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Author Topic: 6 Year Old Kicked Out Of School  (Read 15105 times)
Inca
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« Reply #45: October 16, 2009, 03:18:31 pm »

As an adult, how many people's preferences do you know at a high level of detail? (Enough to remember everything important about them without checking a written reminder.) Think about how many people you, as an adult, know. Can you name the preferences of 50 people off the top of your head, without direct and clear reminders? Could you name their medical issues, allergies, things they don't care for in enough detail to avoid them reliably? I know I can't.

As a matter of fact, I think I do. Perhaps not the details, but enough to know that there is something to remember. I might not know all the birthdays for example, but I do know the season. I might not know what exact foodgroups someone is allergic to, but I do know that I should check (and I know the basic 'nuts' or 'fish' or 'gluten'). I can't quite remember every 'vegetarian but fish', 'no fish but white meat', 'vegetarian, no milk' combinations but I do know I can't just put a meat loaf on the table. Things like that.

From personal experience, and also from many great teachers I have had, I think it is very possible to see children as the individuals they are. You might not know all the specifics, and nobody needs to, but enough to deal with it. And let's face it: most people are not the odd ones out. By definition Smiley
(Even if you're in a special needs environment for example, there is still something that applies to most of the special needs children.)
This has also been my experience being one of the staff members of a special needs camp. I didn't know all specifics about the medical conditions for example, or how much medication one should have, but I knew enough to know when to look it up.

So in my personal opinion I think some teachers use the excuse that it's impossible to know about all the children a bit too readily. (Certainly not all, and that is even more reason to know it's not impossible.)

And I agree with keeping good information, like the medical details in the example, but also behavioral details, but it only works if the person (teacher, care taker, other professional) wants to see the individual behind and in front of the technical facts. Then you can use the information system to aid you.
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« Reply #46: October 16, 2009, 04:40:21 pm »

I note Jubes is in Canada, though; I don't know if that might make a difference in how things work for her.

No no I don't think so, it's still a  hair raising  experience to deal with the  schools up here. I know  my  kids are not perfect and I don't  pretend they are, when I'm called to go over there or  for lack of  better am summed  over there the first thing I  do is ask the offending  child  what they  did  and I had  better  get  the correct answer because at that point I already  KNOW   what they  did. Then I have  absolutely  NO  problem telling them  they  were/are in the wrong and that things at  home  will be taken away from them and if I get  called over  for "THIS"  again  all heck is gonna  break  loose. I have noticed lately that the  calls are  getting  less by the day  so  they  either figured out I mean business  OR  they are running  out  of purely  annoying things to DO  and  have decided that  they  should just  do their  work, the  jury is still out  on this though.  Undecided
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« Reply #47: October 16, 2009, 04:40:41 pm »



Jubes - my niece was held back a year right from kindergarten, on the basis of not being mature enough for regular school.  Her parents had to give permission for it and they did, in spite of the fact that it put her in the same grade as her little brother for the rest of their schooling.  I think she might have gone to the same school as your guys, but it was a good twenty years ago.

It never bothered her except when her brother would tease her about it.  Later in life/school it was totally insignificant.  My first year at uni two of my house-mates were a 23yr old who had taken a few years off and a 16yr old who had graduated early.

 Shocked Shocked Shocked COULD  you  imagine?Huh? Sam and Mike in the same classroom.... I thought the teachers  were  having  kittens NOW......
I don't know why some schools are so worried about failing a year being so painful or shameful, especially in elementary school.  If a student needs more time to learn pushing her through will just make her feel inadequate and give up on the whole thing.  The difficulty can snowball each time she gets passed on and gets further behind the curve.

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What I got told  was that  goes against the  no child  left  behind  policy they  have, ( I am starting to think this is  just  some  policy that the  principal has, so I will have to be looking into this!)  you  know  by  some  miracle in the last 2 months apparently  Sam has  graduated all the way to  7th grade  work, and yet  she still can NOT read  a  Dr. Suess book..... I am still baffled by this!!
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« Reply #48: October 16, 2009, 06:08:25 pm »

Sam has  graduated all the way to  7th grade  work, and yet  she still can NOT read  a  Dr. Suess book..... I am still baffled by this!

I think it's the math.  They figure somebody that good in maths must just be being lazy with the rest of it.  Your town doesn't have much in the way of 'savant' type schools, especially for kids with developmental disabilities.  They want her to be as good as her best or as bad as her worst, not in between.

