Location: Texas, United States

I am a teacher with 33 years experience in public education. The purpose of this web log is to critically examine the present state of education in our great country and, particularly, in Texas.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

More on student morale

I wonder what would happen if schools suddenly decided to treat students like the young adults they are. what would happen if kids were given some decision making power in the way they learn the things they have to learn. What would happen if students were surrounded by their own art, their own work and their own intellectual creations. What would happen if students were addressed as 'mam and sir. What would happen if students were spoken to in a quiet voice as two sane adults address each other. What would happen if we modeled the best behavior a human being is capable of to students.

Would test scores improve? Would learning improve? Would students look at school as a destination rather than a required drive-thru window on the way to life. I think the answer to all those questions is a clamorous, lusty yes.

If we examine the way we work as adults, I think many of us would agree that our best work comes out of autonomy. My best work is produced when I am given some latitude in how I am to complete my work. I know for sure that most of what I learned that is with me still I learned as a teacher.

While I prepare lessons from scratch as a teacher I am doing original work and research. I am fully engaged in the project. There is a flow to the work that I fall into that is hard to lay down. I have had students so engaged in my career that I had to run them out of the building in the afternoon.

A reasonable assumption is that students who look at their school lives as positive parts of their overall lives will feel better about the school. Let's face it, most kids do not think very far into the future. They think about how they feel now, today, and in the next hour. Kids also do not have the ability to understand how something will impact their lives. So, tick off the kids and everything goes away - discipline, teacher morale, test scores, safety, and untold numbers of things that I haven't thought of yet.

Kids also understand when their time is being wasted. If they are drilled to death for the state tests they will realize they are not really being taught something for their good. They realize that most of the time the school is concerned about the schools good. If the dress code becomes more important than the learning the kids will behave in a perfectly predictable manner. If, for instance, the administration of a building holds the view that the dress code is the underlying secret of success there will be a problem in every case. I have known of districts where the superintendent actually spent time at the high school, clipboard in hand, tagging kids for dress code. In the same situation teachers are told that their teaching evaluations will be effected if administrators walk into a teachers room to find one or more students out of dress code. Use your imagination. You will be able to predict what happened to the morale of the teachers and logically enough the morale and dedication of the kids.

The test scores in this unidentified school district continue to go down at the same time that dress code was identified as a way to improve scores, discipline and student morale. The results were predictable. Scores are going down, teachers are leaving and kids are constantly in trouble.

Check out your own local school. Find out if your school is rule driven or driven by a concern for impact of administrative decisions on the human needs and concerns of students. One student told this writer that "they just can't get past the dress code, if they put half the effort into helping us learn that they put into being sure that we don't have on denim that day, maybe things would be better. Right now, I hate school".

Schools should not ask students to think until the administration of the district is willing to ask itself the hard questions. The first question might be "why are we following this policy"? The second question might be "is there any indication at all that what we are doing could possibly, by any stretch of the imagination, in any universe, contribute to student learning and mastery"? The third question might be "is this policy based on reasoned thought and disprovable research questions or is it the result of my two-bit bias?"

Schools in our era are too often driven by assumptions that are simply the biased opinion of someone who should know better, the biased opinion of someone who is painfully ignorant, or the untested hypothesis of someone who wouldn't recognize good research if someone threw a book of research design principles at them.

In my experience rigorous thought and hard reasoning is extremely rare in the upper levels of educational administration. More often the contents of a one day seminar is forced on a district by an upper level administrator who bought the presentation hook, line and sinker without asking "is there any reason to believe that this content represents anything close to the truth.? Too often they simply are caught up by the flash of the latest idea down the pike. Two often what has really worked with kids since the first time there were kids is thrown out in deference to the latest idea that someone created because they really wish it worked and was true.

If you have a kid in a public school, pray for them.


Blogger EdWonk said...

We've linked this post at the week's Tales From The Trenches: Classroom Teachers Speak.

2:35 PM  
Blogger BT said...

Betty Tesh here with a few hints for new Teachers...

You're going to be a great teacher. You've got knowledge, enthusiasm, desire, motivation. What you don't have is experience.

And experience makes the difference between a potentially great teacher and a comfortably great teacher.

We've got over 68 combined years of experience to share, which is what we've done in...

"The Handy-Dandy Desktop Mentor."

No esoteric teaching methods. No field studies or carefully calibrated experiments. Just down-to-earth, helpful hints and suggestions to help you survive your first (few) years as a teacher.

We warn you about common pitfalls, give suggestions for getting along with fellow teachers, toss out a few classroom management techniques, offer advice on dealing with parents, and share secrets on organizing some of that "stuff" you've suddenly acquired.

If what you want is dull, dry treatise on pedagogy, or if you need a heavy meal of ibids and op.cits laced with quotes from learned professors of education, this book's not for you. It's quick and easy reading, a bit light-hearted, but as serious as an air strike about helping you bet the teacher you know you were meant to be.

A handbook for initially licensed, novice and beginning teachers that shares classroom management ideas, tips for getting along with educational personnel, suggestions for dealing with parents, and advice that good mentoring
teachers share for success in the classroom, written with humor by experienced educators.

As a new teacher, you won’t be doing battle with a supreme Evil like Sauron or traveling into the Cracks of Doom like Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, but like those two Hobbits, you are ‘expected to find a way...’ (Book IV, Chpt. 3) A way to make learning fun, but keep control of the classroom; a way to reach thirty different children with thirty different learning styles, a way to teach whole-heartedly while fielding a barrage of forms, procedures, expectations and instructions.

"The Handy-Dandy Desktop Mentor." is available at my site for new Teachers.

2:42 AM  
Blogger paymaster said...

Hello Blogger,

After reading your blog "More on student morale", I believe you will find the wages information on my site about Jobs With Best Wages to be very helpful.

To give you an idea of our wide range, some of the recent searches that found our site included ...

Postsecondary Religion Teachers Wages
Postsecondary Physics Teachers Wages
Postsecondary Political Socience Teachers Wages
Postsecondary Teachers Wages
Preschool Teachers Wages
Postsecondary Psychology Teachers Wages
Postsecondary Recreation & Fitness Studies Teachers Wages
Secondary School Teachers Wages.

We have hundreds of "must read" articles on wages and careers and many other topics in our Top Career Wages site.

Kind Regards

8:42 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home