Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Belief #1: Times have changed.

Anyone who has been a teacher over the last few years is aware of the many ways in which life has changed for American kids. The past fifty years have brought rapid changes in family structure, in our knowledge base, in technology, in the media, in demographics, in political decision-making, in economic and class structures, in parenting and in pedagogy. The consequences of these are varied and complex.

Many outcomes of the change are positive. For example, most students in our century are light-years ahead of those in the sixties in terms of how much they know and what they can do. I think we would all agree that our students today in seventh grade are writing papers and designing projects far beyond anything that we did even in high school. Because formerly taboo subjects are being addressed, today's kids are also much better equipped to protect themselves from social ills like addiction, sexual abuse, racial discrimination, etc. And thanks to tremendous strides in pedagogy, their teachers can call on a wealth of research-based strategies to ensure that learning is really taking place.

Of course there is a debit side. For whatever reasons, from exposure to mass media to distractions by family problems, today's kids do not always pay attention as well as their grandparents did. Certainly, they are not always as compliant as their grandparents were in the classrooms of yesteryear, when teachers listed major problem behaviors as "talking out of turn, inappropriate noises, chewing gum in class, not putting paper in the waste basket, and running in the halls." Sadly, teachers of today have often identified their major concerns as "drug abuse, alcohol use, pregnancy, teen suicide, rape, robbery, assault, bullying, gang warfare, electronic distractions and guns in the classroom. Problems like these can create disruptive environments that threaten children's academic and social success. We believe that we must capitalize on the positive outcomes of change while doing everything possible to eliminate the negative ones. We further believe that maximum learning can take place only when students know how to pay attention and behave themselves and want to pay attention and behave themselves. Being The Best Teacher describes discipline strategies that are already fostering maximum learning in diverse classrooms across the country.

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