Thursday, March 6, 2014

Teacher Talk About Students: Harmful or Helpful?

Note: This post is a few months old.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been attending orientation sessions, meetings and workshops to prepare for a new term. During this time, there has been a lot of discussion around course planning, sequencing and the drawing up of lesson plans--what you would expect during this time. But there has also been a lot of mention of how students behave negatively in the classroom and what you should watch out for.

While I see a place for conversation geared towards preparing teachers for keeping discipline in the classroom, much of the talk teachers engage in often tends to paint a picture of a class full of unruly students who are not to be trusted. This does not hold true only for my present context, but also for places I have taught in the past. I have been told things like I shouldn't smile during the first couple of weeks, that I shouldn't give any leniency, and that students tend to talk a lot. 

Rather than give workshops discussing different approaches to setting up your class so that a friendly learning environment can be created, most often I hear teachers talking down students and saying that you just need to "be strict." What this does for the new teacher is create an expectation of a hostile student environment, so that you enter the classroom on the first day expecting the worst. One of my fellow teachers used to tell me how much better off he was to not listen to this type of talk and form his opinions based on his own experiences.  

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