Nya:weh to Mr. Freeman for sharing this article with us. To view the article from its original source, click here, or read it in its entirety below.
The Number One Teacher MistakeBy Bill PagecloseAuthor: Bill PageName: Bill Page
Site: http://www.teacherteacher.com/About: About Bill Page ... Bill Page, a farm boy, graduated from a one-room school. He forged a career in the classroom teaching middle school “troublemakers.” For the past 26 years, in addition to his classroom duties, he has taught teachers across the nation to teach the lowest achieving students successfully with his proven premise, “Failure is the choice and fault of schools, not the students.” Bill Page is a classroom teacher. For 46 years, he has patrolled the halls, responded to the bells, and struggled with innovations. He has had his share of lunchroom duty, bus duty, and playground duty. For the past four years, Bill, who is now in his 50th year as a teacher, is also a full time writer. His book, At-Risk Students is available on Abebooks, Amazon, R.D. Dunn Publishing, and on Bill’s web site: http://www.teacherteacher.com/ In At-Risk Students, Page discusses problems facing failing students, “who can’t, don’t and won’t learn or cooperate.” “The solution,” he states, “is for teachers to recognize and accept student misbehavior as defense mechanisms used to hide embarrassment and incompetence, and to deal with causes rather than symptoms. By entering into a democratic, participatory relationship, where students assume responsibility for their own learning.” Through 30 vignettes, the book helps teachers see failing students through his eyes as a fellow teacher, whose classroom success with at-risk students made him a premier teacher-speaker in school districts across America.See Authors Posts (61)
Former title: If You’re Gonna Be a Camel, YaGotta Have a Hump; But Nobody Says You’ve Gotta Be a Camel.
Discovery of a pivotal mistake in my teaching radically changed my life and lives of my kids.
——————-“Hallelujah! At last, I’m a teacher!”
I felt competent to teach. I was confident I could teach better than those boorish teachers I’d had in my own schooling. I was 27 years old, a Korean War vet, weighed an energetic 270 pounds, and couldn’t imagine anything but success. Wow! Was I wrong! I was a failure—but not in classroom management where new teachers typically fail; I failed in the very essence of my job:
My teaching didn’t get through to kids’ heads!
Teaching Only Part of the Lesson to Part of the Students Is Unacceptable
Every Kid Can and Should Learn Everything
How could I accept students strung out on a continuum? Surely I couldn’t accept F’s…? I was there to teach kids, not flunk them. After all, I was a certified, fully-credentialed graduate with a bachelor of science in secondary education. Listed on the faculty roster and assigned 162 kids in five language-arts classes—I must be a teacher; instead, I was a failure. That is, UNTIL I discovered an astonishing “teaching secret,” a startling “Eureka!” It was a stunning discovery from which I would never recover. Hang on!
A Genuine Aha! Moment
That One Mistake Caused Many Other Errors
Admittedly, there are mistakes of omission, commission, and inadequacy in teaching. Even so, I now understood how that one basic, bedrock mistake contributes exponentially to countless other teaching mistakes, each only seeming like a stand-alone, correctable problem.
“The Mistake” Caused Other Mistakes
When I uncovered “The Mistake,” I was appalled at the naivety and secrecy attached to it:Education had an embarrassing secret so debilitating and so pervasive that it was unmentionable. This grievous error is destructive to the very premises of education. It is undeniably the greatest and most insidious error teachers make. With feedback, experience, and reflection, many teaching errors can be eliminated. But, an error that is hidden, denied, or unknown cannot be corrected and therefore, must be discovered. I had made a discovery which changed the way I looked at education.
I Discovered THE TRUTH
Thinking that they are teachers is the number one mistake teachers make because it causes them to ACT like teachers. If we think like teachers, we behave like teachers. That’s “The Mistake” I was making.
What is known as “teaching” is really just the various ways of helping kids learn. Since it is not possible to learn for another person, only the learner can know what constitutes “help”; i.e., what makes the difference in increased meaning and understanding. Furthermore, learning requires that the learner is in control of the “help”—actively soliciting, filtering, and clarifying the help being offered.
“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt
Kids learn, but cannot be taught in the usual sense of the word.
Schools control practically every aspect of kid’s school lives. Teachers are charged with student learning and are obsessed with control. The teaching role emphasizes teacher-directed domination. What is labeled as classroom “leadership” is in reality a subtly “masked” relationship involving sublimated coercion and fear. Classroom analyses usually focus on teaching behaviors and test-score outcomes rather than on individual teacher-student relationships.
In every activity, teachers tell students what to do, where to do it, when to do it, and how to do it. Teachers possess a power imbalance with fearsome ability to threaten, demean, embarrass, isolate kids, and even to arbitrarily lower grades if they are of a mind to do so. The power is always present, ever lurking, exercised or not. Additionally, because students “perform” in a “fishbowl,” teaching methods can subject them to potential ridicule, public failure, punishment, competition, and embarrassment.
