Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Creating Overly Dependent Students

This past weekend was our first practice ACT for our students. Because we really wanted them to be there and we knew that without reminders they would probably not get themselves up on a Saturday morning at 7am to get to school, we tried to contact every one of our students the night before. We even called students repeatedly the morning of until they woke up and made their way to school.

On Monday, one of my very favorite school traditions occurred: administrator hall sweeps! Here's how it goes: the bell rings, students begin to walk to class, an announcement sounds informing students that hall sweeps are occurring, then staff members appear out of nowhere and begin herding students to their classrooms. I've mentioned sweepers before, but this time I came up with a new comparison: they remind me of snatchers in Harry potter! Here's a picture to jog your memory:

So, I started wondering if we're doing a little more coddling of our students than necessary. Is our over-attentiveness actually poorly preparing them for college? In college no professor is going to call his/her students the night before an exam and remind them to be there, eat a healthy breakfast, and bring a calculator. Furthermore, no one roams college campuses herding students to class. If students aren't going to class or other important academic events now, what will ensure that they attend in college? Some might argue that being on top of students in this way now will encourage them to subconsciously value such activities in the future. However, I worry that it actually inspires rebellious activities- if someone doesn't think I'll want to go to class on my own, why don't I just prove them right? And, doesn't the amount of people forcing students to do various activity merely validate these activities as not fun or worthwhile? For example, if I had to be nearly physically forced into my physics class, I'd consider it an admission that physics class is really as awful as I think. Don't we want to foster an environment where students are self motivated, not where they need our constant gentle (or not so gentle) nudging?

1 comment:

  1. I'm currently listening to a podcast of an intro SOAN/EDUC class at UC-SD called Social Organization of Education. In one of the lectures I listened to recently, the professor shared with his students a study done comparing behavior punishment styles in different high schools.

    The author of the study went into two public high schools of similar size in the same geographic area. The only difference was that students at one high school tended to be low-income and students at the other middle or upper-middle class. Findings showed that while all students were punished or admonished for misbehaving, the way this was carried out by the teacher was different. For low-income students, the emphasis was on following rules ("Do this because I tell you to") whereas the emphasis for middle/upper class students was internal control ("Will behaving like this help you answer your problem set?").

    I share this mostly because analyzing your post draws parallels to this study. If you want to take a "Marxist" look at calling students and "coddling" them, it has a very practical approach - teaching them how to be the social class they will be in past high school. Take orders, obey rules, because we say so.

    Something worth noting though is what you have pointed out - this method of control is incongruous with going to college (where an internal control method is used).

    I would def talk more about this in person (as I generally am better at articulating myself) if you wanted.