Since the dawn of public education teachers and schools have focused on the academic achievement of students. All students were expected to leave school with basic reading writing and math skills. Some kids excelled and went on to institutions of higher learning, some were trained at a trade such as carpentry, or auto mechanics, and still others left school with those basics and worked at more labor related jobs such as factory or office work. Everyone who left secondary school did have the basics just at different levels. Every student may not have had the capacity to go to college but just about everyone finished school and had the ability to function in the real world. With the onslaught of state mandated testing in so many school districts throughout the country teachers are still pressured to ensure that students achieve but the landscape has changed and hitting the bull’s eye is far more difficult than it was say forty years ago commercial grounds management. The bull’s eye is tough to hit because teachers are now being asked to hit a moving target. The target keeps moving because the levels of disrespect, and irresponsibility pervades our schools and basically you can’t hit something that won’t sit still, keep quiet, come prepared, stay motivated, and who really has taken no ownership for their own education.
Local and state boards persist though in their belief that success is based upon achievement not on effort and character. The faulty philosophies that have come out of some of our colleges that focuses more on methods of instruction rather than behavior management has both young and veteran teachers alike trying to figure out how to hit that moving target. In schools right now we don’t need one more test, or in-service that helps teacher’s understand how to teach to the test we need a comprehensive program that focuses squarely on student behavior management, teaching respect, and encouraging responsibility. Our young teachers who have been in the field for between three to five years may not know any different and are hounded daily regarding the academic achievement of students whose behavior is out of control, and veteran teachers who have done a good job of reading the tea leaves are planning for retirement because the work load is increasing to the point that it is becoming unmanageable.
Our focus in education needs to be on steadying the target and improving student behavior, not on improving test scores. If we begin to focus on behavior, character, and effort rather than achievement test scores will naturally go up because we will begin to develop willing learners.
Colleges need to provide stronger training in the area of behavior management for future teachers and we need to provide more comprehensive training in the area of behavior management for teachers who are now in the field. Here are ten good reasons why:
Take a look at the schools
The behavior in our schools has deteriorated to the point that we don’t worry about school violence we worry more about school shootings. We are forced to get everyone to the finish line without mastery of basic content. So many kids come into schools with negative learned behaviors that we are forced to develop conditions to support the behavior. It would either be invent the condition or throw the kids out, but you can’t throw out the entire twenty to thirty percent of the chronic behavior problems. These kids aren’t going anywhere and they are going to make it tough for kids who want to learn to learn. So, if we want to teach the other seventy five to eighty percent we better figure out how to manage behavior problems.
This isn’t forty years ago
Let’s face it years ago parents supported the school and dealt with their child’s misbehavior. Today we have to fight the kid, the parent, and at times city hall. In addition the behaviors that we dealt with forty years ago were of the garden variety like having a playground fight, or goofing off in class. Today the levels of disrespect, and irresponsibility, are at such high levels that younger teachers have begun to view some of the behaviors as the “new norm” and anytime there is the slightest improvement they fall all over the kid with praise causing the kid to feel good about himself for no apparent reason.
Standardized testing is not a measure of achievement
Teachers are trained to teach to the test. Even for content related testing during the year there is this unspoken fear of failing a kid. Most kids have an inflated view of their academic ability and don’t realize their shortcomings until later in life when grades are more meaningful. Good grades are nice, but mastery is better. Students move through grade after grade with un-mastered skills and a lack of the necessary prerequisites to learn new information. This produces frustration, anxiety, and tension resulting in behavior problems.
Life is about Relationships
Ask any employer; and they will tell you that they are more concerned about the attitude of their employees than whether or not they can do the job. They believe that they can always teach a person the skills on their job description, but they can’t teach the person how to get along. School is supposed to be a microcosm of society. Employers want their employee’s to be respectful, responsible, have a good attitude, can get along, show up, and are on time. Sound like school? If this is what employers want we should be teaching it; that is if we can find the time in the overly ambitious curriculum that is being used to help prime a kid to pass a test.
We don’t know how to have productive conflict
There are so many intergenerational dysfunctional problems in our families, schools, and in society in general that faculty rooms have become discussion forums. No answers, just discussions. The topic of the day here is the inability to confront each other, a student, parent, or an issue, or maybe our own demons. Productive conflict is something that is taught it is not an innate skill. Teachers may have difficulty with conflict strictly based upon their own life imprint. It is a skill that needs to be taught to our student’s so they can have disagreement and do it with the right attitude, and they can cooperate even though they may disagree. When this skill is not taught, power struggles are inevitable and relationships get strained. Some families don’t even talk to each other because of an unsettled youth conflict that became an adult conflict. Don’t worry once kids know this they’ll pass the test.
There are too many adults with poor attitudes
Kids are kids for a short period of time. Then they become adults; with the same crummy attitudes. Even the most intelligent of adults can have such arrogance that they are painful to be around. This is the other eighty percent of our school population. Knowledge without character produces this type of know it all mentality. They were once kids who did well in school but never developed the character in order to know how to make the best use of their intelligence.