It Is Impossible to Learn for Someone Else
Students themselves do whatever it takes to learn; each learns for him/herself. There is no such thing as passive learning. The material to be learned does not get poked into kids’ heads while they sit and wait. Each kid comes to a learning situation with prior knowledge, interest, aptitude, and attitude. Students learn by way of their own application, integration and construction of new knowledge from information already existing in their own heads, in their own ways.
“Learning” is making sense, making connections, and generating mental patterns of incoming data. Learning is up to individual learners. Without student’s effort, activity, existing knowledge, and contribution, no learning can take place. Learning is a function independent from “teaching.” Kids learn from people at home and other kids. That’s why books can be their teacher, experiences can be their teacher, erroneous advice can be their teacher, and the world can be their teacher.
Thoughts on the Teaching versus Learning Concept
2. Teachers thinking of students as blank slates, treating them as a group, presenting as an authoritarian, assigning the identical work, and using a singular assessment and grading procedure is just too ingrained.
3. Focusing on teacher-learner relationships, rather than on just teaching, requires a fresh perspective, while familiarity with previous teaching theories provides only for what is best known rather than for what really works or what each kid needs.
4. Teacher training by example is more influential than concepts taught in pre-service and in-service meetings. Professional development activities utilizing leader-learner relationships have a better chance, but are generally rare.
5. Reinforcement of traditional teaching by students, parents, and other educators is most likely an integral part of teachers’ daily experiences. Teachers must have confidence in themselves, and trust in the students, in order to make the transition to learners’ full participation in their own learning.
6. Until teachers have genuine opportunities to reflect on, experiment with, and experience new ways of relating to students, they will think mostly of teaching rather than students’ learning. But with reflection, the learning approach just makes sense.
7. Thinking they are teachers leads to domination of the teacher-student relationship by the teacher, and places emphasis on student obedience, compliance, and conformity. Some manifestations might include the following:
a) kids are dependent and compliant, which is antithetical to meaningful learning;
b) the relationship is built on dominant-submissive roles;
c) the usual one-way control of communication is prevalent and limiting;
d) students being graded are made to feel subjugated, unworthy, and inferior;
e) students, seeking permission, feel demeaned, powerless, and unsure;
f) students feel the need to please more than they feel responsibility for learning;
g) everyone’s expectations are toward a traditional teaching relationship.
8. Students are coerced into compliance, which is the opposite of what is necessary for maximum learning. Without participation in decisions, learning is at best superficial.
9. Productive and satisfying educative relationships cannot be built on fear; yet teachers’ enormous power to reward, punish, and intimidate students, and to create pervasive fear, reduces students’ ability for meaningful learning.
10. First-year teachers are usually about twenty-two years old and eager to make a living. On their first day of teaching, beginners have precisely the same authority and dominance potential as veteran teachers. They are not likely to understand the teaching versus learning dilemma.
11. Some teachers are satisfied with their teaching efforts; consequently, students who do not learn are faulted for not learning.
12. “Teaching” is something teachers do to students; “learning” is something a teacher may be able to help with, if the student, at the deepest level, allows the teacher to be involved.
13. Individual student learning is the key to critical thinking, problem solving, and individual achievement, including those students who are most at risk.
14. Learning takes place inside a kid’s head, and there is no way of telling beforehand which part of a lesson the kid will or will not understand.
Students Risk Making Mistakes
Coercion can get students’ attention, but such learning is inefficient, minimal, and short-termed. Coercion leads, at best, to getting students to “act” like they are paying attention. No one can force anyone to learn. That is the reason we have compulsory attendance laws instead of compulsory education laws.
Students Can Either Control Themselves or Be Controlled
My goal is not teaching. My goal is partnering with learners to produce learning through individual relationships and shared decisions. I use the terminology produce learning because it connotes students and teachers together creating learning, not just assembling or organizing data. Errors offer teachers information about how to provide help that students actually need. Kids don’t need grades. They need feedback and learning experiences that directly impact and enhance their lives. Kids’ brains are always learning—with or without teachers.
Failure Is a Contrived Concept
The teacher’s task is to provide a climate, a setting, an environment and atmosphere of trust, high morale, belonging, cohesiveness, interpersonal relations, and shared experiences. It’s really easy to know what kids need most—it’s precisely what we adults need most. As we seek that for ourselves, we need only to permit kids to seek it as well.
Kids Are Always Learning
If you’re gonna be a teacher, yagotta teach;
but, nobody says yagotta be a teacher.
Comments and questions are welcome and will be answered.