About Me

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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

No Learning Without Discipline


Many different education "experts" have lately been focusing their attention on the role of teachers in student achievement. The mantra goes that the teacher is has the primary responsibility for student learning. These experts, most of whom are years removed from real classroom experience (if they ever had any at all), tell us that we cannot just "teach" our lessons, we must see to it that our students "learn" them.

I do understand that as teachers we cannot simply lay out the lesson for students in any way that suits us and leave it at that. (However, this is quite typical of the schools in other countries with whom we Americans often compare ourselves.) I also am well aware of the fact that it would be irresponsible of me to shift blame for my short-comings as a teacher on the students and other factors beyond my control. I further realize that the one factor in my classroom I completely control is myself. So I do accept personal responsibility for my students' education.

However, I am also aware that education cannot take place in a context of disruption and chaos. When students choose to disrupt my class and deny other students their opportunity to learn, I must have some means to end that disruption. Often, this is beyond my control no matter what classroom management techniques I may choose to employ.

For example, suppose a student continues to carry on "sidebar" conversations in my class. I can admonish the student and warn the student about the consequences of further disruption. If the student continues, I can direct the student to sit in a different part of the room. The student at this point has the choice to comply or not. If the student does not comply, then I must have the student removed. I can direct the student to go see an administrator. (Some administrators in the past have denied me this option.) If the student does not, I have to call for someone to remove the student. Even if the student complies, the student may continue the disruption. Ultimately, it gets to the point to where the student must be "referred" to an administrator who is often overworked by teachers like me who have gone through the disciplinary process and have a large stack of referrals on his/her desk that must be worked in through a long, painstaking process.

The fact of the matter is, we have many students in our schools who simply lack the needed behavior skills to participate in a traditional educational setting. We need to provide some type of alternative setting for these students otherwise we cheat them, and even more, we cheat the majority of the students in the class who equally deserve and opportunity to learn in an orderly education environment.

I will be writing on this more in the coming days.

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