However, that's really off topic for kids bringing contraband to schools.  We can talk next weekend. Cheesy

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« Reply #49: October 16, 2009, 09:03:06 pm »

As a matter of fact, I think I do. Perhaps not the details, but enough to know that there is something to remember. I might not know all the birthdays for example, but I do know the season. I might not know what exact foodgroups someone is allergic to, but I do know that I should check (and I know the basic 'nuts' or 'fish' or 'gluten'). I can't quite remember every 'vegetarian but fish', 'no fish but white meat', 'vegetarian, no milk' combinations but I do know I can't just put a meat loaf on the table. Things like that.

This isn't about 'students as individuals' though. The problem is that that general info isn't enough in a *lot* of teaching situations. (And especially in schools where there's concerns over parental anger if something's mishandled even slightly, or where there's fear of job loss, or where there's other stuff going on that takes up intellectual and emotional space.) Extra large class sizes, going through the professional observation and evaluation process that year, something going on in a teacher's personal life (death in the family, community volunteer work, etc.) all have an impact on how willing someone is to trust the general gist of what they remember.

I can do "I know there's a food thing" pretty fast too and a vague idea of the outline. But I can't be sure I'm right (and I want to be right when we're talking health and safety!) about the details without checking, because there's information about 50+ other people in my memory too. Or "I know his mom said something about how to handle this specific issue better, but I also talked to Jimmy's Mom, and Suzy's Mom that day, and I can't remember which one wanted what off the top of my head, because since then I've taught two classes and I have a cold and feel like I'm thinking through molasses."

The problem is with the having to check the notes is that it takes time. That not only doesn't help an immediate classroom issue, but it also makes it hard even afterwards.

There's a good reason for this problem. Academic research *tells* us that multitasking, and particularly multitasking that involves lots of external interruptions (like a student with a question, another teacher checking about something, a bell going off to signal the next period, the phone ringing, a loud noise in the hallway you have to check on) is pretty much the *worst* way to get something into long-term memory, and it's also the worst way to try and retrieve it. And yet, this is what we expect teachers (and librarians, and a bunch of other people) to do, while simultaneously telling our students they shouldn't study or do homework like that. It's no wonder stuff doesn't stick - nor come to mind easily - when we're  sabotaging our own memory structures.

I'd also suggest that camp is a somewhat different experience, because you're working on a different time scale, and because other people are directly responsible for different pieces of it. While you're interacting with multiple kids, you've got primary responsibility for a relatively small number (I've got a pretty good idea of the needs and details of my homeroom kids, but there's only 9 of them. That's a lot easier complex details for than to remember for 50 or 120.)

Plus, in a camp or other limited time setting, you're not also juggling things like what you're making for dinner tonight, when you're going to manage to do laundry (as people living at home are doing), or very long-term plans, like professional evaluations and development work, professional presentations or committees, or even long-term things like grading on top of the lesson delivery and lesson planning parts. All of those also count as multitasking in at least some ways, and then you start hitting the same memory sabotage problems.

One really simple example: Wednesday was our first day of student conferences: I didn't have any scheduled (since I don't teach, I only see homeroom parents if they want to chat, and the two who did were scheduled for Thusday). I took myself off to a coffee shop, because there was documentation I've been trying to do for *10 weeks* that I hadn't been able to finish because I hadn't been able to get a block of time for it when I could think clearly. (Evenings and weekends, I have either been exhausted or still unable to focus, because I'm doing lots of student engagement, and I'm an introvert who finds that rewarding but tiring.) I know my underlying brain is good - but I've had so much else going on professionally and in terms of schedule and interrupted thought trains at work that it wasn't working right.

It's scary for me, it's frustrating to have my brain and memory fail in that way (because for the past 34 years, they've been pretty reliable and my internal checks are built for that.) And I know it's been frustrating for some of my colleagues, when I can't process details the way they want me to. While I'm taking steps to improve it in all the ways I can, I'm also looking at ways to improve what a realistic expectation is, and to educate everyone involved (including me) about what's sustainable and healthy and humane in the long-term.

(In my case, that's "9.8 hour days with 6.5 hours of direct student time aren't sustainable for me, because my brain shuts down about two hours from the end, and I stop doing the quality of work I want to do. Pulling back a little from student-facing time, finding other ways to manage the detail work, and taking time to do things that reduce time and focus shift demands in the long-run are a great investment." It was the point at which I started seriously coming into work at 5:30 or 6 in the morning so I could do the paperwork bits without interruption that I realised something was broken in my reasoning. I'm already expected to be in the building 7-4.)

