Education: A teacher’s response…

I sent my pal Rob, who is an X-Teacher, an article from the New York Times on character development. His response is poignant for all of its ideas, hard work and sincere effort on the part of the many teachers and staff who participated in their search for solutions to student motivation and behavior problems. I am posting the letter here as I feel it makes an important statement from an educator who was fighting the good fight. I have another post but thought it could wait. Read this and see how you feel. It is posted as it is written except for a few minor corrections made for clarity of thought.

Hi Sandra….. Hope this finds you well….

The “gritty” NYTimes article about character development brought these things to mind for me:

·    STARS
·    TAP
·    Random Acts of Kindness
·    Bulldog Bucks
·    Traffic Tickets
and others which lacked witty acronyms or slogans.

These were some of the “character-based” initiatives that were required for each teacher to implement at the middle school in which I taught.

STARS: Each letter stood for some character trait; those that I do remember are S= Success, T=Teamwork, A=Achievement, R=Responsibility (or was it Respect?  probably was Responsibility, as this was in the time before bullying became such a focus, thereby not a real emphasis on Respect back then)…  and the final “S”, I just don’t remember what it stood for. Each IDT (Inter-Disciplinary Team) had to meet and brainstorm and agree to and submit to the faculty its clever acronym for the “new” “character building” program that year; STARS, (submitted by my IDT by the way) won the honor by majority of votes.

TAP: This one, the Teacher Advisory Program, was in effect the year I started teaching and lasted for only a few years longer. It was a “special” extended homeroom period once a week during which time the teacher was to “get to know” those students and become their mentor, their adviser, that one teacher each student could count on and come to with any problem they might have. This program was to be centered on teaching values, with several resources available in the faculty section of the library (Media Center didn’t exist then) in case one needed help with planning a lesson or two.  This program was resurrected a year or two after STARS fizzled out.

“Random Acts of Kindness” was a big focus for a marking period or two. Teachers were given a quantity of mini certificates which were to be discreetly given to students who were observed performing a kind act to another. Students could feel better about themselves having been recognized for doing something kind.

“Bulldog Bucks” was the name of the recognition/reward initiative of my IDT in which students were given “Bucks” for not only being kind to others but for completing homework, having materials, raising hands, and other expected student behaviors.  Unlike just receiving a certificate of kindness, Bulldog Bucks had an added incentive in that students could “cash in” their bucks for homework passes or save them up to attend the big ice cream party at the end of a marking period. Of course some students found ways to trade bucks for favors, bully others into parting with theirs, or even steal them on the sly. So each student then had to sign each buck, making it personal with a deterrent for fraudulent use. I recall that Bulldog Bucks went bankrupt before the end of that school year.

“Traffic Tickets” were an effort to improve conduct and behavior in the hallways.    Students were to monitor themselves and each other. This program didn’t last very long, as there were too many police and no consequences for the offenders.

Another program that began in earnest was some sort of small group sessions of selected disruptive or behaviorally challenged students meeting weekly with the school psychologist and the school counselor. What they actually did there, or what they talked about, or any results, or really just anything about this program was pretty much kept under wraps. These students missed a class a week, and were responsible for making up the work. Don’t know how long it lasted. God knows they could still be having these sessions even to this day!

After reading the article again today, these things came to mind and perhaps I’m anxious enough to talk with you about it that I just couldn’t wait until Friday’s class (in the gym) to share. Each of those programs came and went, some lasting longer than others, but mostly they were short-lived. I think TAP lasted several consecutive years; the others hardly a year at most.

And what, Sandra, do you think these programs accomplished? All of the thought and planning, and meetings and planning, and time and effort, and more meetings that went along with each of these ideas??

And why, Sandra, do you think these well-intentioned programs “failed”?  What was the biggest deterrent to their extended successes?  The program itself?  The kids?  Think the most obvious answer is………..

Thanks for sending the article. It was very interesting to say the least.
Hope to see you at the gym on Friday!

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  1. October 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I am going to reccomend your Blog to various associates of mine, I think you are definately on the right track.I found your blog on Yahoo

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