Tuesday, January 25, 2011

5th grade - Or Purgatory?

Ok ok it's not that bad. But I truly had this thought watching the way the students dragged themselves along from one activity to the next. What exactly happened was this: The students wait together in the gymnasium for their teacher to pick them up and lead them to class. They leave in a specific line order which the teacher constantly reminds them that they had better be in. The teacher also tells them to move to a certain location and stop and wait. She is additionally strict about maintaining absolute silence the whole time. So this morning (just my second day mind you) she tells them to stop at the foot of the stairs, however, they don't. The line shuffles halfway up the stairs when she notices and yells at them to halt. "We were supposed to stop here. L***, you've been the line leader since the beginning of the year. You should know..." When the line gets to the classroom (moving in silence the whole way) the teacher noticed L*** smiling. "Is something funny L***?" And so the student stopped smiling. This seemed pretty strict to me. I know this is considered an inner-city school and the students probably need some level of discipline to stay on task but this just feels down right oppressive. A close friend of mine has also visited many schools in this area and has told me that "it's a theme I see a lot of in these schools—no talking. Ever." I don't know how I feel about this. School is where we get socialized. It's where we learn how to be social. It's an important skill! With kids being on facebook more than actually conversing with friends it seems even more important now. And yet, the only time they are able to talk to each other freely is for about 1 hour a day at lunch time.
     This led me to think about the importance of a "happy" classroom. For a teacher, how important should the atmosphere of the classroom be? A teacher's job is to make sure students are learning the essential skills they need to know. Students enjoying themselves at all is not necessarily necessary. So should teachers even care? I want to believe that a happy student will be more interested in learning, but what if it doesn't statistically make a difference? (They aught to do a study.) The teacher told me that I'll be escorting the students in their line myself soon. I wonder if I even can be so authoritarian; I truly believe in an authoritative approach.
     On a lighter note, when the teacher left for a moment leaving me watching over a few of the students in the hallway, they started asking me how old I was. I wasn't sure if it was appropriate so I told them I can't tell them, but then they started to guess. I kept telling them even if they guessed it I wouldn't tell them, but they did that strategy where they just start at a low number and go all the way up. When they went by my age, I couldn't help but give a little grin and... they picked up on it!!! They guessed my age and when they dared me not to confirm I couldn't say anything, they had me after all. Then the word spread faster than you could say "no talking!" The entire line all of a sudden knew how old I was. It's not a big deal, but it was pretty funny. Too bad exchanges like that will seldom happen because the students are just constantly being drilled for standardized testing all day.


  1. Ugh. To be perfectly honest, I learnt the most in the classes I had no fun in. And the toughest professors always taught me the most.
    So, looking back, I'd have to say that my favourite teachers were the ones that did the work.
    You're there to teach them, not amuse them.

  2. Well, I never liked school besides hanging with my schoolmates. There were good teachers, but I never thought of them as friends. They are just working right?

  3. It's our society's outdated production-line style of churning out batches of 'individuals' to be put into the rat race.
    Sorry, but our current educational system is 2-3 centuries out of date.
    I could never work without freedom, but that might just be me.

    I'm with you for a positive environment for learning. I always learned best when I was enjoying myself.

    A good post. Following for more.

  4. @my day in a sentence: True, sort of, but it's also important you have some fun. Keeps the human brain going, methinks.

  5. I remember I would stand in those lines and think nothing of it. I had the mindset that the teachers were the absolute authority and that everything they said was law. Funny how I had no problem with that until after reading this article.

  6. Very good article I was engrossed right till the end!

  7. I think that when I was in primary school it was not that strict - probably just the one I was in. It was more relaxed, and I was happy to get on with my work and listen to the teacher.