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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Inappropriate Maturity Expecations

Dan Dempsey sent me a link to a very interesting article in the New York Times on children's behavior and learning: Bad Behavior Does Not Doom Pupils, Studies Say.

I found the whole article fascinating, but my favorite quote was:
“I think these may become landmark findings, forcing us to ask whether these acting-out kinds of problems are secondary to the inappropriate maturity expectations that some educators place on young children as soon as they enter classrooms,” said Sharon Landesman Ramey, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education, who was not connected with either study.

One of the reasons I love my daughters' school (Pathfinder K-8), is because the teachers have appropriate maturity expectations for the children in their classes. The expectations are not low --- in fact I think they are quite high --- but they are appropriate and grounded in research on what is developmentally appropriate for small children.

For example, the kids in the Bat clan (my daughter's Kindergarten class), are expected to show respect and kindness towards each other and towards the teacher (the fabulous Kelly Riggle Hower), which in my opinion is one of the most important thing kids can learn in the first year of school. There are consequences for not treating others well, but, as my daughter says, "Kelly is not mean when she tells kids to stop." Kelly does not belittle children for their behavior, use shame to attempt to control behavior, label them, or, as is frequently the case in other classes I have observed, take away recess time as a consequence, since what many of these children desperately need is a chance to get their energy out and move their bodies around.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

For me, behavior comes into play in Middle and High School. It is a much different scenario when you have a high school student calling the teacher a b*tch, having a (16 year old) temper tantrum, assaulting other students, coming to school high, etc. Or a middle school student who steals from, intimidates and threatens fellow students.

We have all seen these scenarios recently with two highly publicized cases. The case of the Garfield HS football players who assaulted and robbed two people, and the Nathan Hale bully who assaulted a student on campus. These assaults are much more common than you think, we just hear about the ones that receive the publicity.

And, it is not only these big infractions either. It is the the kid who stole a teachers Ipod, the kid who got mad at a teacher and threw his chair across the room, the kid who stole the Halloween candy from the special ed room, the kid who got mad and stomped on another kids laptop (all four of these happened at our sons "good" middle school).

The above behavior is they type of behavior that I am concerned with. Not the 5 year old who can't sit still and wiggles to much, or the 6 year old who blurts out and interrupts a teacher due to his/her immaturity. These children are not a threat to others, and most will learn in time how to appropriately behave in a social setting, whether they are in an alternative or traditional school. I am talking about the serious behavior issues that plague our middle and high schools.

What are we going to do to keep our kids safe???

Anonymous said...

Beth used the phrase ..."appropriate maturity expectations for the children"

My question is about: whether more academic content sooner is a good idea?

Better late than early was a thought a few years ago, I see little evidence of that now.

Pushing first grade academics into kindergarten results in a loss of socialization time in K.

What exactly are we attempting to do in schools anyway? It seems many would prefer 6 year old adults in first grade rather than children.

How well is it going?

Are adjustments needed?

The fact that this school district does not enforce their promotion policies in regard to the acquisition of necessary grade level skills or the state law in regard to classroom disruptions makes me think the answer is significant adjustments are needed. Unfortunately the admin does not have the courage to address the real problems that most effect learning.

It also appears there is little we can do to make administration accountable.

Given the large donation amounts during the recent school board elections and our Superintendent's Eli Broad foundation training, I am somewhat pessimistic about the SPS but time will tell.

Anonymous said...

Dear Northeast Mom,

The behavior you describe is common place when the district would rather hold the teacher accountable for poor student classroom behavior rather than the student.

Google RCW 28A 600.020

see if you see much evidence of the use of this state law in the schools you described above.

Many teachers and administrators are unaware this law exists. The students have seen little evidence of its existence.

Any ideas you could share to bring about SPS compliance with this law would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Here you go Dan,

My vision would be to see teachers, administrators and parents work together to make and enforce appropriate rules.

Rules like no ipod, earphones or cell phones while class is in session.

