Mar 24 2010

Teaching as leadership critique part VI

Chapter 4, ‘Execute Effectively’, is another very good chapter. Here is where readers learn that being an excellent teacher requires a lot of hard detail work. There’s the constant assessing of students during a lesson and then a lot of grading afterwards. I think a CM reading this will finally get a sense of what being an effective teacher is all about – constant pressure to make sure that the lesson is getting through to all the students. This part is not as glamorous as some of what’s described in chapter 2 with the ‘investment’ strategies, but these skills are far more important.

If you have been reading through the book along with me, you might now have a better understanding of why I objected so much about what was said in the first two chapters. Teaching is a very difficult job. There’s only so many hours in a day, and you have to learn to prioritize. If you spend two hours every day walking kids home and waiting for their parents to come home because they didn’t answer the phone when you called, how could you ever have time to do the vital work described in this chapter? This chapter and the last chapter should be expanded while chapter 1 and 2 could have been cut to about 10 pages each.

For the last 7 pages of the chapter, they address classroom management / discipline one more time. I think this is the last mention of it in the book, meaning that this topic will comprise only 9 out 300 pages, or a mere 3%.

There are a few things I’d like to say about classroom management, based on what was said in this chapter: Near the bottom of 164 it says

Many new teachers initially struggle, for example, with classroom management and student behavior. In our experience, these problems are mostly symptoms of the teacher’s failure to assert authority by consistently following through with behavioral expectations.

I don’t really agree with that. Though it’s true that not following through doesn’t help matters, in my opinion students misbehave because the teacher has failed to convince them that he/she is competent and capable of helping them learn. Since they don’t think they can learn from this teacher anyway, they might as well have fun while they’re not learning. This is why it’s so important to not teach something over their heads, early on, that students fail to achieve and then feel like there’s no reason to try at future lessons.

Finally, I have a real problem with the final quote on page 167. Throughout this 7 page section on management, it is stressed that teachers need to be consistent with following through on behavioral expectations. Then, the ‘last word’ from Ross Jensen says

After a disastrous first semester, I resolved to adopt a positive paradigm for my classroom. Instead of scolding off-task students, I would praise on-task students. Instead of telling those students who were misbehaving that I was disappointed in them, I would tell those students who were behaving appropriately that I was proud of them. … The results were dramatic and immediate.

Positive reinforcement is a good tool, but when he says that he used it instead of, rather than, in addition to correcting misbehavior, I don’t believe him. Couldn’t they have found someone who said “Rather than just correct misbehavior, I found it effective to also praise those students who behaved appropriately.” The quote from the book undermines the earlier good advice that assertive teachers are not afraid to address misbehaviors.

Still, a very nice chapter. It actually made me think about my own teaching and some of the things I can improve on.

So I’m on page 171, now. We’ve seen 100 pretty unimportant pages followed by 71 pretty good ones. I wonder if these percents are indicative of how they utilize the short time training over the summer. There’s just not enough time to spend on the non-essentials. If you haven’t read this book yet, I’d recommend starting by carefully reading chapter 3 and 4 and then skimming 1 and 2.

Continue To Part VII

2 Responses

  1. DeltaBlues

    Love your last line. I’m a 2010 and I still haven’t read the darn book. Maybe I’ll dig it out now and start on Chapter 3!

  2. Superior thnkinig demonstrated above. Thanks!

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum


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