The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Professional Associations » ncsm-members

Notice: We are no longer accepting new posts, but the forums will continue to be readable.

Topic: [ncsm-members] Parable of teacher, student offers valuable lessons
Replies: 0  

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List  
Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Parable of teacher, student offers valuable lessons
Posted: Sep 8, 2013 4:10 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply
att1.html (4.7 K)

From The Southern Illinoisan, Sunday, September 8, 2013, p. 5D. See
Parable of teacher, student offers valuable lessons

By John Rosemond (GUEST COLUMNIST -- see bottom of article)

The statute of limitations has expired concerning the following tale,
so I can finally tell it.

In October of my now 40-something year-old son Eric's seventh-grade
year, he informed me that he was probably going to get a D, maybe
even an F, in English on his upcoming report card, and perhaps for
the entire year.

"How's that?" I asked.

"My teacher doesn't like me, Dad," he replied. He then launched into
a litany of her many offenses against him, including blaming him for
things he didn't do, targeting him for unwarranted criticism,
covering his best work with negative comments in dread red ink, and
mocking his answers in front of the class.

"You can't pull wool over my eyes, Eric," I said. "The truth is that
you are making it difficult for her to do her job. You're a
troublemaker in her class. Maybe the other kids think you're funny.
She doesn't, and neither do I. I have only one thing to tell you: If
you don't get at least a B in her class, you will spend every free
moment of the next grading period in your room, and you will go to
bed every one of those nights at seven o'clock, lights out."

Indeed, he managed to get a B from said Evil English Teacher. How he
managed in less than five weeks to accomplish this feat is something
I never looked into. I did not even talk to Miss Malevolence. She may
not have been a very good teacher. I doubt that seriously;
nonetheless, her competence wasn't the issue. The issue was that I
expected Eric, under any and all circumstances, to be a good student.

There are three instructional morals to this story, the first of
which is that Eric solved his English problem because he believed me.
In the absence of at least a B in English, he absolutely knew that he
would spend all of his free time in his room for nine weeks and go to
bed, lights out, at seven. Eric knew that threats were not part of my
parenting vocabulary. Can you say the same of your kids?

The second moral is that big problems require even bigger
consequences. Most parents try too hard to make sure punishments
"fit" crimes. In the process, they end up doing nothing of
consequence. A child misbehaves in some egregious fashion, and
parents respond with a light tap to the wrist with a flyswatter.
"Take that!" they cry, and nothing changes. I was determined that
this would be the first and last time I would have to deal with an
issue of this sort, and it was.

The third moral is that children do not make good witnesses,
especially when they have emotional skin in the game. When children
complain about teachers, their complaints are generally not truthful.
I don't mean that they are necessarily lying, but they aren't telling
the truth because they cannot see it. The ability to accept full
responsibility for one's misdeeds separates the men from the boys,
which is why a good number of "men" (including a good number of
women) are still "boys."

The bottom line: As this new school year begins, it would be a
generally good thing if parents resolved to always give a teacher's
report the benefit of doubt where school problems are concerned.
Children benefit considerably when adults stand together.
JOHN ROSEMOND is a psychologist, family therapist and nationally
recognized authority on parenting issues.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2018. All Rights Reserved.