In which Carrie thinks about reasons for giving students referrals …
One has to wonder about the state of mind of teachers who give referrals to students. I was putting some copies away for a secretary and read some of the notes on the forms. One student received one for “being off task and distracting his classmates. Also, he was making Donald Duck noises in class.” I saw this student later in the day and took a good look at him, laughing about what we would laugh about if we could be truly earnest about the personality gap between people giving and taking education. How to handle Donald Duck noises doesn’t show up in the Classroom Management Manual for Teachers. It’s up to us, then, to make distinctions.
I remember writing referrals for students who were lying in order to get out of work. They claimed that since the fifth grade they had learned that the x-axis and the y-axis were reversed from the standard representation. This evoked great fear and trembling within myself. Our world would tip if “x” was longitudinal; we’d need to remake humanity if “y” was on the horizon. Do I want our children to enter the world inspired to relativize math? No. Give them a referral for lying. Let admin teach them bliss is mathematical truth. You don’t just get to rewrite the rules, not at thirteen. Fear Truth’s wrath.
The commitments of teachers is different from individual to individual. All of us have bought into standardization, either out of fear or because it is convenient to codify learning with formulaic writing and multiple-choice-only-one-answer-is-true. Or we don’t buy it, like Ken Robinson. In his new book Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education he writes that in our attempts to reform education so no child is left behind, we’ve created more problems, and that what’s down the road will bring a great deal more.
“… the standards movement favors direct instruction of factual information and skills and whole-class teaching rather than group activities. It is skeptical about creativity, personal expression, and nonverbal, non-mathematical modes of work and of learning by discovery and imaginative play, even in preschool.”
When I was in high school, my most frequent self-report of my state of mind was “hyper.” I would often burst into laughter, loud laughter, bottled up, uncorked and eruptive. My brother could probably say the same about himself, and some people urged my parents to put him on medication. He still has so much energy and uses it in work and play. I’m not hyper anymore. One of his former teachers asked me to tell him how proud he was of Bret’s accomplishments. My former teachers would say the same about me, but would notice how subdued I am. I worry. All. The. Time.
I’ve lately been trying a new exercise in the classrooms I work in. When it is quiet, when students are busy being silent and taking an assessment which they have been warned is very important, I have time to sit and watch them. I began asking myself, who am I not noticing? Within the student bodies I frequently teach, I remember the names or characters of those who are hyper, especially those I am prepared to remind to stay on task. They make me smile, or laugh, and challenge my inexplicable urge to send them to the office if if they are being too noisy.
When everyone is quiet, I start to look around at the others, the ones I never notice. Where did she come from? Was he here last time I was? Do I know how many people are even in this room? The quiet ones just getting through the day. Some might be genuinely interested in the work and their own achievements. Some might be miserable or hungry or lacking adequate sleep. Others have totally fallen off the x-axis, the cliff, and seem to be beyond help. When it becomes the last five minutes of class, the hyper ones who have been wiggling in their seats for the last twenty minutes or darting provocative looks at their peers throughout the assessment, bounce out of their chair and start moving with the agitation of a caged chimpanzee believing it is time to be fed.