Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Win Win Situations

In Funnyback, Cell Phones & Beat the Teacher Night, Carol writes about a situation where a young girl tries to get her cell phone back after having it taken away when punished. The student’s rationale is valid (to a point) and the parent found a way to be responsive to her child’s needs. Both got their way so it was a win-win situation (kind of!).

I love the way this parent responded and wondered if I could find creative ways to problem solve situations in my classroom this way. Here are some things that I have done in order to try but you may have other situations and answers so please share them with me.

Student: Is there any day we don’t have homework in this class?
Teacher: Yes, I’m not a total meanie. If you are dead or I am dead, there is no homework.

Student: This is boring. Why do we have to read this stuff?
Teacher: We will do it my way this time, but I’d be glad to show you the next unit and you can help me figure out interesting ways to teach it. (By the way, I’ve had students who really loved helping me with this and it worked!)

Student: I hate taking tests. I can’t memorize all this stuff.
Teacher: Okay, help me figure out a way that you can show me that you know this material. (Sometimes they actually come up with creative fun ways that really assess their knowledge)

Student: (is being disruptive and won’t stay in his seat during instruction)
Teacher: It seems like you have a lot of energy today. I want to see how long you can run in place while I teach this lesson. If you can run quietly on the side until I finish the lesson, then you won’t have to answer some questions on the worksheet.

Student: I know how to do all this stuff already. Why do I have to learn it again?
Teacher: Then you should be able to pass the test. If you get 90% right on the test, you can move to the next level (sometimes, they really can pass it, so I let them move ahead. Why should they be bored learning things they already know? This only causes them to be disruptive?)

My students felt like they had very little control over their lives so many times, their behavior was a result of trying to gain this control. I really feel that if we give them choices, they will feel like they have more control and be ready to learn. Of course, the choices given are ones that I can live with so in the end, we all win. It is when students feel backed in a corner that they come out belligerent and argumentative. If we help our students feel successful, maybe it will become ingrained and they will be successful.


Kobus van Wyk said...

Thank you for an insightful posting. The suggestions are very reasonable and would certainly lead to a win-win situation. However, implementation of these ideas would call for a radical change in mindset of some teachers - a change from an authoritarial "do as I say" attitude towards a participative approach.

It is interesting to note that is is this same attitude of teachers that forms a barrier to the use of ICT as a learning tool in schools - many are scared to "let go" of absolute authority.

Dr. Sanford Aranoff said...

"Why do I have to learn it again?" Teaching is explaining basic principles. Ask the student to explain the idea if she knows it. We must know how students think. See "Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better" on amazon.

loonyhiker said...

Kobus: great point about how this attitude is the same as learning about technology. Thanks!

loonyhiker said...

Dr. A: Thanks for the book recommendation! I will check it out.