0144: #Classroom Management in Contexts of Affluence and #Poverty
#education #SOSchat #k12chat
Classroom management styles vary from teacher to teacher, school to school, and often from socio-economic class to class. Before delving a little more into that, I think we make a grave mistake if we try to segment “classroom management” from “learning” or how the class is run. In a perfect world they all work in concert to create a lovely teaching-learning environment where everyone is engaged and on-task. This is the reality for some, but, I dare say, this is not the norm. In schools where students are less affluent, meaning more free/reduced lunch, higher poverty rates, lower quality of life, less upper/middle class, classroom management functions more as a measure or set of measured imposed upon a class. These schools, and I will stick to ‘these schools’ because that is my experience, often function under a highly top-down and behaviorist approach to management of students and teachers. I’ve had the privilege to visit more affluent schools either as an observer, professional developer, or speaker, and have noted a much different environment. Freedoms are more plentiful, it seems. Things as simple as a lunch period where students are free to sit where they like, a break, recess, etc. These are things that all students should take for granted, but cannot. I acknowledge that this could have all been a charade, and in no way normal, but there certainly was a different feeling.
Behavioral and teaching styles range from the highly constructivist to the behaviorist end of the continuum. The desired outcome usually determines the method of delivery. For instance, a school struggling to meet standards, that is, they are in trouble, will often resort to a very rigid and behaviorist structure. Skill and drill. It just so happens schools that are in trouble tend to be low income schools. To continue, skill and drill is boring and not very engaging. There is little time to chase rabbits and nurture curiosity, in turn, bored, understimulated children become behavior problems (this is not the only cause for behavior problems, of course). And, this does not include just a small handful, say that 5% that actually are in need of authentic behavioral interventions; rather, the majority of the population becomes unruly. Multiply that by 10-12 years of constant understimulation, boredom, external behavioral measures that are often punitive, and you have a recipe for absolute dependence on an external force to dictate learning. In these cases the banking model of learning, a top down, teacher controlled model, becomes the only option. Curiosity has been killed. Independent learning lay barely breathing to the side.
At the other end of the spectrum, is the very loose and free constructivist model that allows for free exploration of one’s environment. These classrooms aren’t very intervention heavy as students often enter these educational environments with there needs already met. They enter school with exquisite vocabularies and myriad experiences. They’re not leaving one stressful environment and entering another. In such environments there is little perceived need for “harsh” external measures because, to be frank, the kids are already under control, as dictated by pre-existing social norms. Plus, parents wouldn’t stand for such measures in a school like this. Not to say that parents in other schools enjoy having their children treated like they are in a test/prison prep program.
Schools that are struggling come with all sorts of subtle propaganda that is cleverly woven into the general consciousness of administration, teachers, parents, and students. Motivational meetings, assemblies, newspaper reports, parent contracts, zero tolerance, fear mongering, the general idea that “we have to work together to get our school out of trouble”, and so forth all run together into the message that the school and all its constituents are in a crisis. And, everything is justifiable during a crisis. This may not be the overt intent, and it probably isn’t deliberate, but this mentality allows for practices that are less than helpful to our students, teachers, communities, etc.
To name a few “harsh” practices I’ve encountered in these schools:
excessive corporal punishment, training students to respond to clickers (yes, dog clickers), removal of recess, removal of anything “fun”, i.e., music, art, and P.E., and making them rewards rather than activities factored into a regular day. I could go on. The point I am trying to make, and probably should have made with greater brevity, is that anything that looks, smells, or sounds like training is not the best practice in management or teaching. Students have a right to free will, critical consciousness, open discourse, and so forth.
If we simply train those in poverty, and nurture the wealthy, what do we have other than some revisiting of feudal society with a healthy touch of Huxleyan eugenics?
I submit styles of management and teaching affect the learner far beyond the content being taught.
0142: #Teaching for #Revolution
#education #occupyedu #ctchat #occupy
Why teach critical thinking of not for revolution? Revolution is change, transformation, innovation. It’s a concept that is inevitable if people learn to think, learn to learn, learn that they are the creators of culture. Critical thinking embraces the individual power to create, collaborate, question, reinvent, and so forth. When we teach or help learners develop their critical thinking, we are not teaching revolution in the political or economic sense, though either of those may come; rather, we helping learners revolutionize their own consciousnesses. Revolution of consciousness is far more threatening than political or economic revolution because it is permanent, sustainable, decentralized, humanizing, and is multifactorial. As teachers, as humans we must strive for this sort of revolution. The world belongs to those who own their own minds.