And the reason for that need to be humane is that I think *that's* the best result for individuals. Students. Teachers. Administrators. Parents. It just can't rely on expecting humans to be robots, only and solely devoted to their professional lives with nothing else ever taking attention away, even something as simple as the laundry. And that means teachers will mess up sometimes, and forget something that seems obvious. It means that parents will communicate in a way that isn't clear, sometimes or not realise that their preferences don't fit well with the standard assumed practice in a particular school in ways that get complicated. It means that there may be other priorities in a classroom with a bunch of kids than following the Exact Perfect Preferences for a particular child's needs. (like getting part of the way there on their preferences, and part of the way on everyone else's.)

None of that means that teachers don't see students as individuals. It just means that everyone's human, and we start by avoiding the most catastrophic failures and getting the most basic eductional goals met, and build from there. When everything's going well, we can get quite a long way from that foundation - but not the same distance is going to be achievable for every teacher, class, school, or child. And not every day.
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« Reply #50: October 17, 2009, 06:29:28 am »

This isn't about 'students as individuals' though.

Actually, I think it is. When the board decided on a zero-tolerance policy, they decided to not take the individual persons and situations into consideration any more. That's a decision from the school board on what they value in dealing with their children.
And I think that's a very bad direction to go. I think there are loads of other, better, ways schools could be dealing with child safety, and I am very convinced the individual child with individual needs and the specific situation should have some place in it.

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« Reply #51: October 17, 2009, 09:34:47 am »

This isn't about 'students as individuals' though. The problem is that that general info isn't enough in a *lot* of teaching situations. (And especially in schools where there's concerns over parental anger if something's mishandled even slightly, or where there's fear of job loss, or where there's other stuff going on that takes up intellectual and emotional space.) Extra large class sizes, going through the professional observation and evaluation process that year, something going on in a teacher's personal life (death in the family, community volunteer work, etc.) all have an impact on how willing someone is to trust the general gist of what they remember.

I can do "I know there's a food thing" pretty fast too and a vague idea of the outline. But I can't be sure I'm right (and I want to be right when we're talking health and safety!) about the details without checking, because there's information about 50+ other people in my memory too. Or "I know his mom said something about how to handle this specific issue better, but I also talked to Jimmy's Mom, and Suzy's Mom that day, and I can't remember which one wanted what off the top of my head, because since then I've taught two classes and I have a cold and feel like I'm thinking through molasses."

The problem is with the having to check the notes is that it takes time. That not only doesn't help an immediate classroom issue, but it also makes it hard even afterwards.

There's a good reason for this problem. Academic research *tells* us that multitasking, and particularly multitasking that involves lots of external interruptions (like a student with a question, another teacher checking about something, a bell going off to signal the next period, the phone ringing, a loud noise in the hallway you have to check on) is pretty much the *worst* way to get something into long-term memory, and it's also the worst way to try and retrieve it. And yet, this is what we expect teachers (and librarians, and a bunch of other people) to do, while simultaneously telling our students they shouldn't study or do homework like that. It's no wonder stuff doesn't stick - nor come to mind easily - when we're  sabotaging our own memory structures.

I'd also suggest that camp is a somewhat different experience, because you're working on a different time scale, and because other people are directly responsible for different pieces of it. While you're interacting with multiple kids, you've got primary responsibility for a relatively small number (I've got a pretty good idea of the needs and details of my homeroom kids, but there's only 9 of them. That's a lot easier complex details for than to remember for 50 or 120.)

Plus, in a camp or other limited time setting, you're not also juggling things like what you're making for dinner tonight, when you're going to manage to do laundry (as people living at home are doing), or very long-term plans, like professional evaluations and development work, professional presentations or committees, or even long-term things like grading on top of the lesson delivery and lesson planning parts. All of those also count as multitasking in at least some ways, and then you start hitting the same memory sabotage problems.

I'm sorry but if a teacher is too busy thinking about what they are cooking  for  dinner or when they are  doing their  laundry, or what their  community  volunteer  work is for the  week, or anything else other than  their  students  when they are in the classroom, then they are NOT  giving  100% to their  job. What happens  if a  teacher  is to busy  deciding  if they are making pot  roast  or  ham for dinner and little Johnny ( for  example)  decides  to  climb  up on the window ledge to chase a fly and falls  off and hurts himself?  Are we as parents  to excuse  this because the  teacher was NOT giving 100% to  their  job? Personal  life has  no room  in the classroom.

We as parents entrust the  most  precious thing we  have in our lives to  these  teachers  everyday, is it wrong that we as parents expect that we get  our   children back in the  shape we sent them to school in the morning? As far as  checking notes  go, I do not  think it takes that  much time to  check  a  note on a child  if it's  handy  on the desk, also I don't think it's too far  fetched to think after a few weeks in the  classroom that a teacher would  know what to do with certain students.

