Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Do More Rules=More Learnig?

Since when do more rules equate with more learning?

Yesterday, I spent three hours listening to a former principal, now educational consultant, from Oregon present a workshop on classroom management.

Nevermind that the Cleveland school system is broke.
Nevermind that there are people from Cleveland who are experts in behavior and skilled classroom managers.
(This would correlate with my philosophy of keeping Cleveland money in Cleveland.)
The thing that irked me the most, was the fact that the system of discipline this man was promoting had the potential for breaking down at a number of key points, beginning with the assumption that every classroom had the ability to instantly contact the principals office via a buzzer, and that the administrators would always support the teacher.
I had to spend all that time listening to a man whose philosophical approach to classroom management not only differed radically from mine, but would not accommodate my teaching style.

I strive to get my students to solve problems by questioning everything. Always ask why. Push the limits. Change the rules. Disagree.

I believe more rules inhibit free thinking.
They advantage the teacher, they advantage the administrator, but they hinder the learner.

I had a very difficult time sitting through the day's lecture. It began with what I would consider educational blasphemy.

" How many of you have heard that good lessons eliminate discipline problems? Well, I am here to tell you that is a myth."

He then outlined a system of procedures that every teacher should use to guarantee classroom control.
It was all about setting limits and boundaries, making rules and keeping track of infractions.

I, unfortunately, had taken a seat in the front of the room.

If life were a poker game, I'd always be the big loser.

Never being accused of being difficult to read, my face consistently betrays every emotion, thought, and attitude. This, of course, provides many of my colleagues entertainment as they watch me react to speakers.

Combined with the overwhelming need to speak my mind, to ask hard questions, and forgo the handraising formalities, I have become, as an adult, a pain in the ass for any teacher/professor/presenter who is used to the unchallenged authority they typically encounter with students. I consider myself a client as opposed to a student. I am a consumer of knowledge. When someone is being paid to provide me with information, they need to be able to answer my questions. I expect a higher standard from teachers who are teaching teachers.
Once again I was disappointed.

This man couldn't address any of my questions.
It was as if no one had ever challenged his system before. As if nobody ever asked where the weaknesses were, or "what happens if...?"

If a teaching/classroom management program cannot stand up to those kinds of questions, why are we wasting time and money on it?


7 comments:

George Nemeth said...

You're right, MB. More rules do not equal more learning. I believe the opposite is true. Fewer rules, more freedom leads to increased learning. Keep admonishing your students to ask better questions.

derek said...

More rules => less critcal thinking
Less critical thinking => increased "go with the flow" mentality
"go with the flow" mentalith + impoverished surroundings => more of the same

It's almost as if that's what they want...

Thank God for teachers like you.

Mary Beth said...

"Nevermind that there are people from Cleveland who are experts in behavior and skilled classroom managers. (This would correlate with my philosophy of keeping Cleveland money in Cleveland.)"Ah that's the ol' "visiting pro from Dover" thing. Anyone from far away is more acceptable as an expert. If it makes you feel any better you can imagine the Cleveland experts being in Washington doing their thing.

I'm all for rules of civility in places like classrooms but not rules about thinking. Civility and respectful behavior on all sides makes a safe place for more and better thinking.

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