kitchen table math, the sequel: palisadesk on Fred Jones

Monday, March 8, 2010

palisadesk on Fred Jones

Fred Jones ... had imbibed the “born teacher” myth and had a rude awakening when he was called upon to do some consulting at a school for incarcerated teens. The principal directed him to a classroom, where he entered to find students standing on tables, throwing things, climbing on windowsills, some huddled under tables, all kinds of ruckus, and the teacher yelling ineffectively at the front. Well, they were juvenile delinquents after all.

He went to some other classrooms and a period or two later noticed something. He was in a class of students who could have been from Groton or Phillips Exeter. They were seated, attentive, raising hands to answer, deeply engaged – in algebra, no less. It was a few moments before he realized that these were the exact same students as he had seen in the first classroom. Only the teacher was different.

That set him on the path to learn what it was that made one teacher highly successful with these (unlikely) students, while another was not. He learned over time that there are identifiable skills, behaviors and practices that teachers can learn that will make them much more effective, regardless of their baseline at the start. Those who are “natural born teachers” just do more of these things without being taught – but others can learn.

I took a week-long course from Fred Jones a few summers ago in Maine. It was worth every penny. His book, Positive Classroom Instruction, is now out of print (but available on secondhand book sites) and an excellent one on instructional issues, while Positive Classroom Discipline has some extremely good ideas and practical ones for managing student behavior not only in a positive way but in an instruction-friendly way. – so that more time is spent on effective learning.

His book Tools for Teachers is an excellent handbook for any new teacher (or one changing assignments, grade levels, etc). I refer to my copy frequently.

His website has lots of good articles and resources.

This is the point that is so difficult to get across to administrators and school boards.

Students are better or worse, depending on the environment.

So are parents.

In our middle school, I was a PITA and then some.

At Hogwarts, I barely know what's going on. As a matter of fact, it's entirely possible I don't know the last names of all of C's teachers.

That's because they're doing the teaching.

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