In most  cases  there  are  other support staff  IN the  classrooms these  days so the  excuse that  the  teacher can not  know everything about  every  child  is  null and void, if the ratio is  25 student to 2 to 3 adults in the  room then at least ONE of those adults  should have the mental  capacity to KNOW what to  do in given situation with  these  children. The health, well being and education of the children entrusted to these   teacher/support staff  should come first and foremost NOT  their  personal lives. I'm sorry there is  no excuse  for  not  giving 100% to their  job when it  comes to our  children, if  a teacher is too preoccupied with their  personal life then they  should consider taking some time  off  until they  can  concentrate on their  job again.
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« Reply #52: October 17, 2009, 11:08:20 am »

I'm sorry but if a teacher is too busy thinking about what they are cooking  for  dinner or when they are  doing their  laundry, or what their  community  volunteer  work is for the  week, or anything else other than  their  students  when they are in the classroom, then they are NOT  giving  100% to their  job.

Ok. So, your entire day, you're capable of giving 100% focus to only one thing for 8, 9, or 10 hours at a time? Congrats - I'd love to learn your secret. So would a lot of other people, I suspect.

Me, I'm human. I am really good at focus - not only because of my academic education, but because of my religious training. I'm quite capable of holding a single idea (in meditation, say) for 20 or more minutes at a time which is more than a lot of people manage. But during my workday, I *do* have moments where I have a sudden "Oh, forgot to put the garbage out" or "Need to remember to talk to X about Y after work" or a sudden connection (often *because* of something that happens at work) that will help me explain something to someone in the teaching I do in my religious life.

I still do an excellent job at work, but I am not a robot with a single track mind. Those thoughts come up. And really, they should, because many of those thoughts are about making connections - and especially synthesis - between different areas of understanding, the things that *make* me a better librarian and teacher much of the time. Or they're about being part of the community (our maintainance folks come up to deal with our trash, I'm reminded of mine, for example.) I do the same thing at home: I read a blog and go "Oh, here's how I can apply that to work" or read a book, and remember to tell someone about it at work, or make a note to buy it for a project I know is coming up. My work life takes up my personal time, too.

I'm not sitting there for 40 minutes thinking those things (if I am, I'm in the back room trying to get my brain back together because it's already been a long day.) But they come up in bits and pieces, because, again, that's how the human brain and memory work: we see something and it triggers a thought. Once the thought's there, we can deal with it quickly, or we can dwell on it, but it's still present. Personally, I've invested in and maintain my own computer on our work network, partly so I can run a specific to-do list program that lets me drop in a fast reminder to myself, so I can get that quick thought out of my brain and get on with life, trusting that the reminder will be easy to retrieve when I need it, but pen and paper works fine for a lot of people. (Pen and paper doesn't work for me, incidentally, because the finding the note later takes too long: I was averaging 3-4 pages of notes every day. Computers are good at that search string, paper isn't so much.) 

The difficulty is that those things - plus a myriad of other things that come up that *are* part of the work world - require multitasking. Let me give you an example from Wednesday, which wasn't even a school day, so we didn't have students around. I'd just spent the morning proctoring PSAT exams in one of our math classrooms. I'm coming back up to the library to finish a few things, and then I'm planning to take off and have lunch with a friend before holing up in a coffee shop (sans distractions from co-workers) to finish documentation I've been trying to write since early August that will make one part of my job much easier and less prone to distractions in the long run.

In the space of 10 minutes, the following things happen:
- I stop by the faculty lounge on the way up, and overhear a minute or so of people being frustrated about something specific while I check my mailbox.
- I get to the library and my division head comes in. He has questions about the physical set-up for conferences. I help him move tables around until he's happy. That takes 5 minutes. 
- I get a teacher coming in with a question about ordering a book.
- I check my email one last time, and get a question about funding I administer, and what they need in terms of paperwork.
- I talk to my assistant about a couple of things for her to keep an eye on that afternoon.
And, as I go to get my coat, my phone rings, and it's a copyright question from a faculty member that's got some specific details. Of *course* I stay to answer it (because her call is more important than being precisely on time to meet my friend, who knows I'm coming from work and might run late. But again, that's my work life falling into my personal life.)

That's a whole bunch of different kinds of issues (some of them are librarian-brain, some of them are funding-administrator brain, some of them are supervisor-brain, some of them are 'it is good to have my division head, aka direct boss, feeling that I'm helpful' brain.') and there's a different set of contexts and expectations for each one, which requires the kind of context shifting that our brains consider multitasking. And yeah, there's a certain amount of 'I just want to get out the door and go have lunch with a friend I don't get to see often' in my head because I've got my coat on and was trying to walk toward the door when the phone rang. I'm self-aware enough to recognise that, even while I deliberately turn my attention to the question (which I also want to help with.)

