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.
Do I write to transform the world or to transform myself? If I am transforming myself, am I transforming my world? Is this how writing is beneficial?
What if #education wasn’t about politics? More important, what if lives and quality of life issues weren’t tied to the political decisions of people many will never meet? Really, what would happen? I’d like to pretend to be aiming at something poetic here, but really what would happen? Would it be better? Worse? Different? In what ways? Why do demigods exist?
What, if any, is the role of chaos in the classroom?
0077: #Teacher Training, Professional Development, and the Mysteries of the Hotdog Fold
#education #critical #edreform
I gave my students a quiz this morning and I asked them to fold their paper lengthwise and pass it in. They didn’t exactly understand lengthwise so I said “a hotdog fold”. They quickly made the correct fold and passed in the papers.
The term “hotdog fold” brought about a series of flashbacks to undergraduate education classes and useless professional developments I’ve attended that spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing and explaining the difference between a “hotdog” and a “hamburger” fold. I mean I’ve had this explained to me at least fifteen different times in different settings. I’ve been appalled every time. The instructors or professional developers have defended that teaching a common language for folding paper is important for classroom procedures. And, that instructional time was often lost because of things as simple as passing in papers. I couldn’t agree more. But, how wasteful and insulting is it to send a teacher, pre-service or in-service, to a workshop on folding paper. Additionally, the reason behind folding the paper is never explained without the presenter being asked. Wouldn’t it be better to help teachers learn to reflect properly about their practice? Or, teach them how to conduct effective discussions that foster critical thinking and dialogue. Teachers could be taught how to teach lessons in a way that allow students to arrive at answers on their own, or even how to design problem-based learning activities. They could be instructed on ways to properly teach and help build their learners vocabularies, so they can read, write, and think more freely. Instead, teacher training is often limited to a few principles of classroom management, memorizing the definitions of the elements of literacy, a class or two in how to write lesson plans, and of course a lesson or two in folding paper. These basic lessons are repeated in new teacher orientations and at schools PDs. They’re all focuses on standardizing teacher methods to produce a similar product. I had one professor in Undergrad who focused entirely on critical literacy and social justice. One three hour course out of who knows how many was the only reason I completed a degree in education. That combined with past study of linguistics and literature.
Teaching is not limited to coloring within the lines. Thusly, neither should teacher training or education or whatever you call it be limited to such narrow outcomes either. I am not suggesting that teacher education programs produce only activists and social reformers, that would be ludicrous. Such activity must come from passion, awareness of injustice, and deep reflection. But, programs should produce cognizant and critical teachers who understand that their roles go far beyond that of folding paper and writing plans. Teachers should understand their roles as advocates for their students and themselves. They should have the skills walking into their classrooms not after they’ve been struggling as a teacher or five years. There is an abundance of literature focusing on teacher training. It should go beyond preparation for the praxis and a lifetime of coddling children. That is in no way what teaching is. And, regarding PD, it’s seldom that it is more than an occupation of valuable time that results in blank stares and checking cellphones. If you teach paper folding, perhaps shake things up, and focus on the way the information and critical thought is going to be put on that soon to be folded paper. Teachers are dedicated and hardworking people who are far more capable of complex thought than they are treated. Give us some credit.