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The changing landscape

RogueScholar
Posts: 16
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2/16/2010 8:48:18 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Driving into the school parking lot one morning I noticed something, and realized how oblivious I had become to its presence. I really noticed for the first time that every day there is a squad car at the middle school I go to. Over the years I have worked as a school psychologist at many middle schools and high schools, and this is common. Even more common, and in fact is as "natural" as seeing teachers in the schools, is to see uniformed police officers. Maybe to some people this does not seem like a big deal, but this particular morning it struck me as disturbing that somehow the presence of a squad car has become part of the school day routine. I felt saddened and angry that a "natural" part of the scenery of a public school is a squad car. I was saddened because this really hit home in my heart the condition our schools are in, and angry because we have let this happen. What does this say about our society, our parents, our children, and the way we have to do education?

It seems that we have lost common sense in parenting and education. Anybody reading this article has heard stories from people who talked to people who grew up in the first half of the twentieth century, grew up themselves then, or whose parents or grand parents grew up then. During that time period students did with much less, and much more was expected of them. Today, this has basically flip-flopped. Now kids have much more and do much less, both at home and school. Why have things changed? Is it that we think so little of our kids today? I have to wonder. We say we love them, yet we give them more and settle for less and less from them. We have heard how our parents and grandparents did without things in school that today we consider critical, such as a desk, air conditioning, adequate heat, and a lunch. At home they may have had only one toy (that was handmade), hand me down clothes and shoes, no snacks or treats, etc. Yet their behavior was much better and they learned more than kids today.

In the early 90's I went to a local, small workshop to hear a retired teacher talk about her experiences. She was in her 80's, had long been retired, and for many years of her career taught in a one room school. She pointed out that she didn't have to worry about "including" certain children in the regular classroom, because there was only one classroom. (For the noneducator, "inclusion" was one of the buzz words in the 90's, and everybody was expected to do it). Everybody was included in her classroom. And grade levels weren't necessary. What would be the point? Everybody just progressed at their level, on their own schedule. If eight year-old Johnny was still struggling learning to read, then eleven year-old Susie helped him out. And he progressed at his own rate. He wasn't the sharpest kid in the class, but he learned all that he could. Teasing and self-esteem weren't problems because there were no grade levels, and Johnny didn't have to receive F's because he wasn't where Susie was when she was eight. Behavior was not an issue, because the kids were grateful and happy to be in school, and good behavior was expected by their parents. When somebody did act up, as all kids will do from time to time, she would remind the child that she might have to talk to their father, and this usually shaped him right up. Of course a swat with the yard stick on the desk might be necessary once in a while to get someone refocused.

Because of technology and the historically relative wealth that even the poorest of us has in this country, we have the time to worry and contemplate things that people never even thought about before. Today we worry if our kids will like their meal, and so we give them choices and varieties of treats because they are "picky eaters." Throughout history people were generally worried about eating at all. They were worried about the crops getting enough rain, harvesting the crops, cold weather, starving, freezing, and now we worry if we're going to get the new release when it comes out on DVD! I believe that our predecessor's needs and circumstances naturally required a mind set and lifestyle that didn't have room for a lot of the nonsense we participate in today. Education is an obvious example. Instead of being grateful that we are getting an education at all, in wonderful facilities, we demand more incentives to come to school. I don't get it? Imagine if a teacher from a hundred years ago could walk into a classroom today what her reactions would be. Then imagine what her reaction would be when we told her that kids talk back to teachers, don't pay attention, don't work, are absent a lot for no good reason, and are tardy for no good reason. She would be in utter disbelief. Could you imagine trying to explain to her why this is so?
alto2osu
Posts: 277
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2/16/2010 9:17:52 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
So, how do you propose to fix this problem? Is this just a rant, or do you have a plan of action in mind besides the proposal made in another post, that we magically motivate parents to be better parents when, sometimes, that is simply out of their control?

The point being that this isn't the early 20th century. Of course generations change, but is that purely a common sense issue, or could it be myriad factors, some intangible or not able to be labeled? Ex: the effect of a hyper-technological age on younger generations. This is a huge concern within the ELA classroom, as teachers are now competing with alternative modes of entertainment other than reading. Do we fight a totally ridiculous uphill battle, or do we find new ways to evolve with the generations and with the system? Personally, I teach Maus and get over my sentiments about what should and shouldn't be canonical within archaic models of education.

