Lemon-Scented Bivouac  

Fatherly and, eventually, teacherly blather. Also: graphic design, baseball, synthetic fabrics, jug band music and, lord help us, the occasional politics.

Saturday, November 15, 2003  

The wisdom of Elliott's hand-me-down letter blocks:

I have pages to write on classroom management, a subject that, by the terms of my program, was supposed to be in the center of my attention this past week in the third-grade classroom. Amusing that they have to ask -- I get the feeling that classroom management, or discipline, or behavior issues, or whatever you want to call it, preoccupies teachers and teaching candidates. It preoccupies many of them their entire careers, I bet, and many of them into retirement, which they enter with the nagging question: Why wouldn't they do what I wanted them to?.

It's such an odd question, so perverse. When you get into the classroom it becomes both more and less perverse. I don't think that most teachers enter into a role of power comfortably. The intelligent and humane ones distrust their power the more they try to exercise it, but they also come to long for what their power could accomplish -- theoretically. They don't want to bully their students, but if they could they could get some peace -- and maybe be liked! They wind up wanting control. Decency would request that they look for self-control, but they distort their target and wind up trying to control their students.

There are good, cogent explanations of these central issues by Alfie Kohn, who seems to serve two roles in the educational industry: Token Hippie (in the roll call of dozens of coercive discipline methods, he's tacked on at the end as a novelty item) and, closely related, Straw Man (teachers routinely assure each other that he isn't Realistic, then they get up and drag themselves back to their miserable classrooms). I recommend, oh let's see, this essay.

Now I'm off to bake all that into a standard academic essay. See you around, misbehavers.

  posted by Andy @ 2:38 PM §

Monday, November 10, 2003  

Two months ago Elliott was a gaping mouth. Everything went into his brain through his mouth. He was so intensely oral he couldn't even use his hands to get things into his mouth -- he'd just open his maw as wide as he could and lunge it at whatever had to be gummed.

The orality faded and now, at 7 1/2 months, he's suddenly relentlessly exploratory. He's desperate to stand up, and when he's standing propped against something he tries somehow to stand up further, or wider, or stand down, or crawl on your arm, or just grope and grab and pull. He's wearing himself out, breathing hard, and sleeping in exhaustion until he can wake up and start over. This isn't the residue of us teaching him; it's a call that's been suddenly switched on from the inside. He got a lust fo life.

  posted by Andy @ 9:49 PM §

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