Rules like no cursing at a teacher or fellow student, no temper tantrums, no physical force such as throwing a chair, etc.

No coming to class stoned, or dressed provocatively.

No bullying, assaults, weapons or physical threats of any kind.

Swift and appropriate consequences when these rules are broken.

First by the classroom teacher, then by administration/principal and then (hopefully) by parents at home.

I think we should have some firm rules in regard to safety and general respect for school and one another. I don't think that is unreasonable. And I don't "blame" teachers, but I do expect them to have integrity and uphold any rules that are set, and I expect the principal/admin to back them up on it.

My school did it when I was a kid, we all knew the consequences up front and consequently kids weren't carrying guns and shooting up their schools back then.

That's my idea Dan. Now what is yours?

Melissa Westbrook said...

NE Mom, good luck with those suggestions. Not that they aren't great or reasonable. Just that they aren't happening in SPS and likely won't anytime soon. Why? Because high school teachers (especially) just have too many kids, too little time and just don't want to be an enforcer. It takes time out of class, some kids just love to argue and it breaks the class rhythm. So they let it go.

Problem is, you send a message to kids about what will and will not be tolerated and then lots more kids think "oh well, so and so gets away with it".

The principals just don't seem to want to get teachers to follow across the board rules. Teachers like to be the ruler of their roosts and it isn't likely to change anytime soon.

Also, high school kids will tell you they have rights and should be included in discussions on these issues (in high school it is the PTSA and so includes students).

(I would say this is true for at least 50% of the high schools. I heard that Marni Campbell at Hale has cracked down on listening to music and naturally the kids are unhappy.)

Anonymous said...

I know what you're saying Melissa. I get it. I just don't agree that it has to be this way. Teachers can enforce rules. If they did it would be easier to teach 33 kids at one time.

And what about the kids who don't participate in the circus? Don't they have the right to have an orderly class that is conducive to learning? Maybe they are members of the PTSA too. Maybe they will speak up for their rights.

In the 70's some catholic schools had 60-70 kids per class with one sister teaching it, and no problems to speak of. The children were expected to behave themselves in class, and if they didn't they had consequences from school and at home.

I know I'm old fashioned, but I also know that we should hold our teachers accountable when it comes to discipline. And that means holding the students accountable for their behavior.

If we don't these kids are going to have a rude awakening when they get out in the real world. At work and on the street when they have to answer to their employers and the law. Better to teach them now when the consequences are not as severe as later when they are on their own.

Anonymous said...

that sounds great for 5 and 6 year olds. too bad so many little kid teachers grow up to be administrators who take their experiences with 7 year olds and think that those experieinces are going to work with 12 or 15 year olds.
did you know that if your high school class is like seasame street and you're like big bird, the kids will love and learn and there won't be problems. since there are problems, you are obviously incompetent!

Anonymous said...

Northeast Mom,

There is nothing unreasonable about any of what you would like to see.
Many teachers would like to see the same. Ditto for many parents and many students.

Unfortunately from experience I can tell you that many administrators strongly discourage the use of RCW 28A 600.020
--- Teachers who choose to follow the law are often then victims of intimidation and reprisals.
--- This law should never be mentioned in a job interview if a teacher wishes to be hired.

This is a huge defect in our current system as disruptions by a small number of students impairs the learning of everyone.

The question is now what can be done to allow teachers to follow the state law?

I guess this system is really not as interested in improving learning for all as its leaders would like us to believe.

Anonymous said...

beth and n.e. mom.

only 10% of the kids are in the top 10%, and, they are there in large part because they are not incessantly breaking the rules.

it takes 10 to 15 mins per incident / kid to do the work needed to play social worker & shrink to 20 to 60 off task kids per day, with 1 or more incidents per kid.

10*20 = how many minutes playing cover your butt from parents, admins and kids who 'twist' the truth?
what about 40*15 = ?

