Friday, October 16, 2009

Are teachers too sensitive?

~From Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham, page 154:

The positive comments [on another teacher’s teaching] should outnumber the negative ones.  I know that principle seems corny, because when listening to positive comments a teacher can’t help but think, “He is saying that only because he knows he is supposed to say something positive.”  Even so, positive comments remind the teacher that she is doing a log of things right, and those things should be acknowledged and reinforced.

In this section of the book, the author is talking about how teachers can improve their teaching by recording themselves, viewing the recordings with other teachers, and commenting on other teachers’ teaching.

I find this paragraph, and the paragraphs surrounding it, to be pretty corny, as the author says they might.  But I think the author is just trying to defend teachers (after all, the book’s target audience is teachers).  There are, in my experience, plenty of teachers who do very little right.  (And some who do nothing right.)

But what I really don’t like about the paragraphs is how sensitive they make teachers seem.  The teachers will get the same amount of money on their paycheck no matter how many students hate them.  They don’t get graded, and they don’t get assigned homework by students in subject areas that don’t interest them.  I’m not saying that teaching is one of the easiest jobs in the world, but in a teacher-student relationship, I think being on the teacher side is the easier side.  Disclaimer: I am not, have never been, and doubt I ever will be a teacher.  But I have plenty of experience being a miserable student.

So this whole “be more positive than negative” message just makes me think “oh please, gimme a break!”  Would you say that teachers should be more positive than negative in feedback to their students, even when they completely fail a test?



At November 2, 2009 at 9:25 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

I agree that the feedback that is given by a teacher should be reflected by the action from the student. If a student fails 3 consecutive tests, you don't say "Its okay, Johnny, the fourth time is a charm." No, reprocutions should be given. A good feed back would be to get the parents involved. With that being said, I believe that teaching require a colaberation between Teacher, Student, Parent, as well as any outside source that could help to improve the learning environment(not limited to the look of the classroom).
You made a great observation about not being able to perform in school as a student because you don't want to, this usually resulting in the lack of interest in the course material. That is understandable especially considering that it may be information that is garenteed never to be used again (busy work). A class may be required by the law, but if the student is not interested, there is no real way that way can force them to perform to the standard that has been set. This is were a colaberation between different sources becomes key. Just comparing notes with other Teachers will help them to become more familiar with the content that they are putting out but it won't help the student take it in neither will the positive feedback to the student who does more sleeping in class than takeing notes. You need to get the parents involved which is a challenge in its own as more and more parents of todays society become less involved. The thing to do is lower the standards, but then you lower the quality.

It really is easier to defend the teacher than it is the student as it usually boils down to the effert the student puts in. The whole situation is a dark alley and there are a lot of dumpsters shrouding the direct route.


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