Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Passion solves problems! List them here. #5: Kids cannot behave themselves.

The final problem solved by passion -- until I think of more -- is about discipline and behavior. As I said in my previous post, adult respect for students, their embracing of who each of them is, is the prerequisite for their learning. Showing this respect and even personal liking for every student is the most effective way to help them build on their strengths, bring out their passions and develop their self-respect. In short, if the learning that students are engaged in is their idea in the first place, supported and encouraged by peers and adults, why would they misbehave?

I can hear the scoffs and laughter from here, so go blow your noses and settle yourselves down. Discipline and behavior issues, classroom management, all these things will ever be with us, if perhaps in a very different way than today. I do require that we imagine a classroom that we may never before have seen. Consider the happiness in that room, and I challenge you to seek it out.

Misbehavior as we currently imagine it should be redefined anyway. Boredom and frustration, indifference and resentment all live within the system that is built to support not kids but bureaucracy (and a bad one at that, if you consider it as responsible for the tests that take the life out of schools). Kids talk when they shouldn't; but if they are involved in collaboration and mutual help, it works. Eating in class is OK too if kids feel they need to and clean up after themselves. Taking a break from the work to go to the restroom or even, heaven forfend, lean up against the hallway wall to talk to a friend from another class for two minutes, is that a crime? The minor misdemeanors of school are at least half kids just being who they are, and the other half because...when kids walk into class now, they leave their spirit and passion (along with their cell phones) at the door.

The scenarios described in this series of blog posts cannot and will not take place as long as we continue as stewards of the industrial model of education. It might take place even if we never get rid of high stakes testing, but it would be a whole lot easier if they went away, replaced by a model of accountability that doesn't stand directly in the way of real learning. So if you have trouble imagining this classroom, and think I am living in a dream world, you might be right -- if you also imagine that it can be overlayed on top of the traditional model of education.

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