Litmus

The most fun I had the other night was lurking in the comments over at Scott’s placeSlow night., where he posted seven cellphone films of teachers gone wild, and asked if that kind of video qualified as student journalism or punishable infraction.

The comments came out in force, in volume, and few so far have gone anywhere near Scott’s prompt, most rephrasing his question as, “What do you think about these damn kids today?”

To which a bunch of YouTube-era pseudonyms (like, I swear, “MrStench”) reply somewhere in the neighborhood of:

We are too easy on children in our schools. If they don’t want to be in a regular class and learn, put them in a remedial class with a drill instructor as the teacher. The kids can self-study from their textbooks and take the tests without the advantages of good teaching.

and bonus nonsense from “Glen” (ha … imaginative pseudonym, pal!):

Most kids nowadays are punks. For them, school is a place to hang with friends and sell drugs… not to learn.

But what’s positively cool about this fracas is that, at the same time I’m mourning a world that grants these ageists and racists teaching credentials, that lets them run free and unjailed, a bunch of folks I routinely disagree with on matters of tech suddenly dash into the fray issuing replies and rebuttals all seasoned with grace and reason.

Nice job, people. I’m talking about Dana Huff, Taylor, Dave Sherman, and Dean Shareski, quoted:

Do our best teachers have this problem? I doubt it. So let’s work on developing great teachers and learning environments instead of band aid solutions that involve avoiding litigation and public embarrassment. Will students still act up and egg teachers on to go into rants? Certainly, but they’d be minimal with great teachers and great teachers would be less prone to react as some of these have done.

It’s cool to realize that, in spite of our frequent lower-case differences, we feel a comparable burden for our students’ engagement and recognize that their behavior is often a mirror of our own.

Group hug. C’mere.

About 
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

8 Comments

  1. Legislation has never really been good at making much of anything successful. Usually, it just aims at making something not disastorously unsuccessful.

    If you can figure out a way to litigate or legislate education’s way to great, great teachers, you’d better start writing that acceptance speech for your Nobel Prize.

    http://awaitingtenure.wordpress.com/

  2. You know in that first video, the one girl at the end probably annoyed him to no end by pointing out that there was no teaching going on in that classroom. Kids have always known that if they can get the teachers going, the teaching stops.

    My middle school music teacher used the “I’ll wait” method. After my mother requested it, I was allowed to go to the library to do “independent” work (aka worksheets), so at least I was spared 40 minutes of sitting around watching a teacher “waiting” for kids who had not intention of quieting down while he just sat there.

  3. Dan, I like the freshness of your blog. I’m curious about your thoughts on 2 Million Minutes: http://www.2mminutes.com/

    Comments on Litmus: I watched the videos and won’t judge because I don’t have all the facts. For example, were any staged or were any of the adults substitutes? Were any of the teachers “set up?” What about administrative support and collaboration?

    Classroom management begins with direct instruction of expectations and need not include contrived color charts, classroom rules, or reward systems. Teaching and using the basic “ate” life skill words (Cooperate, Communicate, Negotiate, Mediate) apply to any situation or age group and when practiced could save students and teachers a lot of money in therapy. Of course, teachers must be comfortable enough in their own skin to also “ate.”

    I have mediated student/teacher relationships but I have also been told by a teacher that she would not participate in any form of mediation- hmmm, think that might be part of the problem? Our profession, as in any, have the good and the bad.

    What Great Teachers Do Differently: http://www.eyeoneducation.com/prodinfo.asp?number=669-1

    Glad I found your blog- almost done reading your archive.

  4. Those videos were just scary. It is awful watching people reach the breaking points. I agree with the posters who say that it is the teacher’s fault. Students will always test the waters and if they are bored or know that they can get a rise out of the teacher that’s what they will do.

    I hope that the lessons learned (especially for the new teachers in this crowd) are to have good lessons and engage your students to avoid these types of scenarios. If the students see that you care about the students and the subject matter you will have no problems like these in the classroom…ever.

    For thsoe people saying its the students fault, I have to disagree. The teacher sets the atmosphere in the class not the students. (Sorry to get back on the classroom management discussion again)

  5. I would also like to toss in thanks to the rebuttal-contributors. The only thing that came to my mind when I read the thread was something which would not be written in the annals of fine rhetoric.

  6. Joanne, thanks for dropping by. I haven’t seen the movie but on the face of its trailer it doesn’t seem too different from much of the 21st-century global panic a lot of the Warlick crowd promotes.

    No doubt the fact that education hasn’t changed appreciably in 150 years while the rest of the world, um, has, is disturbing. But I don’t know if I’ll go to a movie in which six students are cherrypicked from around the world to underline that point over and over again.

    If you see it and I’m wrong about it, please lemme know.

    To the rest, may I direct your attention to Important Ratio #2, which has nowhere near the pageviews of her tech-minded predecessor but which runs through my head fifty times more per day.

    In that first video you’ve got a student whistling.

    Whistling. And the teacher flies off the handle.

    Effort From The Student To Piss Off Teacher, Ranked From 1 To 10: 3.

    Teacher’s Reaction, Ranked From 1 To 10: 8

    Whenever the teacher’s ranking exceeds the student’s, the student wins and the behavior is reinforced.

    Through creativity and patience, a teacher can always keep her ranking beneath the student’s, in which case, the teacher wins, and the student’s behavior is one step closer to extermination.

  7. Maybe I need to chill and find the funny, but Dan man, reading those comments, the comments at Joanne Jacobs on the same topic, and the comments on your plan for getting em back, I’m forcibly reminded on just how F-ing far we are, as a profession, industry, etc., from the places we need to be. So F-ing far.