Friday, October 17, 2003

Say what you mean, mean what you say.

We share a school building with an elementary school. The kids are pretty wild, very loud in the halls, very disruptive. I frequently see teachers walking classes down the halls with the kids shouting, pushing and shoving, and not listening to anything the teacher says. In this school, as in most NYC schools, the children are expected to walk in quiet (silent) double lines down the halls. You can debate the reasonableness of this, but it is the culture of the schools here, something every NYC teacher deals with daily. So, it is alarming to see children acting crazy in the hallways - today I even had to ask a group to quiet down since my children were taking a quiz. The teacher with that class wasn't doing anything, just walking along behind them! I don't like correcting the students from the other school, particularly when they're with a teacher, but in this case the noise really was disturbing my students.

I understand and sympathize when a teacher has a really difficult class and is having trouble with the kids. I've been through it all myself, at the school where I used to teach. But the key is not to give up. I never, never stopped expecting the students to behave and telling them that! You have to try - and these children are little ones, 7, 8 years old. I see these classes out of control in the hallways, and I think to myself: all you have to do is walk them back to where they came from and start over, and do that consistently until they understand that you mean what you say. The kids are so young, I imagine it wouldn't take more than a few times practicing walking quietly before they'd get the picture. Sure, it's no fun for the teacher, and it stinks for those kids who've been doing it right all along, but the bottom line is that in the long run, it's to the teacher's benefit and the benefit of ALL the children to have a safe and orderly school and respect for adults' authority.

"You change what students do by changing what students know." - Grace Yohannan


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