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Education That Works

With the end of the school year in sight, educators will be assessing what worked and what didn’t in classrooms this year.

One of my relatives, a public school teacher, recently described to me one of the progressive-but-already-tried methods of teaching reading which her school is using.

She was speaking about teaching “sight words” instead of rules of phonics.

Several decades ago, schools ditched phonics and thought sight-reading would help kids to read better.

It didn’t. Instead, it turned out a generation of poor readers. Those who grew up in that era still struggle to read words they never learned in school. Trust me; I know these people.

Recalling what worked in “the good old days” sent me on a mind journey. Education is a delicate balance of practicality and creativity, and some teachers through the years have discovered methods that work.

That raises the question, “What kind of teachers do kids need today? According to one famous psychologist, kids actually like strict teachers.

Quoting a paragraph from Dr. James Dobson’s blog post from last summer, “the teachers who maintain order are often the most respected members of the faculties, provided they aren’t mean and grouchy (italics Roberta’s). A teacher who can control a class without being oppressive is almost always loved by her students.”

Why is this so? First, children seem to sense they are safer in a classroom with boundaries. Children become afraid of classroom bullies if the teacher can’t control them. They know they are in immediate danger of being ridiculed and harassed by those bullies.

My middle school English teacher was a prime example of one who lost control of her students. Mrs. L‘s classroom resembled a three-ring circus. While we were supposed to be learning English, a friend taught me how to knit while those around us engaged in paper-wad-throwing, noisy chaos. (Really, that was the only class where I recall being a brat. I reasoned, “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”)

The class bullies pushed Mrs. L. over the edge one day, which caused her to lose her temper and start swearing. We knew she had lost the battle and no one ever respected her.

Back to the subject: why do kids (secretly) like strict teachers? Children love justice. If someone breaks a rule, children expect immediate action. Remember your classroom tattler? In spite of their protests, kids want justice. It gives them security.

Third, according to Dr. Dobson, classroom chaos is hard on children’s nerves. It seems fun for a while, but then hinders learning. Children need structure and order to function well.

So teachers, hats off to you as you navigate a difficult job. You WILL come back next year, won’t you?

How about you? Any thoughts about education? Feel free to comment below.

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