Monday, July 26, 2010

Things to learn in the affective domain

In our last blog we agreed that learning to read was an essential skill for our young children.  It helps if Mom and/or Dad read to their children before they entered school....but still, learning to read is very important.  And learning to write is right up there too.  I've watched youngsters learn to print their name and the delight they have when they get one example that everyone can read. "That's Me!"  

Then there are numbers and what they mean.  Children have a sense of numbers when they come to school but we teachers have to get that concept organized and in a useable format.  Adding and subtracting is a skill that needs teaching.

But we have a lot of children now in the schools from foreign lands who do not speak English.  Most kids pick up a second language quickly and pretty soon sound like natives.  But English needs to taught to some children.  I was teaching music in an elementary school when a family from Italy came to our town.  Their Dad had come to work at Boeings.   They had six children, five of which entered the elementary school that I was teaching at.  The sixth grader could speak some English and became the de facto interpreter.  The chatter in the Teachers' room was that while the children were learning English, the teachers were learning a smattering of Italian.  

Except in Kindergarten.  That little guy was a holy terror.  He didn't listen and in general ran havoc through the room taking toys away from others, ripping paper up, turning chairs over and throwing things across the room.  I forgot the kindergarten teacher's name but she had lovely blond hair and she was in danger of losing that in bunches.  She was doing her best.  

Every so often this little squirt would start crying and his crying was at the top of his lunges.  He was loud!  You could hear him throughout the wing of that school when he cried and someone would have to go and get his sixth grade brother to come down and explain why he was crying.  This happened at least twice a day.

One day he had one of his special crying sprees and the Kindergarten teacher had had enough.  She took him by the hand and marched him to the school office.  She told me later that she had other children to teach and she was spending most of her time with "him."  She sat him on a chair in the outer office and left.

He continued to cry although not as loud.  But if anyone came into the office he'd let out another bellow at top volume.  Finally the secretary who had raised four children of her own had also had enough and got up and started to put the little tyke across her knee.  I suspect he knew what was about to happen for he suddenly said in English, "I be good.  I be good."  And he was.  He returned to the Kindergarten room and behaved quite well and he learned to speak English.  

But as we teach reading, the numbers, speaking, writing....oops, I forgot spelling.  If we're going to write words we should know how to spell them correctly wunt u tnk so??   But we teach other things in our schools besides cognition.  We teach community values--the affective domain.

Recently I read about a school that made a major effort to teach friendliness, helpfulness, being nice to others as a major goal of that school.  And if I remember correctly problems between the students dropped by over half.  Kids learned to get along...better?

In recent years I've heard from teachers in the elementary schools say that kids are more aggressive these days.  I think I have the answer why.  We now hire playground aids who supervise the playgrounds.  And I think they let a lot more aggressive behavior happen then when teachers were on playground duty.  I disliked playground duty as it meant that I didn't get my morning coffee break but I did understand the importance of "being on duty."  As I walked around my section of the playground, I'd spot some kids picking on another and just by walking over toward them would stop the unwanted behavior.  Those doing the picking on knew what good behavior was and would quit before I got there.  Sometimes you could do it just with a stare--the teacher would look over at some kids and frown and then everything would be okay.  But sometimes I had to break up a fight and I quickly learned not to ask who started it but to make both parties go to their room and sit down.  Probably unfair, but it also made an impression on the rest of the kids.  

Now a special announcement for this fall's beginning teachers   Learn to get angry or mad before you get angry or mad.  Yup.  When you're at home, go into the bathroom and look into the mirror and shout, "I DON'T WANT ANY MORE OF THIS, DO YOU HEAR!"  Really shout.  "I'VE HAD ENOUGH--NO MORE!" Do this several times.  Come on you can act.  Make it real.  And watch your face.  Make it look upset.  I want you to practice this for at least ten minutes.  And whatever you do, don't laugh.  I'm serious.  It is silly and you'll want to giggle or laugh but remain tough!

Then when something happens in class you'll have the behavior ready to go.  You'll surprise your self.  Also practice standing with your arms across your chest and just look--really stare.  That's another good technique.  Use this one with the words, "I'm waiting."  Say that softly.

Some of my colleagues in the academic world will say this might work with the elementary kids but not in high school.  I disagree.  When I was filling in for the high school music teacher who was ill, I bought a dozen or so batons from a music store for a couple of bucks.  They were cheap.  Made of bamboo, they were fairly long with a cork end to them.  I would be in the process of having the band play a particular passage and something would not go correctly and I would tell them how it should be played.  But band at eleven in the morning right before lunch is a hard one sometimes to get the kids attention.  And we'd play that particular section over and over.  Finally, I'd say in a loud voice, 'No. That is not correct!" and I crack the baton over the music stand and break it.  Very effective.  Then I would make a show of going into the office and getting a new baton.  The pause was good, for when I'd get back and raise the baton, and say, "same section" and we'd play it and it would be correct this time.   Later on I talk on how to focus would sometimes be worth my time with the older kids.  They were learning things beyond reading and writing. It's an attitude to learn. 

Thanks to all those teachers who ponce on poor student behavior before it gets out of hand.  Nice going...teach.