Posts Tagged ‘promoting virtue’

Dear Teacher

May 4, 2010

Dear Teacher,

This is my son, look after him. Please use your skill as a teacher to engage him in the learning process. Do not judge him nor use his immaturity as a reason to condemn or punish him. He is not an employee of whom you can demand performance. You and the school exist to serve his needs. He is not there to help you achieve your personal goals or the school’s academic goals.

Catholic schools traditionally have a reputation for brutality. Some catholic schools trade on this reputation.  With demands for above average results catholic schools become places only for clever and beautiful children, catholic in name only, and devoid of Gospel values. Dr Dan White quotes the old adage “if you are not modelling what you are trying to teach, then you are teaching something else”

Please remember that you are an adult, with hundreds of hours of training as a professional teacher. He is a child. You represent of an organisation with hundreds of years of teaching experience, thousands of hours of research and training, and millions of dollars in resources. He is a child. As an adult in a relationship with a child you are responsible for the success of this relationship. Any attempt to place this responsibility on the child is most improper.

My son is not yet an independent learner, but will learn naturally and curiously when given the right environment. He is immature and at times disorganised. The merit system is designed to help my child to focus step by step on developing habits and virtues which will help him to become an independent learner, and foster his lifelong love of learning.

The merit system can be used to help every child step up to their next level whatever their ability. At the moment, it seems to be used to reward clever and beautiful children for being clever and beautiful. How else could one student be given two silver awards (Gold) in one ten week term? This amounts to 120 individual merits. There is a stinginess and stupidity which only allows merits to be given for extra-ordinary achievement.

My son would do nearly anything to get merits, yet he has no idea what he can do, and is not allowed to ask. If you want him to hand in homework or assignments, give him a merit for it, and he will probably do it again, until he can see the value in homework and assignments. Tell him what you want him to do and that you will give him a merit for it, and he will develop his own checklist which will lead to good habits.

Do not listen to the stupidity which says that a merit is a reward. It is a tick of approval which acknowledges he is on the right track, perhaps the highest form of motivation that there is.

This is my son. Look after him. Foster and protect his love of learning.



February 2, 2010

Punctuality is the art of working out how late the other person is going to be. Most organisations struggle to start on time because people do not show up on time. A school is no different, and punctuality becomes important in maximising effective teaching time, and co-ordinating activities and resources. The school needs to decide what strategies are most effective to encourage punctuality among the students.

Some schools punish students for being late, by issuing a ‘demerit’. Lateness is not misbehaviour; it is merely the lack of a good habit, or lack of organisational skills. Punctuality is an habit and a courtesy with which many adults struggle; even the most organised and courteous people can be late because of circumstances beyond their control. In punishing latecomers the school risks acting unjustly and creating resentment in the student and parent. The danger with punishing a child for something beyond their control is that it destroys self esteem and creates a feeling of powerlessness, leading to diminished personal responsibility.

Condemning a student for lacking an habit or virtue does nothing to develop the desired habit or virtue. Placing a teacher at the gate to issue ‘demerits’ to latecomers actually rewards the latecomers with increased attention.

The Positive Parenting Program (PPP) teaches the maxim ‘Rewarded behaviours will be repeated.’

Far better to reward the on time students with a ‘merit,’ enhancing self esteem, and reinforcing personal responsibility. Latecomers would miss the opportunity for a merit, may feel this more keenly than a demerit. Positive motivation is far more powerful. A further step would be to issue a ‘merit’ at morning homeroom for a desired aspect of grooming, for example: neat haircut, top button fastened, shoes on the correct feet. The expectation would be that every student would receive a ‘merit’ as the particular aspect of grooming would be advertised well in advance. PPP also teaches ‘make it easy to do the right thing, and catch them doing it.’

Another positive initiative worthy of praise is the demise of the evening to hand out the “Assessment manual”, which has been replaced with a ‘wine and cheese’ to welcome new parents and staff to the school. This places the focus firmly on building community and learning, and encourages parents to collaborate and assist each other as parents. Excessive emphasis on assessment can lead to school degenerating into an expensive method of sorting winners and losers- a competition to see who gets the best jobs.

School of the week is the one where the kindy boy came home from his second day and said “It was fantastic, we had dance fever”.