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Great teachers just give the kid a pencil

I just had to share this wonderful article which speaks to a very important quality of the best teaching that is often overlooked – compassion and care.

~ Dianne

 

Give The Kid A Pencil, by Chad Donohue, published at Teaching Tolerance

I recently taught a university course in Seattle for graduate students seeking master’s degrees in teaching. In one lesson, our focus was on creating a psychologically safe learning environment for students. It was an issue of managing students and supplies. I posed a question:

If a student shows up to class without a pencil, how should the teacher respond?

Small groups collaborated for a few minutes. Ultimately, they came up with plans involving taking something (a shoe?) from the student as collateral to remind the student about the importance of having supplies, notifying parents and even assigning classroom cleanup duty or lunch detention.

pencil heart“What about you, Prof?” they asked.

“I would give the kid a pencil,” I said.

“You mean the first time?” someone asked.

“Every time,” I said.

This evidently had not occurred to them. There must be some punishment, subtle humiliation or a response that makes the kid pay for the error, right? They were concerned that my action would reinforce and reward poor behavior, possibly even help develop bad habits.

What they failed to see is that the teacher is not the cause of the problem. Likely, the student has been doing this for years. The teacher can respond by criticizing the child in front of the class, reminding him that pencils are required at school, making her give up something as collateral or inflicting some punishment as a power move.

Or the instructor can simply provide the pencil and say, “There will always be a pencil here for you. Don’t ever worry about asking me for a pencil. I have hundreds of them.”

By eliminating the anxiety that comes when students worry about being called out or humiliated in front of their peers, teachers reduce the chance that students will skip class, give up, become defiant or develop mysterious “illnesses” that cause them to stay home….

Read more here:  Give The Kid A Pencil

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