Monday, June 21, 2010

Teachers Aren't Allowed to Teach Anymore

Teachers Aren't Allowed to Teach Anymore

Before majoring in education or working full-time as a teacher, I accepted a one day substitute assignment for the 5th grade. Soon, I was called back to take over the same class. When the teacher had the opportunity to travel to England with her husband for several weeks, she needed a leave of absence. The teacher and the principal agreed: I would take over the class. That is what I consider a proper endorsement.

As the students already knew me, we’d already broken the ice. Still, perhaps they were a little overly relaxed. That can lead to discipline problems. It almost did.

I had three 10 year old students, close friends, who liked to talk. Sometimes, it seemed they’d forgotten they were in school. Or that I was the teacher. That situation had to be dealt with immediately or the assignment would be a disaster.

I knew that I could not use discipline. That would create a confrontation and as I was only a temporary teacher, the students had nothing to lose by challenging my authority.

I knew that I could not “get them on my side”. They were the students, I was the teacher.

The solution: peer pressure.

I took a quick count of the number of students (25) and threw the class off guard. I asked if they wanted to change the seating. Instead of rows, we could do a great, big semi-circle. They could sit in two’s. They could choose their own partners. However, to add to my credibility, I told them the main rule: They had to promise to behave. If they fooled around with their neighbors then I would change the seating and I would choose the neighbors. They promised, enthusiastically, to be good.

The first step was to let the class know that there was an odd number and one student would have to sit with two others. I made that offer to the three cherubs I dubbed “Charley’s Angels”.

I volunteered the boys to move their desks and chair to the middle of the semi-circle, then I let the rest of the class move their desks. Soon it was time for a bathroom break.

Charlie’s Angels, why don’t you start us off? The rest of the class, you may line up. I needn’t tell you how well that went over with the rest of the class. After that, it was time for snacks.

Charlie’s Angels, why don’t you get your snacks from the cupboard? When they returned to their desks, I let “the rest of the class, go get your snacks”: planned pandemonium. After that, it was time for recess.

Charlie’s Angel’s, why don’t you get your coats and line up for recess? (Each time Charlie’s Angels went to the cupboard, I had one of the boys open the door.) All right class, go get your coats—planned pandemonium!

I followed that routine when we lined up for lunch and when we lined up to go home. Then, the following morning, I proceeded to follow the same routine. However, it didn’t work out for me. Before recess, Charlie’s Angels came up to my desk to tell me, “We don’t want to be Charlie’s Angels anymore. We want to be treated like everyone else.”

I, of course, was shocked, shocked (!) to hear that. “I thought you were friends.” I said. “I thought you wanted to be treated special,” I asked. Alas, I was wrong.

So, I stood up and announced to the class that Charlie’s Angels didn’t want to be Charlie’s Angels anymore; they wanted to be treated like everyone else. The class applauded and cheered. Problem solved.

Not anymore. Today, that sort of favoritism would be frowned upon if a teacher so much as dared to think about solving such a big problem with such a simple and effective solution. Complaints would be lodged; explanations would be demanded—and rejected. Rights (or the denial of same) would be invoked. Catastrophe!

Not then. Then, all went smoothly, too smoothly. I enrolled in an accelerated program to obtain my teaching certificate. However, I failed to think things through. I’d been teaching in Parochial school. Parochial schools barely pay a subsistence wage and I needed a real job with a real salary. What about public schools? Public schools were then, as they are now, at the forefront of capitulating to the “experts” who caused the problems that they are now trying to solve; who cause the problems they can’t solve; who could solve the problems by not causing them in the first place; but that is too simple. Perhaps we could dub them Charlie’s Angels and invoke the acrimony of all against them. No. That won’t work. Too many people are happy to see the children getting the appearance of an education. But that is another report.



PS. I am not Paul Harvey.  Still, I am open to becoming a paid blogger, columnist, or commentator.

In the meantime, if anyone finds the monographs on my blog to be especially helpful, please do not hesitate to send me on of those tricked out laptops and few dollars tucked into the envelope with the thank you note.



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