0024: Build Creators not Blind Consumers
If we force our students to sit and listen only, then we are creating blind consumers. If we allow out students to collaborate, connect, create, debate, disagree (with us even), argue, question, and so forth, then we are taking part of the development of free and independent minds. We need critical consumers, who are also savvy producers with the ability to distribute information. We want creators, not just blind consumers.
0022: Don’t give up on relinquishing control to your students
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse suggesting that education should look different. I think we all know that. The world is different, so education and education practices should follow suit. In the college classroom teachers are taught to teach using different methods, and to use cooperative learning, and other methods that fall within best teaching practices. Many teachers carry these methods into their classrooms and use them very effectively. This isn’t always the case. Many teachers, myself included walk into a survival situation. The kids have often been mistreated and neglected academically (never been engaged) so their behavior is less than favorable. The schools use punitive discipline and authoritarian control. Any attempt at stepping away from the existing rigid power structure comes with great risk. Kids who’ve never experienced freedom will react negatively at first. Suddenly they’re in control and have been denied any sort of freedom. So teachers run the risk of “losing control” of their classrooms. And, principals are looking, in many cases, at classroom management— a term that has been misconstrued to having a quiet classroom. With this in mind teachers often try these less authoritarian methods once. The kids go wild and then the pendulum must swing to the authoritarian side with thoughts of how “these kids just can’t handle it, we’ll just sit in our desks, and I will lecture”. Something like that. Of course, we find a few months into our lecturing that our students aren’t learning as well as they should be. They’re not engaged. They’re not being active in their own learning. So, we arrive at a great conundrum. I can have classroom control, but students won’t really be learning, or I can lose control of my class. And, for many that’s as far as the thought process ever goes, before settling into an ineffective routine of authoritarian rule with little concern beyond depositing facts into fearful students.
The alternative involves some patience and scaffolding. Rather than setting aside those “student-centered” methods that were learned in college and in workshops we must remember that those great methods must be taught and practiced. If a learner has been cultured to be a passive recipient of meaningless information for x number of years, then suddenly participating in a classroom that requires problem-solving, collaboration, and active learning will come as quite the cognitive shock resulting in all sorts of bizarre behavior. There must be a transition. New skills must be taught: listening, speaking, working together, taking turns, conversation, and so forth. If a high school student has never worked in a group, then it will be a learning process. The group work must start simple, and become more involved as the year progresses. Small group and independent learning require students to be exhibit a level of internal control that is in direct opposition to the authoritarian nature of many schools and classrooms. It is important to remember that change takes time. It is difficult to change directions as a teacher, and the same goes for students. Build trust, and don’t be afraid to relinquish control gradually to your students. Their learning and future well being depends on it.
0009: Why should students be motivated by high test scores?
Strangely scores are used as a carrot to keep kids working hard and competitively. I’ve seen charts in classrooms and on bulletin boards charting progress. There are even special clubs and events for students who get the highest marks on standardized tests. Students are easily sorted according to their test scores. Students know is they’re advanced, proficient, basic, minimal, or any other label states prescribe. The proverbial score carrot that is held in front of our students only reinforces that they are nothing more than a number. And while they may not be able to fully articulate why the propaganda of testing is dehumanizing (though many of them can), they certainly have a good idea of what’s happening to them. They are placed in boxes daily. For that matter, so are there teachers. The language of the education building has been overtaken by a lexicon that solely promotes the linking of individuals with their value as a score. This lexicon is pushed down through the bureaucratic ranks with no thought to the harm it is causing. And certainly, there is no time to think, “you just have to do it, because that’s how it is”. This newly formed testocracy has forced educators into the mode of disciplining and punishing students only to keep them “focused” on what is important: their scores. “Without discipline, learning cannot take place,” I’ve heard countless times. This is true to an extent, but where is the locus of discipline? Within the child? Being forced upon the child? Even worse, systematically training the child to walk mindlessly in lines. The question “how can we motivate these kids?” is constantly raised. Well, perhaps challenging children to think and create might be a start.
The goal is good test scores. The result is the mindless dehumanization of an entire generation.
