As I begin to wrap up discussion of Thinking Outside the Box, I have found little, if anything that I did not agree with LouAnne Johnson’s point of view with regards to teaching in general. This is unusual for me in that I love to argue. Perhaps it is the kid in me that feels the need to be contradictory to authority like my own students, or it is some deep seeded desire to be right all the time. 🙂 Whatever it is, I have a hard time finding a chink in the armor of LouAnne Johnson’s arguments.
The only thing that I feel I do not agree with is that she posts her students progress in her room for students to look at in their spare time. Maybe it is because she taught years ago, but I do not feel that this is right due to student confidentiality. Perhaps, it is legitimate in that she did not show grades but rather if an assignment was late, missing, or not turned in, and therefore she did not violate confidentiality. I am not sure as that whole area is foggy, at best, for me.
I do, however, understand the driving force behind posting student accomplishments and lack there of for all to see. Pride is a wonderful tool. Even apathetic students care, they are just better at finding reasons to fool us all, and sadly they have been given some great reasons by persons of authority to act as if they don’t care. We need to help our students understand that they can succeed and they should kick and scream and fight to ensure they have a chance to do so. Because students do not even conceive of a light even being in their tunnel they bury their pride and try not to show it.
According to Johnson, eventually, when we are persistent, apathetic students do show hints of their pride. They will peek at posted assignments, and have the desire to not to be constantly displayed time and time again without having completed any work. She tells a story about watching her students pretend to be looking at something across the room while they slide past the posted assignment list.
At my school we have started the ICU program. It is tremendously difficult at times and completely rewarding at others because of student resistance and success. In short, the program refuses to allow students to get by with turning less than marginal work or nothing at all. When students do not complete a set number of assignments they are placed on working lunch and kept after school in order to provide them more time for completing work. Teachers grade, re-teach and grade again until students can succeed. I must admit that it is a wonderful feeling when a student understands that we will not accept failure and they go from having weeks worth of missing work to having nothing missing. I had a seventh grader jumping and giving high fives in my room when he found out he had no incomplete assignments, it was the highlight of my teaching career so far.
So do I disagree with LouAnne Johnson, not at all, I simply wonder if we could still do this in the modern classroom.