kitchen table math, the sequel: the reluctant Machiavellian teacher

Monday, November 7, 2011

the reluctant Machiavellian teacher

117 behaviours, plus some pretty interesting analyses (registration required to read all of them but is free), and how to remedy them, and it seems pretty useful for newly-recruited TFA teachers shoved into a classroom and the like but have to deal with a few problem students who ruin it for everyone else eager to learn. The site breaks down each behaviour by "causes" or "needs" and suggests effective ways of remedy, and mistakes to avoid. In short, it suggests ways for a teacher to quickly gain control of a problematic situation, but in a subtle manner, without being unprofessional.

Teachers (or new talented ones at least) didn't join to be a Machiavellian, but perhaps for new teachers in some low-income districts it would be a necessary evil in order to be able to do the sort of thing they joined the corps for, infusing their students with passion and all of that. And many of the tips are rather insightful -- there are apparently promising ways to even make any troublemaker a potentially really productive student.

(-- and of course, I'm still a hopeful undergrad TFA applicant)


SteveH said...

There are two different problems here; simple class control and the second link which discusses a much more serious problem. No amount of psychological magic can do anything at Emery. The problem is solved by separating those who are willing and able from those who are not. Schools can't or won't do that, so that power has to be given to parents. It's amazing to see teachers in our state fighting so hard against that.

ChemProf said...

I can see it could be useful, lrg, but I also see an assumption that the teacher is never wrong (see for example "the last worder" -- yes, that can be tricky, but what if the student is right?). One of the best things you can learn, as a teacher, is how to deal gracefully with errors. If you are being challenged in class, it is really helpful to stop, think about the question, and acknowledge it if you were in error. Otherwise, students can come to view you as arrogant and inflexible or in extreme cases, stupid. A colleague of mine once accidentally wrote OHO for water. When called on it, she panicked and insisted it was right, an error which just made her look idiotic and took her years to recover from.

Jen said...

There are people who can't admit they're wrong in any profession, but a personality problem doesn't make a general discipline suggestion wrong for most people!

Believe me, when I was teaching (in an urban, high poverty, "challenging" environment) if someone pointed out an error it was a huge accomplishment! It meant that they were actually listening and looking at what was going on in the room, that they were actively engaged in learning something.

I also used it as an opportunity to point out that *everyone* makes mistakes and that the best response to a mistake is to acknowledge it, correct it, and move on.

A student who always have to have the last word is not the same as a student asking a question or pointing out an error.

le radical galoisien said...

oh yeah. if my hypothetical class challenged me on something I said based on content, I'd be delighted.

le radical galoisien said...

there are kids who will cause trouble for the rest of the class.

but if the administration is uncooperative, one can try to mitigate the effects.

Personally I wonder, if at some point, the teacher shows his exasperation with an unwilling student and gives up, which then backfires.

in any case, the classroom, especially in low-income districts is a game of power. (the unfortunate reality) The British approach (which Singapore inherited) was to appoint peer prefects, such that the teacher did little routine discipline most of the time, intervening directly rarely, thereby conserving the teacher's power.

Peer prefects were generally model students, but not sycophants, and generally already popular and influential before being chosen. Of course, popularity seems like a shallow consideration, but you might see why administrators or teachers might find that criterion effective.

I should know, because I was once a "problem student" where I feared the prefects if I did not fear a teacher.