Wow, I have been teaching for almost thirty two years and it took me this long to figure it out. I am a control freak. There, I said it. Now it is time to move on.
Recently I was involved in the School Improvement plan at my school. We were doing research on some of our student, parent, and teacher surveys. It suddenly occurred to me that students are easily understood. We do not have to do a survey on students to find out the two biggest problems in school according to students. In every school that either has uniforms or a dress code, students will always see dress code as the number one problem and school lunches as the second biggest problem.
It was my next thought that changed my way of thinking. I began to wonder if teachers were just as predictable. If you asked teachers what the biggest problem was in their school, what would they say? My greatest hope would be that teachers would be most concerned with how much students were learning. Certainly that was my first thought. But, when I read the results of the survey I found that 83 percent of the teachers in my school thought that student behavior was the number one problem.
What alarmed me was the fact that I understood kids. I predicted easily what they would perceive as the biggest problems in school. I did not understand myself. I did not know that I was a control freak. I might be over reacting just a little, but it is true. Think about it. What are we doing? Most of the time we put students in straight lines in straight rows and expect them to keep their mouths shut for almost an hour, unless they get permission from none other than the King control freak.
I know what your are thinking about now. You are thinking that without order no one will be able to learn. Certainly there are times when students do need to respect their peers and take turns speaking. The big question is… do we spend too much time controlling each and every one of their behaviors? And If you believe that we are…. what can we do about it?
First we must design models of teaching that enable the students to move around more often and communicate much more with their peers. No! I do not mean collaborative groups where the students merely focus on the concepts and Ideas that the teacher designed. While there is definitely time for these types of exercises, we need to have many learning experiences where the students are given the liberty to use their own creativity in exhibiting the concepts and standards that are to be met on a given day.
If you still do not see teachers as control freaks… let me share a quick story with you. Yesterday I was in a teachers meeting and we were tasked with the job of coming up with a criteria for Student of the Month.
Once again my first thoughts for criteria included some positive signs of academic progress, or even citizenship. Do you think that that was the first thought of my colleagues? I could barely believe my ears. They started making a list of the behaviors that they did not want in the Student of the Month.
After listening for about twenty minutes I could stand it no longer and I brought it to their attention that all we need to do is nominate someone each month and then take a vote.
We are not policeman and our main objective is not to teach them what not to do! We need to guide students through the discovery of creative and innovative ideas and concepts, while engaging the students in their own education.
If you are one of the thousands of control freaks like me, I suggest that you admit it, forget it and move on to a more productive way of teaching. I ceased to control every move that my students make and they are learning more while enjoying their new freedom. We now affectionately call me the reformed Control Freak while they are called the Over Achievers.
Source by Bob Roach