When there's students, it's probably twice that - and the questions are everything from "Can I/How do I use the copier?" to detailed research questions that involve a lot of deep thought. Mingled with keeping an ear out for inappropriate levels of noise in the library, an eye on whether the study hall proctor's shown up, whether anyone's standing at one of the shelves looking puzzled (and needing help). (Our kids are generally not likely to do anything directly dangerous to each other or themselves even accidentally, but we do get a certain amount of fooling around or being noisy.)

If you can do all of that, and never have a distracting thought come up, more power to you. Again, I'd love to learn your secret. (Me, I had a nice lunch with my friend, had some conversations that will make my next week at work better and brighter, and then went off and got the first chance to do focused documentation writing in months, and got a lot done. But I had to get out of the building to do it, because otherwise I'd be juggling questions every few minutes.)

Quote
What happens  if a  teacher  is to busy  deciding  if they are making pot  roast  or  ham for dinner and little Johnny ( for  example)  decides  to  climb  up on the window ledge to chase a fly and falls  off and hurts himself?  Are we as parents  to excuse  this because the  teacher was NOT giving 100% to  their  job?

Again, I'm not talking about the teacher being there lost in the own world and not being aware of anything going on in their classroom. Where'd you get that idea? I *am* talking about the teacher having a quick moment of seeing Johnny going toward the window, going "Oh, it's gorgeous outside, I'm going to have a nice time walking with my friend after work" and then going "Johnny, don't climb the window ledge!" and moving to redirect them when it becomes obvious that Johnny wants to climb the ledge, not just look out. That quick thought happens very fast, and often *while* the teacher's standing up and moving towards the window.

Again, that's naturally how our brains work: we see the window, we see the gorgeous day, a related but extraneous thought comes up, and then we go back to what we were focusing on before. But it's still an interruption in our train of thought, and in a number of situations, that reduces our effectiveness and memory retrieval from what it *would* be if we were sitting in a quiet room with no one else around and no distractions.

The same thing happens when Johnny acts out. It takes time for the teacher to be secure in making the transition from "Someone is trying to climb the window ledge and jump off, normally I'd ask him to stop, and if he didn't, do the following things that are standard practice here." to "Someone is trying to climb the window ledge. Oh, wait, that someone is Johnny. Normally, I'd do X, but because this is Johnny, I know there's something different his Mom asked me to do instead to redirect him, now what was that?" and scrambling to remember or look it up to "Johnny, [whatever redirection has been worked out for Johnny and only Johnny.]"

As far as checking notes - again, depends on how many children have that material. If it's very brief (a list of foods to avoid), you can often put an entire class's on one page, stick it on the desk, and refer to it. (Or just take it out at mealtimes.) But if you're talking a more complex situation - "Johnny can't be asked to do something, he needs to be told firmly, don't use please, because he won't take it seriously. He does better when he's in the front of the classroom, but not sitting next to Jimmy, because they bounce off of each other in a weird way. If he's got a writing project, he needs to have X, Y, and Z and only those things on his desk, otherwise he'll play with his pencil sharpener..."

If you get that kind of content for each student, *then* you're going to end up with a pile of paper on your desk, and a given student's information won't always be on top. You have to stop and find the right sheet first, and then scan it, remind yourself of the details, and move forward.

Again, example from this week: I met with two of my homeroom advisee's parents, and one of the things we chatted about were interim comments. I've read these comments three times, but right before the meeting, I still had to snag the right piece of paper out of the pile (9 kids, only one of them would be on top of the pile) and skim it again to remind myself of exactly what *this* student's math teacher said, or which grades or classes this parent might be most concerned about. I remembered the general idea (X is doing really well, but I suspect her parents may be upset her science grade isn't higher, Y is doing great in some classes, but struggling in debate), but not all the details of why that was, or what I could suggest they discuss with the subject teacher that would reassure them.

Likewise, adding people to a classroom setting helps with some things, but it doesn't automatically mean that one of them is going to remember everything. Often, you end up with 2-3 people trying to remember everything about everyone in the room, and that's going to take them about as long to get a hold of as *one* person trying to remember about everyone in the room. Having more people doesn't make it faster, unless they're focusing on directly working with only 1/3 of the room, and ignoring everyone else.

