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Sunday, May 27, 2012
Teacher tricks can send wrong message if dishonest
When do teaching techniques lapse into questionable
A reader laid off from her newspaper job applied for a
license as a substitute teacher. In her state, she says, new substitute
teachers are highly encouraged, and in some districts required, to take a
one-day training class. The class is conducted by an educational organization
located in her state.
Most of the attendees in the class the reader took had
education degrees. Some were new graduates and others former teachers.
During the class, the trainer revealed that she had a
highly effective classroom management technique she wanted to share. When she
is in the classroom, she writes the numbers 1 through 60 across the top of the
blackboard or whiteboard. She tells her students that if they cooperate and get
through everything in that day's lesson plan quickly, she'll let them have a
few minutes at the end of the class to talk together. The plan is that she will
mark off a number as they make their way through the lessons. As soon as they
get to 55, she tells her students, they can have their free time.
The secret, she tells her trainees, is to mark off the
numbers quickly at first so you get the kids engaged in the scheme. Then you
stop marking off the numbers until they remind you.
"You'll never hit 55," she tells her trainees.
When the bell rings for the end of the period, she instructs them to tell their
class, "Sorry, we'll try this again tomorrow."
Several educators in the room were thrilled with this new
technique, says my reader - who was appalled. Then others shared additional
methods of lying to students and tricking them into staying engaged. "It
seems this is something they are taught as educators," my reader said.
The reader was so upset by this class, she says, that she
considered dropping out of the substitute teacher program because, "I
can't do what everyone else seems to think is the smart thing to do."
Anyone who has ever stood in front of a classroom full of
pre-adolescent or adolescent children knows that a technique to engage the
students in the course of study that works is gold. If the trainer had used the
1 to 60 technique honestly and was genuine in her offer to give her students a
break if they finished a day's assignment in a timely fashion, she might have
had something worth emulating.
But since she went into the exercise with the intent of
never letting the students reach the magic 55, it's a dishonest gesture. The
students might work to keep up their end of the bargain, but the deal is fixed.
Sure, they get a full lesson plan and might be paying more attention than they
otherwise might have. But why lie? Why not engage the children and honor the
commitment you seem to be making? Why not let them hit 55 and get a break if
they worked hard to get there?
Lying to or misleading kids to get them to do what you
want them to do hardly passes ethical muster. The right thing is to find
techniques that work to keep students engaged, but to never lose sight of the
lesson you send about honesty and honoring commitments.