NOTE: I am posting my response to a blog post here because Blogger presented an incomprehensible error that I think might mean that my response is too long…
Lee’s blog post is a reaction to another post on Will Richardson’s blog, A Parent 2.0’s Back to School Dilemma in which he and Alec Couros lament what they’ve observed as parents at back-to-school night. I interpret Will’s blog as a cry for help. I know I have felt powerless when I visited my child’s classroom and found that the environment, teacher or pedagogical practices not to my liking.
Lee wrote the following…
Read Will’s post AND the comments because reading it all made me realize this about myself: I suck!
I must be a fraud. I’m not who you think I am!
People in the edublogger community who once thought I was a great teacher would be appalled if they came into my room! Why?
- I also have rules about sharpening pencils. Have you ever had 6 students get up to sharpen their pencils while they should be working on something else. While they are sharpening they are horsing around? All the while you are trying to read with a small group of students? Truly, there HAS to be some organization in a classroom. My rule? Sharpen pencils in the morning and afternoon. Otherwise, take one of my golf pencils (you know the short ones with no erasers?)
- I also thank parents for sending in white board markers and copy paper because I’ve already spent $800. of my own money this school year alone. Every little bit helps. By the way, I still need sticky notes, if you’d like to send me some. I’ll thank you too.
- I often use the textbook as a guide or [GASP] teach from it, because I HAVE to teach to standards and I have to teach 5 subjects every single day and I don’t have time to create a project-based activity for every single lesson.
- If I had a parent send me “helpful” emails and copy the principal on them, that parent would become “that parent” and you can be sure communication on my end would as minimal as possible.
- If I had a parent who told their child he/she can ignore my homework because the parent felt it was unnecessary…. the child will still be held responsible for the homework.
- My students have assigned seats. They are allowed to talk when the talk is meaningful and productive. They are not allowed to talk when someone else is speaking to the group. My students are sitting where “I,” THE TEACHER, determine each student can do their best work.
And there’s lots more rules! Yes, I have rules in my room. Sometimes I even have to invent more based on some things that occur repeatedly.
Well, first of all I need to declare publicly that my respect for Chris Lehmann has gone up appreciably based on his response and practical suggestions for more civil, learner-centered alternatives to teacher-created arbitrary rules. THAT was a masterful demonstration of why educators should take him seriously.
Lee – I’m wondering why you felt compelled to write this defense of your teaching practices? If I told you that I disagreed with your pencil rules or seating chart, would you change your practice? Under what circumstances would you do so? If some guy from central office carrying a clipboard told you to get rid of the seating chart, or pencils, or rows of desks, or gum rules, THEN would you do it?
Or, are you defiantly proclaiming, “This is the way I teach and if you don’t like it…” ?
There is also a great deal of rhetorical conjuring taking place. Are you defending all teacher’s rights to do whatever they BELIEVE is effective, perhaps even in the face of evidence to the contrary?
Do you want all of us who follow you on Twitter or via blogging to agree with your classroom practices? Are you using your online popularity to dare us to disagree with you or question your pedagogical practices?
I love you to death, but I’ve only hung out with you in non-school settings or interacted via Twitter. Does your presence in social media bestow quality control? How am I supposed to know if you’re a good teacher? Should I trust your nice avatar and the fact that kids like you?
If a teacher spends hours each day lecturing/speaking/teaching, is it unreasonable to expect that person to have well-developed speaking skills or is capable of explaining herself?
I’ve been at back-to-school nights where a teacher had so little charisma that parents walked around the classroom, mumbled “I guess she’s not here” and walked out of the room while the teacher plaintively asked, “Why isn’t anyone staying?” If a teacher cannot hold my interest for 8 minutes, why should I leave my child with him for 180 days? Should a teacher work on developing such communication skills?
I can tell you that here in Australia the teachers have (on average) exceptional speaking skills and as a result so do their students.
I think the more important point that Alec, Will, Chris and others have alluded to is, “What if my child is randomly assigned to your classroom for an entire year and I don’t agree with your rules, room arrangement, seating chart or a bazillion other classroom variables?
THEN what options do I have as a parent? What is my child to do? What is the fate of a child whose parent is not an education expert?
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.