When multiple people in the space work well, it's often because they manage a combo of focusing on specific people or tasks, and bouncing specific questions about other areas of interest off the other staff when needed - but that assumes the other staff person is able to talk right then, which often isn't true. (My assistant and I hit this all the time: I know there's something she focuses on more - tech support, for example - but she's busy helping someone else, then someone asks *me* a question, and all in all, it's 5 minutes later before I can check back with her if we're lucky.)
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« Reply #53: October 17, 2009, 12:08:13 pm »

Ok. So, your entire day, you're capable of giving 100% focus to only one thing for 8, 9, or 10 hours at a time?

I do agree with you that it's not person to always give 100%. And I personally wouldn't expect so from someone. Attention may slip, and as a result of that accidents will happen. That's part of life. I can understand that, IF it's an incident that was really unintentional, and the person responsible does his/her best to avoid such situations in general. I certainly do not agree it's a valid excuse, or a reason not to try, and most certainly not a reason to use unbending rules instead of good personal judgment. I'm sorry, I just don't see it.

And since I know many excellent teachers that do this every day (not unerringly, since they still are human, but with care and usually quite good) I just don't see why it should be impossible.

Also, on your comment on Johnny... I think you miss the point. You do not 'state firmly instead of asking' to please the parents, but because you want to get through to Johnny, deal with him in a way that has effect without too much bad side effects. And you use the advise of the parents as valuable information and not just as some quirky customer's request as having a pink towel instead of a blue one.

(And even if the special needs camp and work might be a bit different to a full scale school situation, yes, I still know which kids to be firm with, and which you just have to give some time to let it sink in. Because it's not some mundane rule I needed to put in my head, but something that is part of the person who that child is. And of course I make mistakes but in general, it's not all that impossible)
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« Reply #54: October 17, 2009, 01:42:28 pm »

I certainly do not agree it's a valid excuse, or a reason not to try, and most certainly not a reason to use unbending rules instead of good personal judgment. I'm sorry, I just don't see it.

I'm not saying the teacher shouldn't be trying. Duh. That's part of the job. But I am saying that the situation is more complicated than 'do exactly what works absolutely best for each individual kid' because that's impossible in a group teaching situation. And it's impossible for any human teacher to sustain day after day in all circumstances, even with the best student-teacher ratio possible.

The problem is that you have competing pressures. The school district often has specific rules and policies on how to deal with a specific situation. The teacher has their own preferences (stuff that works best with their individual style, personality, strengths, etc.) The child has their own ways they respond best to. The parents have stuff that work for them. These may not be - and honestly, most of the time *won't* be - all the same things, so there's going to have to be some compromises somewhere.

And then, everyone in this mix will have great days, where everything is on, and working great, and runs smoothly. And everyone in this mix will have some days - due to illness, stuff in some other area of their life, other stuff in the environment like a big school event that gets emotions high - where things run less smoothly for some reason, or there are more glitches that affect communication, understanding, response, or many other things.

Plus, each and every kid in the room complicates the situation. Kid A responds best to a very blunt 'do this this way', and kid B needs a lot more coaxing. This is fine if you're working with both kids one on one - you can adapt to their preference once you get it in your head which one works best which way (which again, will not happen overnight, and will probably take 4-6 weeks to really get firm if you're dealing with 75 or 100 or 150 kids a day). But what happens when you are giving the entire class instruction? You've got to pick something in the middle, where both kids may not get their exact preference. You can follow up individually as students get going on the assignment, but the kids may still feel uncomfortable with the initial interaction.

And sometimes, realistically, parents hear part of that (the kid feeling uncomfortable) without hearing the whole situation, or realising that it was a larger group activity, or whatever. Some parents deal with this great, and ask for more information from the teacher, but we all know that some parents overreact and can get quite abusive, too. (And that possibility is, honestly, in the back of most teacher's heads, until they get to know the parents and calibrate.) 

So when you put all of these into a classroom, it's not as simple as 'do this thing that works for this kid at home.' Yes, that's something a good teacher should try, and give priority to when possible. But I know plenty of kids who respond one way when at school, and another way at home (partly because home has a lower adult-child ratio, fewer other distractions, and different kinds of structure and goals when those things apply.)

So, a teacher has to pull an action out of that vast mix of things. And various things going on can skew that mix in a particular way. Perhaps the parent says "Johnny does a lot better when you're clear and direct and don't ask, just tell him what to do" - but if that goes against the teacher's natural teaching style, personality, upbringing (of what the polite way to treat other humans is), or if that goes against the school's policies (meaning the teacher might be casually observed by other adults in the school who don't know that child's needs or parental suggestions/requests and be reprimanded as a result) or the teacher's being encouraged to develop skills in Y that conflicts with Johnny's preferences, or even there's something that that works great for Johnny at home, but in the classroom, it's either very confusing or upsetting for other children, or the teacher tries it several times, and it doesn't work - well, then, you've got a more complicated situation.

