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How to Crush a Ten-Year-Old in 4 Easy Steps

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies
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    This is my first blog post from a parent's perspective, but I can't help sometimes wearing my  teacher hat. 

    My daughter just graduated survived 4th grade this week. It was a dreadful year for her academically and socially, thanks almost entirely to her classroom teacher. If you would like to achieve similar powerful results with your students next year, then please follow this short manual:

1)  Make no effort to include and assimilate a new student.  Just plop them in a chair and let the learning begin! -- The teacher (and administration/guidance) did nothing to facilitate new friendships or acquaintances. The only lasting peer relationships my daughter made were with 1st-graders and kindergarteners during shared recess time. Our family moved to a new district over the summer, so she missed Step-Up Day and other transition events. We managed to get a school tour and brief teacher introduction a couple days before the school year began, but that's it. He also did not know until late-October that my daughter had a 504 plan of accommodations relating to a seizure disorder. Oops.

2)  Assign the most boring and useless homework imaginable...and do NOT give any meaningful feedback.

Let those assignments speak for themselves because, well, that's just easier. -- For several days in a row, my daughter had to fill in a chart by copying the names of several states, their capitals, and postal abbreviation. Then they took a test of that information about once per week, because it is absolutely vital to memorize the two-letter code of every state! Or else how could you send a letter to somebody in Delaware?Math assignments were almost daily: packets of word problems and/or calculations like 3-digit times 2-digit numbers. They came home with no marks by the teacher because we correct them ourselves in class. Clearly, these were valuable insights to my daughter's learning and progress.

3)  When parents ask questions about your assignments and decisions, you should defend yourself as stubbornly and brusquely as possible. Make sure to ram your ideas down the parents' throat, whether or not they understand your platitudes and edu-speak jargon. I mean, they're just lucky that you are talking with them at all, right? -- He actually shouted at my wife over the phone in October, in response to an emailed concern about my daughter's homework load. All future parent-teacher interactions were cc'ed or chaperoned by an administrator. Still, we received eye rolls at school meetings and more patronizing statements by email.

4)  Tell your young students to solve their own social problems. Adults can easily fix all of their workplace tensions and conflicts, so ten-year-olds can absolutely do the same. --  My daughter didn't tell us about long-simmering "girl drama" and desk-group challenges until the last week of school, because the teacher's message had been "Independence means solving your own problems." When he did intervene it was unhelpful: telling a student to apologize (for what?), chastising because "you didn't tell me this earlier," or moving my daughter's desk location to a place farther from the whiteboard. When he left them alone it was probably worse: students chose their own project groups, with no guidance for cooperative learning (assigned group roles, frequent reflections, teacher conferences, etc.).

      If you follow these four easy steps, then within a matter of months you have the power to transform any student:



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Andrew Swan teaches 8th-grade US History in Newton Massachusetts for the past 11 years, and has been "flipping" the classroom for two years. He and his colleague have presented about flipped instruction at a regional education conference and within their own district. They also have several more PD workshops scheduled for later this year. He earned a B.A. in History at Yale University (2000), and received a Master's degree in teaching from Simmons College (2004). In his career, Andrew has taught English, Journalism, Geography, Ancient History, and US History at four different middle schools since graduating from college. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @flipping_A_tchr, steal clips from his Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/aswan802/videos), and read his other blog linked above.

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Guest Monday, 22 July 2019