Teacher Training

On any Monday morning, a student shows up out of dress code, without a notebook and without the completed reading assignment from last week. In addition, the student sports a chip on the shoulder (or chair for the Hyde folks) that cannot be hidden nor explained. Now the teacher must choose a course of action, and the teacher’s training will make all the difference.

If the teacher spent his or her formative years in teacher education courses focused on learning differences and a teacher’s responsibility to support each student, then the teacher sees a student who needs empathy. The teacher makes a plan to differentiate instruction for, and perhaps even accommodate, the student’s area of weakness – in this case the weakness looks like organization. Teacher questions attend to attention and memory systems.*

If the teacher spent his or her formative years in the Hyde School Dean’s Office focused on student attitude and the teacher’s responsibility to challenge each student, then the assessment of the situation is quite different. The student needs a wake-up call – a confrontation. The teacher makes it clear the student must make a different plan if s/he hopes to succeed in class. The teacher asks the student the most important questions, “Have you broken the school ethics?” and “Are you honest?”

I valued my graduate work in education very much, and I am a better teacher because of my education; however, this kind of challenge goes against the grain of teaching education. I suppose it comes down to the weight of the foot. As a teacher, I must decide, where and with who does the responsibility for the student-learning lie?

I believe teacher education textbooks, sporting groups of eager smiling learners, betray the nature of educating adolescents. As teachers, we need tools beyond differentiated curriculum development and instructional methods. We need training that sheds light into the hopes and fears of adolescents. Bloom developed taxonomy for this spectrum of teaching, and he called it the Affective domain.
I did not find that information in the teacher education books though; I found it while scouring the web searching for the reason so many of my expensive books left out the fundamental understanding aspect of teaching.

To close, time after time in my teaching career, I have seen these students, the ones I mentioned up front, end up in the Dean’s Office within 24-72 hours of the classroom confrontation. In time, the student lays aside the dishonesty. In time, and likely under some pressure, the student will lose the chip and shoulder his or her responsibility for learning. The teacher who asks the right questions makes this decisive step possible, and the proper training makes all the difference.

*from Mel Levine’s A Mind at a Time