And that's really what I'm trying to get across here. Teaching is complex, it involves lots of different pieces, issues, things going on that are observable, things going on in people's heads, things going on in the broader administrative atmosphere (because a teacher can't go directly against school policies in many circumstances and still keep their job, even if it's a good thing for a specific child). Teachers can and should try. But they're not going to be able to give every child 100% of exactly that child's best preference.

I'll give you an example here. One of my homeroom kids has some specific learning needs, and during middle school, he had some (for our school) major support that required additional supervision around tests. In the middle school, they have staff who could supervise that more easily. At the upper school, we really don't, and besides, part of our job is to help make sure students can get practice with and deal with a variety of different assessment methods so they can succeed with them as they move on into college and eventually the workforce. Everyone's going to have preferences and stuff they find easier, but we'd rather graduate students who can at least navigate every option.

We had a meeting at the beginning of the year where our learning specialist passed on information from his parents. But what we got was "This is the stuff that worked in the past - but his parents realise that some of this probably isn't feasible here. They've been doing a lot of work with him this spring and summer about issues X and Y. What we'd like to do is have him take tests with everyone else, and see how it goes. But if you see a mismatch between what you think he knows based on class discussions, and what he produces on tests, please let me know immediately, so we can talk about some other options."

Turns out he's doing fine so far, and hasn't needed that extra testing accommodation. I really have to applaud his parents for that attitude, too, of "This is what we did in middle school, but we realise we need to keep challenging him to develop these specific skills, for a variety of reasons." (practical and long-term.) But if they'd come in with "This is the way this has to be", it would have been extremely hard for a number of his teachers - and also for his classmates who should be able to expect an equitable share of their teacher's attention and time.
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« Reply #55: October 17, 2009, 02:39:16 pm »

And that's really what I'm trying to get across here. Teaching is complex, it involves lots of different pieces, issues, things going on that are observable, things going on in people's heads, things going on in the broader administrative atmosphere (because a teacher can't go directly against school policies in many circumstances and still keep their job, even if it's a good thing for a specific child). Teachers can and should try.

And that is exactly my concern: that the increase of zero-tolerance policies, and big administrative boards setting the rules for whole districts will harm the possibility for teachers to even try.

Btw, I think the topic is drifting a bit from the original... and there are some issues runnign alongside each other.

I claim that zero tolerance policies are bad. They harm both the children and the adults involved by neglecting so much of the individual needs.

I think (and please correct me if I'm wrong) that it's not possible to cater for the needs of the individuals anyway.

And to this, my opinion that is not completely possible, but certainly to great extend. And to far more extend than some teachers claim it is. You cannot, need not, accomodate each and every child's 'preference' on every subject. But saying that it's not possible to *know* those preferences or use them to some extend, is, imo, not true.
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« Reply #56: October 17, 2009, 04:30:03 pm »

As far as  checking notes  go, I do not  think it takes that  much time to  check  a  note on a child  if it's  handy  on the desk, also I don't think it's too far  fetched to think after a few weeks in the  classroom that a teacher would  know what to do with certain students.

In most  cases  there  are  other support staff  IN the  classrooms these  days so the  excuse that  the  teacher can not  know everything about  every  child  is  null and void, if the ratio is  25 student to 2 to 3 adults in the  room then at least ONE of those adults  should have the mental  capacity to KNOW what to  do in given situation with  these  children.

There must be a lower teacher student ratio in canada than in the US.  The only time there have been support staff in any of my children's classrooms has been when there was a child who needed a personal aide.  For a couple years, my son provided the personal aide, but she couldn't work with anyone else, she had to focus on him, By third grade, she could help with the other kids. My kids are in a good public school system, by the way.

And the same thing is happening in teaching that is happening in most of the service fields.  We are demanding more from fewer people and tolerating no mistakes from people, who are usually just well trained people.

 
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« Reply #57: October 17, 2009, 04:56:12 pm »

Personal  life has  no room  in the classroom.

We as parents entrust the  most  precious thing we  have in our lives to  these  teachers  everyday, is it wrong that we as parents expect that we get  our   children back in the  shape we sent them to school in the morning? As far as  checking notes  go, I do not  think it takes that  much time to  check  a  note on a child  if it's  handy  on the desk, also I don't think it's too far  fetched to think after a few weeks in the  classroom that a teacher would  know what to do with certain students.

