A week ago Thursday we had parent-teacher conferences at our high school. I posted last week on the fact that I had two parents show up to talk about their child’ progress (https://jsteltz.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/engaging-parents-in-education/). The post also discussed the significance of engaging parents in the education of their children to help raise student outcomes.
A conversation in our English Department meeting on Wednesday and a blog post I read on Thursday from Professor Tom Whitby (http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/the-little-red-schoolhouse/) has inspired this blog post. If there is anything you can add to this discussion please do. I believe that teachers and parents all over the world are seeking solutions to the issue of low achieving students.
In Whitby’s post he juxtaposes the traditional school our grandparents knew, the Little Red Schoolhouse, to the schools our children are experiencing today. In fact, he even went so far as suggesting that we need to change the way we view our ‘schools’. With technology we can be educators and learners and never enter a classroom. There are so many ways to engage students outside of being in the classroom. By the by, I agree with Whitby’s insight here.
In our department meeting on Wednesday we were discussing a growing concern of the low grades in our school. We are all looking at each other, both teachers and admin, trying to figure out how to make this ‘go away’.
This leads me to what’s burnin’ my brain. Our school has been on a search for curing the pandemic of low grades. Often times teachers are finding themselves lowering their standards to ‘get’ kids to pass a class. Teachers are often bailing these students out. Now, please understand, I am not talking about the student that works hard but just doesn’t have the skills to apply to learning. I am talking about the unmotivated student. The student that finds no value in his education. This student may be smart, but his grades are not reflecting it because he is not producing anything.
I believe in natural consequences in raising my children. Don’t get me wrong, I will never allow them to get into harm’s way or be placed in a life threatening situation, but if my 6 year old son decides to go out into the snow with his sneakers on instead of boots after I have warned him of the potential consequences, then so be it. He will learn that he doesn’t like to have wet, cold feet and wear his boots next time.
Maybe for this aspect of education, unlike the technological phenomenon, we need to go back in time. What would happen if we went back to the life lessons taught in The Little Red Schoolhouse and allowed those students who are consciously making poor decisions in their education to fail instead of making up 6th grade curriculum for an 11th grader to pass…not including special needs students? What if they had to actually retake the class? Maybe some of you are in schools like these and I applaud your courage. What about No Child Left Behind? Is this why I am getting students in 9th grade that are struggling readers and writers? I believe that it is not a teacher efficacy issue. I am not convinced it’s all behavioral either. I suppose it’s somewhere in the middle.
I believe natural consequences can have a powerful impact on behavior. If we want behavior to change we must incite it intrinsically from our students. What better way than to allow for natural consequences like they did at the Little Red Schoolhouse? Let’s help our students learn from their mistakes, but let’s allow them to make mistakes and stop bailing them out.
Call it natural consequences, call it tough love, call it what you want…but where has it gone?