0008: Digital Natives or Digital Zombies? Helping Students Thrive in a Digital Democracy
Communication by Twitter, Facebook, and/or SMS is quickly becoming a primary method of communicating ideas. A lot is being packed into these seemingly miniscule messages. The contents are responsible for huge outcomes, such as tweet by a graduate student covering a government protest in Egypt that read: “ARRESTED”, which helped free him and his translator from the Egyptian jail (Simon, 2008), to the growing problems of cyber-bullying and sexting among teens, and recently, flash mobs arranged through social networking sites and text message. Evidently, words are power, and the power is quickly entering the hands of the people—the young people. Social networking and microblogging sites put users in the roles of consumer, producer, and distributor of information (Jacobs, 2006), thereby eliminating the middleman (i.e. the media, publishers, etc.). By putting the power to create and publish in the hands of the general public, more responsibility and cunning is required of the participants in this digital world. Consumers must be able to rapidly discern useful and non-useful information, as the majority of information, and producers must choose what to write and how to communicate it in as few words as possible. How can teachers prepare students, who are digital natives, to be wise and productive consumers, producers, and distributors of information in this vast informational expanse?
Teachers need to first be knowledgeable about the technologies that their students are using. Ideally, teachers will become users of these technologies, and active participants in digital culture. As culture progresses, so must the educators who function within that culture. Teachers who choose to remain ignorant of digital technology are separating themselves from their students, thereby rendering themselves ineffective (Prensky, 2001). Once the teachers becomes active digitally, can help their students flourish in the digital world. Microblogging sites such as Twitter should be encouraged and utilized by teachers for teaching tools and informational resources. Microblogging, when harnessed as an academic tool, allows for quick communication and transfer of ideas, a public domain for collaboration, the ability to communicate through multiple mediums, as users can post pictures, video, audio, and so forth, to enhance their communication (Holotescu, 2009). Additionally, communication can be informal and far reaching. The ubiquity and the lack of formal norms and regulation with these technologies raise ethical issues and require students to be critical users.
Students must be critical consumers of information. The meaning derived from readings of the written word are not concrete; readers must be the mediator of the reality, or the meaning of the text they consume (Iser, 1978). Teachers must give students the critical tools to analyze and interpret the word which their worlds envelop. Such tools include: the capacity to manipulate one’s environment for the purpose of experimentation and discovery, the ability to interpret and recreate situations occurring in one’s environment, the ability to collaborate with others to develop collective knowledge that is ever transforming and growing, the ability to understand and mimic multiple perspectives, the ability to mediate differences among collaborators, the ability to discern the reliability and credibility of sources, and the ability to network, or locate, create, and disseminate information (Jenkins, 2009). Students with the above media skills will have the ability to function productively in 21st century society, and ideally in a classroom whether it has transformed or not.
Students must be conscious producers of information. Accordingly, they need to have ethics when functioning as producers of information, and ethics must be taught. Users of social media are functioning more or less as journalists, perhaps more appropriately, gonzo journalists, reporting constantly on their worlds. The content posted by users of digital media is seldom monitored and have minimal ethical constraints (Jenkins, 2009). The constraints that do exist can be easily surpassed, as communication is not limited to one medium. The role of mediating the content of these sites falls in the hands of the users, and the users are vast. The culture is participatory and free, so the norms must be created by the users themselves. Teachers and parents are not able to fully regulate this group of digital natives; rather, parents and teachers have the responsibility to bring students into dialogue about the problems that occur or can occur in such settings and help them learn for themselves how to mediate such situations. This proverbial moral compass cannot simply be deposited in an individual; it must, instead be lovingly developed collaboratively through dialogue between teachers, parents, and learners (Freire, 1970). As users learn to name their world a code of ethics will undoubtedly develop as users reflect on their digital world and participatory culture.
Society and its citizenry are becoming increasingly digital and participatory. It is up to educators and educational systems to evolve to fit the needs of the students it serves. Teachers no longer serve as depositors of knowledge and technology; rather, they must help students, through collaboration and dialogue build a set of tools that will enable them to be critical and ethical producers, consumers, and distributors of information and text. The knowledge and meaning are organic and infinite. The consumers of that knowledge must be discerning, shrewd, and participatory. Teachers must ensure that the digital natives in their care do not walk blindly as digital zombies.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum .
Holotescu, C., Grosseck, G. (2009, January). Using microblogging in education. case Study:
Cirip.ro. 6th international conference on e-learning.
Jacobs, G. (2006). Fast times and digital literacy: Participation roles and portfolio construction
within instant messaging. Journal of Literacy Research, 38, 171-196. Retrieved from
Iser, W. (1978). Readers and the concept of the implied reader. The act of reading: A theory of
aesthetic response (pp. 27-38). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Jenkins, H. (2009). Core media literacy skills. Confronting the challenges of participatory
culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9, 1-6. Retrieved
Simon, M. (2008, April 25). Student ‘twitters’ his way out of Egyptian jail.