Have you ever actually *been* a teacher?  I ask that in all seriousness.  You seem to have this vastly inflated set of expectations about teachers, that they should be superhuman robots whose lives never, ever effect their jobs, who have perfect recall of absolutely everything, and always deal with every parents' Precious Baby EXACTLY how the parents want them to.  Teaching is one of the most difficult, demanding jobs out there -- and in the US, they are SEVERELY underpaid.  

And the suggestion that your life somehow goes on hold when you go to work is utterly absurd.  Most professionals can compartmentalize a fair amount, but life-stuff *still* needs to get done, and it doesn't magically disappear just because you happen to be at work.  And the suggestion that you should take time off if life-stuff gets overwhelming -- yeah, RIGHT.  Teachers cannot just up and leave in the middle of the school year, and most are unwilling to abandon their students that way.  And with the way teachers in the US are paid, just leaving is simply not an option for most people.  Teachers who demand of themselves what you're demanding don't last long as teachers -- they burn out VERY fast.        

The historical development of the school system has, especially at the secondary levels, tended more towards "holding pen" then "educational institution."  Teachers do their damndest to fight that, but many of them are facing overwhelming odds because of increased class sizes, lack of funding, and limited support.  The vast majority of teachers are committed, conscientious professionals who are doing their best in a bad situation -- which is made worse by parents who really don't understand the problems faced by teachers, and who expect them to be perfect automatons.

If you've ever actually taught a class, you'd know how disruptive it is to stop everything and check a note.  A good teacher will, as Jennett has been saying, be able to keep a fair amount of information in their heads, but when you've got a huge number of students, all with different preferences and needs, all with differing parental demands, all vying for your attention, then mistakes will happen.  It is simply not physically or mentally possible to devote as much time and attention to every individual student as most parents -- and *teachers* -- wish to.  Jenett works in a small private school, and she's described how difficult it is for her and the other teachers, even with controlled numbers and a fair amount of support.  In a big public school, it's even harder.

I'm a teacher myself:  a college professor, actually.  I'm good at it -- I've won multiple awards for teaching, and I consistently get excellent scores on student evaluation sheets.  And you know what?  It's *freaking hard* to be a good teacher.  It involves a LOT of work.  My teaching responsibilities are very light, compared to that of those who deal with younger students:  I have far fewer students, who need far less direct supervision, and I don't have to deal with parental demands.  I only have to prepare 3-6 hours' worth of material per week (plus grading), as opposed to 30-40 hours (plus grading).  I also have support, in the form of TAs and markers.  (I am also *expected* to be doing stuff outside the classroom -- my job requires that I have an active research agenda, to whch I am expected to devote as much time as I do teaching, so none of this "how DARE you think about ANYTHING other than your students!" stuff applies to me.)  

And even in my situation, I have a tough time remembering every single student in perfect detail -- I do a pretty good job, but it isn't the instant recall you're demanding.  And yet my students consistently praise me for the amount of individual attention they get, so I'm obviously doing something right.  I love teaching, but I get rather ill when I imagine the amount of work elementary and high school teachers have to put in, and all the stresses upon them.  Many of my students are education majors, and they tell me about the stuff they're doing and learning in other classes, and I'm constantly amazed that anyone would even WANT to deal with the pressures they do -- and admire the hell out of them for even trying.  

If I, who am dealing with fewer students who don't need supervision -- and no parents --  cannot live up to your demands, how on earth is a vastly overworked elementary/high school teacher supposed to do so?  

  
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« Reply #58: October 17, 2009, 05:02:19 pm »

I'm sorry but if a teacher is too busy thinking about what they are cooking  for  dinner or when they are  doing their  laundry, or what their  community  volunteer  work is for the  week, or anything else other than  their  students  when they are in the classroom, then they are NOT  giving  100% to their  job..2

Expecting people to give 100% to their jobs every minute of their time at work is expecting the impossible -- no matter what the job. Demanding it is really just as silly as any other zero tolerance policy, IMHO.
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« Reply #59: October 17, 2009, 05:13:29 pm »



Thanks for laying this out, and explaining the issues teachers have to face.  Your posts have been reminding me how easy I have it, teaching college students.  Cheesy  

Teaching is, I've found, one of those jobs that's most susceptible to armchair quarterbacking from people who *aren't* teachers.  I totally get the impulse on the parts of parents and others, but it's still, well, from the armchair.  Every parents' focus is on their own Precious Baby, and that's as it should be; but it can be really, really hard to convey that teachers have to deal with ROOMFULS of Precious Babies.  That's difficult enough, but then you add on Precious Babies' Parents, AND the administration, AND the school board, AND the state evaluations, AND whatever's going on in your own life... it's no wonder teachers are so prone to burnout.
  
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