Fear, Failure, and Flexibility [NOOK Book]


Book Description - FEAR, FAILURE, and FLEXIBILITY : in Four Classrooms

To get into this let me first reprise what I said about "MICROSCOPE," because these two books are part of the same research project and are related.

Even though the incidents occurred in 1978, "TEACHER UNDER A MICROSCOPE" examines ongoing issues in education through the eyes and ears of trained observers and evaluators. They observe, ...

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Fear, Failure, and Flexibility

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Book Description - FEAR, FAILURE, and FLEXIBILITY : in Four Classrooms

To get into this let me first reprise what I said about "MICROSCOPE," because these two books are part of the same research project and are related.

Even though the incidents occurred in 1978, "TEACHER UNDER A MICROSCOPE" examines ongoing issues in education through the eyes and ears of trained observers and evaluators. They observe, comment, and critique everything I say and do.
The intake and exit interviews explore my philosophy of education as well as my comments and responses to their questions about what I actually did and why I did it. The conflicts between a disturbed principal (who was backed by the District) and me demonstrate the lack of balance of power in the schools. One of my main contentions is about the necessity of teacher autonomy. You see how I fight for it, not for me, but to better serve and teach my students. There are some basic questions asked and answered through the Observer's interviews and protocol and the daily and weekly journals or commentaries I was asked to make. A few times I give you some overlapping of the same incidents as seen by the Observer and then in my journal so you can see them in greater depth.

First. What should life in the schools be like for the children and their caretakers - teachers and support personnel? Second. What are the basic goals of public education and how should they be accomplished? Third. How much freedom or autonomy should a teacher have or needs to properly achieve these goals?

With the accountability movement gaining strength coupled with powerful back-to-basics and safe schools components, it appears the public believes schools should emphasize basic skills. To assure this happening testing is the rage to demonstrate that the students are achieving higher standards of skills and as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of each teacher.

Testing is reasonable and necessary as one way to determine what a student has learned and a teacher has taught. It is one way. It does not take the place of all the complex and useful things a teacher has learned about a student during the year. Often, because a student is learning English or is enduring serious emotional distress or has some type of learning handicap, the teacher is in the best position to know whether a test assesses accurately his skill levels, knowledge, or progress. When a single test is the only determiner of whether a child passes or fails, injustices occur. The same is true when the test results of the class are the only determiners of the teacher's ability or success. The threat of being fired for the poor performance of a class will discourage even good teachers from taking classes or individual children who have academic or behavior problems. I have already read about and seen instances of teachers trying to insure they have more than their share of "good" and capable students. This stacking of a class will most affect new teachers (and their students) who have always suffered trial by fire. It makes good sense for the experienced teachers not to jeopardize their career, but is it ethical or good educational practice?

The positive aspect of mass testing and accountability is that more students are being exposed to a much wider variety of useful academic skills In many poverty areas the students, because of alleged or believed weak academic abilities, were limited in what was taught to them. Asking teachers to carefully examine what they teach and expecting them to know why as well as what they are teaching is a positive step for the profession.

However, school should offer more than an enhanced basic education, because those skills are what are most easily testable. Schools are where students can learn the social skills that enable them to move successfully through society in their personal and work lives. This was a job parents and extended families did in the past, but are not doing now. Schools have the trained personnel and opportunities to make a substantial difference. You will see in the book how quickly this can begin to happen.

Our world has shrunk and we need social skills to express our social selves without damaging the lives of others. As I show you, teachers have the best chance to shape students as the children learn many healthy ways to express anger, aggression, sorrow, defeat, as well as joy and happiness.

To enable students to be more fully human, they need more than socialization and academics. The need to express their inner selves is best taught through the arts. Over the years, from Sputnik to every other believed assault on our way of life, the schools were always the first blamed. Each time to "cure" or solve the problem, basic skills were emphasized. To meet this need, the arts and physical education were the first areas to be cut back in terms of time and money spent.
Yet, the very students who are doing poorly in academics are the ones with unknown or unrecognized abilities in these other areas. Because I have seldom allowed the fears and panic of other educators to affect what I do, each year I have helped poor academic achievers to discover their other talents. By offering such a wide variety of skills, subject, and content area experiences, almost every student finds some degree of success EVERY DAY! This is one reason I usually have the best attendance record. Children want to attend because they know they will get to play a sport, to sing, to create something in art, and often to perform in a play, sometime during every day.

If you came into my present (2000-02) fourth grade class you would see the children singing , not on key, but loudly and happily. There is pure joy on their faces. How often do you see joy in today's classrooms? I yell and push them hard during their academic sessions, but they take it and improve steadily because they get constant physical affection (touch) from me for every upward step they make. There are so many different things going on that everyone is successful at some things every day. It is easy for me to reward them with a smile or a touch and their self-esteem and self-confidence soar.

(Teachers are warned about touching children, but expressing healthy physical affection is critical in human growth. Many children are starved for this. My touching them affectionately is one reason my students improve so rapidly in so many areas.)

None of this could happen if the classroom was not perceived as "safe" by them. They know they can try all sorts of things and no one will laugh or put them down. If any child laughs at another's honest mistakes in anything I am all over that child. Neither bullies nor the little girls who tease boys to get them into trouble get away with their hostile actions. Once they all feel safe, these games are no longer necessary. Then, the social skills I teach to get them away from depending on me and to handle their own problems begin to be used more often.

All these things you will see happening in this book - and that was in 1978 while I was trying to prove how effective my methods were in integrating children from diverse subcultures.

So, I accepted the academic goals I knew the public demanded of me, but because I had such a "safe" classroom, the majority of my time was not spent on discipline problems - even though I had the majority of them in my room. My "earned time" concept was so motivating that my students were very efficient workers, which left us more time for the "extras" such as physical education, art, music, and drama. My test scores were no better than others, but they were as good. And, I had children who were joyful as well as productive.

It didn't just happen. Through years of trial and plenty of errors, I gradually found my teaching style. Through eclectic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781462831623
  • Publisher: Xlibris Corporation
  • Publication date: 8/9/2001
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 249 KB

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