425. Old-fashioned Teachers

In some circles, it’s really hip to say you’re old-fashioned. You talk about the way things used to be, and tell people that you’re immune or at least resistant to the changes that invade life as time marches on. And you can be seen as a quixotic hero. Behind that view of you is a belief that many of the changes time brings make things worse.
Of course, some changes do make things worse. Change for change’s sake isn’t necessarily good, although if the status quo is bad enough, just about any change starts to look good. But talking about the need for change can be pretty empty talk. When I think about any issue, I’d much rather talk about the substance of the issue than discuss the need for change. If change is a good idea, substantial discussion will make that clear.
I’m old-fashioned in some ways, as are most people I know. We’re also pioneers and rebels in other ways. I think it’s far more useful to think about what works and what feels right than about what’s old-fashioned and what’s new-fangled.
I’ve worked with a teacher who is of “the old school” on several issues. She holds up high standards, and does not believe that any child should get good grades unless that child has earned them. She gives children lots of work to do, and expects them to do it. If they don’t, they’ve got to pay the price, which can mean bad grades, missed recesses, and/or scowls from the teacher.
Some parents like this teacher’s style. It reminds them of what school was like for them, and after all, they turned out all right, didn’t they? They didn’t have cooperative education, humanistic education, or any of those other new things that teachers use nowadays.
As a volunteer, I try to approach each classroom with an open mind. Partly, that’s because I consider it a privilege to be allowed to work with children, and I don’t want to risk losing that privilege. But partly, I want to learn about different
approaches. I want to see what works. Even if what works isn’t what I was doing during the twenty-five years I was employed as a teacher. I’ve already learned that some of my approaches and techniques could have been better. I was learning that during those twenty-five years, I’m learning it now, and I expect to continue learning it.
There are some approaches and techniques that are time-honored, and are used by many teachers. Holding up high standards and assigning lots of work is a time-honored approach. But I’ve seen it done in a way that just doesn’t work. I know the children in the class of this “old-fashioned” teacher, and they are not learning as much as children who have less “old-fashioned” teachers. And call me “old-fashioned,” but I think teachers are responsible for causing children to learn. Even if it means trying out new ways.

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