Friday, March 14, 2014

I'm not sure I can take another "trend"

The title of the article reads "Study Links Responsive Teaching to Academic Gains."

Without even reading the article, my response was "You think?"

And so I thought back to some of my teachers from way back in the dark ages. I thought of my favorite teachers and the ones for whom I worked the hardest even if I didn't really like them as much as others. And I thought about why I worked hard for them.

Because they cared. Because they cared about me and my fellow students as individuals. Because they expected, even demanded, our best and would not let us settle for less than our bests. Because when we turned in work they knew was not our best, they didn't scold or fuss or demean us, but they checked to make sure nothing was wrong.

A key detail on what is called the Responsive Classroom program is that it "provides teachers with practices for teaching their students social and emotional skills such as cooperation, assertiveness, and empathy—traits that lend themselves to higher-level learning—in conjunction with their academic lessons."

This alarms me a bit. Teachers have to be provided with practices so kids can learn how to be cooperative and empathetic? Oh. My.

When I was in first grade, I got in trouble on the playground. There was a mandate that kids weren't supposed to fight on the playground. I walked by some boys who were fighting and said something about them getting into trouble if they didn't stop. Apparently that was deemed participating in the fight and no one listened to my side. I was ticked, and I hated my first grade teacher for 1) not listening to me and 2) for punishing me.

In second grade, I met my first twin. My teacher was a twin, and one day her sister came to school. They talked about being twins and I remember, all these years later, what a fun and delightful day that was. I also remember that teacher for being kind and encouraging, but also a task master.

My academic career is marked by those teachers who were empathetic and encouraging, yet held to high expectations. I'm guessing my grades were better in any class with that kind of teacher.

I'm not sure why student achievement in classrooms with more engaged and responsive teachers is such a surprise.

We know that teacher stress is a very real thing, and there are many contributing factors to teacher stress. Including tying teacher evaluations to student test performance.

Rather than trying to integrate yet another program, which simply addresses the effects rather than cause, let's spend a bit more time with the cause so teachers can actually do what they are trained and want to do.

Because I'd be willing to bet that most of our teachers want to be encouraging and empathetic teachers and they want to be responsive in a positive way to all of their kids, but the realities of teaching just challenge them to a point of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion.

To read the aforementioned article, go here.

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