Should kids be smarmy, disrespectful, and generally holy terrors? No. Are they all that way? No. Do teachers have the ability, simply by adjusting their own classroom management methods using the help of practical research and development, to change this environment? Absolutely. I do it everyday with kids that, when I got to this school, departing teachers said couldn't be tamed. And I can tell you right now that I didn't do it by saying, "Now, dammit, children! Imagine how it felt to attend a one-room, desolate schoolhouse with an ill-trained community member and then go back to the fields everyday!" They'd laugh me out of the room because they aren't idiots.

Times change. Mentalities change. Kids change. I for one embrace that which you would characterize as disrespectful. I call it political dissonance. I call it the seeds of independent, critically aware minds. If you harness that raw power, probably brought out by things that parents and teachers have little control over, and channel it into something both relevant and educational (yet another conclusion come to by educational research), success occurs.
RogueScholar
Posts: 16
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2/17/2010 10:35:24 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 2/16/2010 9:17:52 PM, alto2osu wrote:
So, how do you propose to fix this problem? Is this just a rant, or do you have a plan of action in mind besides the proposal made in another post, that we magically motivate parents to be better parents when, sometimes, that is simply out of their control?

The point being that this isn't the early 20th century. Of course generations change, but is that purely a common sense issue, or could it be myriad factors, some intangible or not able to be labeled? Ex: the effect of a hyper-technological age on younger generations. This is a huge concern within the ELA classroom, as teachers are now competing with alternative modes of entertainment other than reading. Do we fight a totally ridiculous uphill battle, or do we find new ways to evolve with the generations and with the system? Personally, I teach Maus and get over my sentiments about what should and shouldn't be canonical within archaic models of education.

Should kids be smarmy, disrespectful, and generally holy terrors? No. Are they all that way? No. Do teachers have the ability, simply by adjusting their own classroom management methods using the help of practical research and development, to change this environment? Absolutely. I do it everyday with kids that, when I got to this school, departing teachers said couldn't be tamed. And I can tell you right now that I didn't do it by saying, "Now, dammit, children! Imagine how it felt to attend a one-room, desolate schoolhouse with an ill-trained community member and then go back to the fields everyday!" They'd laugh me out of the room because they aren't idiots.

Times change. Mentalities change. Kids change. I for one embrace that which you would characterize as disrespectful. I call it political dissonance. I call it the seeds of independent, critically aware minds. If you harness that raw power, probably brought out by things that parents and teachers have little control over, and channel it into something both relevant and educational (yet another conclusion come to by educational research), success occurs.

I don't call using the "F" word and not listening to adults, so that you could possibly learn something, as "political dissonance." Anybody can be vulgar and spurt something out of their mouth. That's why so many kids today go on to do such great things. I'm sure there are plenty of examples you could give me of such disrespectful, foul mouthed young people who went on to achieve great things (or cause political dissonance, should I say)? Perhaps they are like that vulgar and disrespectful Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein? I'm sure that Jefferson, in his extensive writings used profanities and disregarded those he could learn from. That's how he became so great! Hello! I'm sure the young "dissonants" you are referring to, because they are such independent thinkers, are capable of holding truly intellectual debates, like Lincoln, and writing truly important speeches like King. That's why we see so much of it! Let me know where these young people are, because nobody other than you has heard of them or seen them.
alto2osu
Posts: 277
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2/17/2010 10:55:28 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Well, first of all, you are making this really strange assumption that I'm talking about out and out insubordination, when you don't even make that distinction in your OP.

Second of all, yes, I would argue that some students who make poor judgments about their language or whatnot have the potential, under the right tutelage, to become worthwhile. You automatically assume that a student who shows any amount of disrespect to authority is ruined for life, or that disrespect signals some monumental shift in the way that all youth behave.

To a certain extent, it does. Students aren't idiots. I've said that before. The society in which they live teaches them to be individuals. This isn't Suzie-homemaker high school days like it was in the 50's. Why is confrontation automatically the signal of the apocalypse?

Lastly, why isn't their behavior an indication of instructor failure? In a school riddled with disciplinary issues (quite literally-- over a quarter of our 200 students commit insubordination each day on a "major" level according to our referral system). I'd also like to note that, though I teach approximately half of the students in the school, I have yet to write a single one of these major referrals this year. My classroom is known as one of the best, if not the best, managed high school classroom in the building. In my 3rd year, I am teaching my peers in inservices how to communicate meaningfully with their students. My practical successes stem from attempting a genuine understanding of my students as individual human beings, as educational PEERS. That's why your philosophy fails-- they aren't inferior beings, and if you don't treat them in ways that may or may not have worked in generations passed, you might have a tad more success with them than you have now.
alto2osu
Posts: 277
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2/17/2010 11:02:00 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 2/17/2010 10:55:28 PM, alto2osu wrote:
In a school riddled with disciplinary issues (quite literally-- over a quarter of our 200 students commit insubordination each day on a "major" level according to our referral system). I'd also like to note that, though I teach approximately half of the students in the school, I have yet to write a single one of these major referrals this year.

