it should be a commitment to engaging learners constantly in dialogue that leads to the formation of knowledge and understanding. It means they’re generating questions and answers, rather than having them deposited by an all knowing teacher. Discourse should not be limited to the academic realms. It should extend through every aspect of the the learning experience—academic, social, behavioral, etc. Discourse is a generalizeable skill that, when integrated into our daily lives, will affect the way we reason, behave, and interact with the world around us. It is an invaluable tool for empowerment for teachers and students. As we are looking at classroom management, discourse seeks to eliminate the need for external enforcers of behavior and rules. Discourse involves the entire group in a living discussion. The class becomes theirs. With an active action oriented discourse learners and teachers alike will witness the transformation of rhetoric and dialogue into action and culture. There is much, much more to say about discourse, but this should suffice for now.
Rules, Procedures, Directives and Discourse— the greatest of these being discourse— all shape the way a class functions and to what extent learning takes place. The educator has the choice to what extent any of these elements are implemented. These elements can be as rigid or flexible as you decide. I submit, the way these factors are implemented has the power to deeply affect a learners’ understanding of democracy and their consciousness as a whole. Choose wisely. Be reflective. Be critical. I implore you to teach and learn with human beings, rather than control and train robots. Cheers.