Thursday, August 27, 2009

Doing a Disservice to My Students? - A Conversation with my Daughter

Today, my 9th grade daughter, Ali, and I went with my husband to his classroom to help him set up for the year. At one point during the day, Ali started reading a poster he has up on the wall. It was about how to handle a bully. One of the suggestions was to walk away. Ali began to tell me how that never works. So, we started a discussion about it.

"What if someone did this?" I said, as I pushed her.

"I would do this," she answered, as she pushed me back.

"Well, you've just escalated the situation." I now proceed to talk to her about war and...well, I guess I went too far. She brought me back to the bully in the classroom.

"Walking away never works," she said.

So I told her to sit next to me. I said, "This is how it usually works in a classroom," and I moved my arm onto her desk and pretended to do my work while encroaching on her space. "Now what?" I asked.

She put on an angry face but had no response.

So I said, "This is when, in my classroom, I would expect you to take your work and go sit at another table. Or ask me to move to a bigger table in the room."

It was at this point that she rolled her eyes, saying, "You need to stop doing that." I thought she meant talking about my classroom. Instead she explained, "You are really messing up your kids teaching them to move. Nobody else lets kids move. They're not going to be able to move in another class so they might as well learn how to handle the situation without moving."

As my mouth dropped open, she continued. "All those things you tell them. To use a computer for writing, or getting a toy to play with, or taking a walk for a break, or moving away from someone who is bothering them. That messes them up for the next grade."

I tried to explain that I was preparing them for life. "As an adult, I would move away from a worker who is annoying me."

"What if you had to work with them?"

"I would move to a bigger table and give them more space. Still make decisions with them but give them what they need and take what I need."

"Yeah, well," she responded, "that doesn't work in school. And you need to get them ready for 6th grade, not adulthood."

Wow. This really has me thinking. Is she right? I know that sometimes my students come back and tell me they aren't allowed to do what we taught them to do in our classroom. But I have to believe that, in the long run, it will help. Learning how to deal with obstacles is an important life lesson. Or should I just prepare them to sit in one seat, never moving, never asking for extra help, never talking to their classmates? What is the answer? What do you think?

Image: 'bullyingDM2810_468x720'

'The Burden of Thought'

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Vacation?

It is August. The summer is winding down and I am here in Arizona on a family vacation. We have been traveling the state - visiting my brother-in-law in Tucson, driving up to Mt. Lemmon, hiking around the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. Today we spent an exhausting, exhilarating day in the Grand Canyon. I love spending time with my family and am truly loving this vacation. Tomorrow we head to Sedona. We are considering renting ATVs to ride around the mountains.

And now I am settled down for the night. My husband and daughter are watching television. I was watching with them for a while but my mind was churning. You see, as much as I love this vacation, love summer, love hanging out with my family, I can't s
eem to stop thinking about school. So here I am editing wikis, planning projects, emailing collaborators. And I am wondering what is wrong with me. Why can't I just relax and do nothing?

In fact, my husband, who is also a teacher, and I spent our car ride through the Petrified Forest discussing how the area is a perfect example of weather erosion. "How," we discussed,"could we demonstrate this for our students in the classroom?" We actually spent about an hour brainstorming objects we could use to show the formation of a mountain due to an earthquake. Pancakes? Tortillas? Sand? Mud? Clay? Paper and water? We promised ourselves that as soon as we got home we would try out a few ideas. In the meantime, I pulled out my ITouch and recorded all our ideas for later listening.

I am excited about the science lessons racing through my brain. I am enriched by my trip through the desert. I am energized by this vacation. And, maybe, just maybe, that is what vacations are all about for teachers. Not necessarily a time to relax and do nothing. But a time to reenergize. And, for me, a trip to the desert is the perfect solution to end-of-year burn out.