I love how people who watch the top 10% come down and pontificate about how to enfore rules and keep happy happy expectations for the kids who don't do well ...

oh yeah, and teach ! teach?

does anyone have an idea they are going to get funded?

anon 6:34

Anonymous said...

Dan please share....
You have been in the classroom.

What did you do when a kid called you a vulgar name? Did you pretend like you didn't hear it and keep on teaching? Ask him politely to stop?

What did you do when a kid got violent, threw a chair, threw a pencil, etc? Duck out of the way?

What about a kid that came to class obviously stoned? Did you just ignore it? Give him some viseen?

What did you do when kids listened to their ipod or headphones or made cell phone calls while you were trying to teach?

Just curious as my kids haven't reached HS yet, so I'm trying to get a clear picture of what it is like in a classroom or school with no rules to abide by or discipline.

Anonymous said...

RCW 28A.400.110
Principal to assure appropriate student discipline — Building discipline standards — Classes to improve classroom management skills.


Within each school the school principal shall determine that appropriate student discipline is established and enforced. In order to assist the principal in carrying out the intent of this section, the principal and the certificated employees in a school building shall confer at least annually in order to develop and/or review building disciplinary standards and uniform enforcement of those standards. Such building standards shall be consistent with the provisions of RCW 28A.600.020(3).

School principals and certificated employees shall also confer annually, to establish criteria for determining when certificated employees must complete classes to improve classroom management skills.

----We can view the bold as a fairly large joke because the district rarely follows the preceding parts above the bold.

If the law was followed, disruptive students would be removed by school security when called by the teacher. Once this is clear disruptions decrease substantially and more learning occurs.

At Bellflower HS in California (which has similar laws) one teacher pushed this in the 2003-2004 school year. At that time Bellflower rated a 2 out of 10 academically.
Now three years later the school ranks a 4 out of 10. Quite an improvement for an urban school with a large Black and Hispanic population.

The difficulty in Seattle and many other places is getting the administration to actually follow the law.

Anonymous said...

1964 said...

Dan please share....
You have been in the classroom?

Yup Urban, Rural, Suburban, inner-city LA, Idaho, WA, OR, CA but only one year in Seattle.
Apparently I caused Ms. Santorno such grief that my attempt to be rehired by Seattle after my retirement and unsuccessful run for school board was thwarted.
What did you do when a kid called you a vulgar name?
Office referral and suspension but this was not Seattle.

What did you do when a kid got violent, threw a chair, threw a pencil, etc? Duck out of the way?
Most that ever happened was a piece of eraser headed my way. After school detention for students who throw objects like paper clips. Since cell phones have arrived it is a lot easier to keep in contact with parents.

What about a kid that came to class obviously stoned?
Office contact.

What did you do when kids listened to their ipod or headphones or made cell phone calls while you were trying to teach?
I collect them and take them to the office.

As a side note on my second day at West Seattle I had an administrator tell me I could not send disruptive students out of the classroom. The first 2 weeks at West Seattle were the worst of any place I've ever taught. Beyond belief the administrative incompetence.

By comparison I would think things are excellent this year. I believe that the criticism of West Seattle over the four period day was unjustified. Short comings were due to horrible administration not the schedule. There was great academic improvement last year as 2 of the 3 previous year's admin were out on leave.

SPS in their incredibly poor decision making has demoralized the faculty with their autocratic mandate to go to a six period day.

Well there is my opinion.
Put some pressure on SPS to follow state law.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Please don't get me wrong. There is discipline and rules in the high schools but frankly, it really depends on the teacher. I'm pretty sure at Roosevelt there isn't much namecalling (directed at teachers) going on. But I hear complaints about ipods (despite the fact that most teachers outlaw them - some of the time) and kids trying to sleep in class.

I think because there isn't a lot of press about it and few parents go into the class/school and see it, that schools do what they can and soldier on.

Anonymous said...

There is a huge difference between high school and middle school; a big difference between Roosevelt and Cleveland.

It seems that the powers that be have little interest policies or laws that they would prefer did not exist.