Argh. It's clear I wrote this at the end of a 17-hour day...

"I WORK IN a school riddled with..."
RogueScholar
Posts: 16
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2/18/2010 10:36:08 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 2/17/2010 10:55:28 PM, alto2osu wrote:
Well, first of all, you are making this really strange assumption that I'm talking about out and out insubordination, when you don't even make that distinction in your OP.

Second of all, yes, I would argue that some students who make poor judgments about their language or whatnot have the potential, under the right tutelage, to become worthwhile. You automatically assume that a student who shows any amount of disrespect to authority is ruined for life, or that disrespect signals some monumental shift in the way that all youth behave.

To a certain extent, it does. Students aren't idiots. I've said that before. The society in which they live teaches them to be individuals. This isn't Suzie-homemaker high school days like it was in the 50's. Why is confrontation automatically the signal of the apocalypse?

Lastly, why isn't their behavior an indication of instructor failure? In a school riddled with disciplinary issues (quite literally-- over a quarter of our 200 students commit insubordination each day on a "major" level according to our referral system). I'd also like to note that, though I teach approximately half of the students in the school, I have yet to write a single one of these major referrals this year. My classroom is known as one of the best, if not the best, managed high school classroom in the building. In my 3rd year, I am teaching my peers in inservices how to communicate meaningfully with their students. My practical successes stem from attempting a genuine understanding of my students as individual human beings, as educational PEERS. That's why your philosophy fails-- they aren't inferior beings, and if you don't treat them in ways that may or may not have worked in generations passed, you might have a tad more success with them than you have now.

Sounds like your school will be one of a kind in this country -once you teach all the other teachers your methods. Wake up! People have been saying stuff like this for years. As far as confrontation, how do you confront the parents, school board members, principal, superintendent, etc. if you happen to disagree with something. Do you disrespect them? You should, because it is no "monumental" deal. Right? In modern education, not that stupid "Suzy homemaker" mentality when mothers were actually there for their kids, we have taught kids that, and convinced ourselves that, disrespect is OK. We are on the right track. Keep it up!
alto2osu
Posts: 277
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2/18/2010 10:44:43 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 2/18/2010 10:36:08 PM, RogueScholar wrote:
Sounds like your school will be one of a kind in this country -once you teach all the other teachers your methods. Wake up! People have been saying stuff like this for years. As far as confrontation, how do you confront the parents, school board members, principal, superintendent, etc. if you happen to disagree with something. Do you disrespect them? You should, because it is no "monumental" deal. Right? In modern education, not that stupid "Suzy homemaker" mentality when mothers were actually there for their kids, we have taught kids that, and convinced ourselves that, disrespect is OK. We are on the right track. Keep it up!

1) No, Tony Robbins. I don't need to wake up. You, on the other hand, Rumplestiltskin, need to realize what decade you are in. This isn't the time of your granddad.

2) People have been saying the things I'm saying for no more than maybe 10 years. In terms of theories regarding ANYTHING, that's a tiny lifespan. Teeny tiny. You expect critical and fundamental changes to happen in days, when history proves that those things take years.

3) I don't "disrespect" them, per se, but I'm pretty much blunt as a spoon. You are talking about learned behavior here. That means we can pretty much teach kids the behaviors that are acceptable in different types of social or professional interactions. Or are you now positing that students today are beyond all forms of education? School really *is* as much of a social institution as it is an educational one. It's *the* place for children to not only interact with their peers, but authority figures who are not their parents. I mean, I already belabored this elsewhere, but any other view of education is a completely delusional one.

4) Do you actively encourage disrespect? Can you honestly say that teachers walk into their classrooms every day with that very goal in mind? Really? Seriously? Is your aversion to research or even observation of human behavioral evolution really so severe that you have actually stopped watching children in schools for like the last 5 years? I just have this incredibly hard time believing that you are anywhere near children. Or perhaps you are employed in such a hell-hole school district that all hope is gone. I have not a clue.