Tag Archives: teaching

The Tiger Teacher?

I’ve never read Amy Chua’s The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Nor have I had the chance to view Vicki Abeles’s documentary response, Race to Nowhere (click here for the Slate article about the film and its reception). But like most Americans, I’ve been privy to the controversy and debate that Chua sparked, and I’ve heard plenty of defensive responses from those in Abeles’s camp. However, as someone working in the field of education, this dialogue has hit even closer to home. While some read Chua’s book as a critique of American motherhood, many have gotten offended by its larger implications about American culture. And personally, I’ve been more than frustrated by its suggestions about the American education system.

And I say frustrated, because I’m not offended. In fact, I’m delighted to see how Amy Chua has drawn so much attention to the way American parents view their children’s education. Like I said, I haven’t read the book, but after everything I’ve heard about it, I’m actually wondering if it’s more of a commentary on education than parenting.

What Chua and Abeles don’t seem to acknowledge is that teachers are dealing with these issues too. This is something teachers think about everyday–should we be a “Tiger Teacher,” assigning five hours of homework every night, expecting our students to completely disregard things like sports, extracurricular activities, jobs, and social life (and even family life)? Or–even stranger sounding–should we be “Anti-Tiger Teachers,” encouraging our students to go out, have fun, be kids, and live a little?

Most teachers end up falling somewhere in the middle. Personally, from experience and from what I’ve learned in my education curriculum, this is the best approach. Teachers who design their curriculum without acknowledging the students’ life outside of the classroom are sure to be setting themselves–and their kids–up for disaster. For example, much of my observation has been conducted in a school district where many of the students’ economic situation forces them to have jobs outside of the classroom. These kids spend their afternoons flipping burgers and bagging groceries, not reading Chaucer. In an ideal world, teachers shouldn’t have to factor this into their curriculum. There are a variety of ways that teachers can be sensitive to these “outside the classroom” preoccupations that our students have, but ignoring them or acting like they’re less important than studying for a biology exam

Image taken with permission from stock.xchng

is not the right way to do it.

I don’t see why mothers can’t take the same approach. Perhaps we should think of education classes as parenting classes, too. While I don’t have any children of my own, many teachers do, and a lot of my classmates so far have been mothers and fathers. They often bring up anecdotal evidence about raising their children to support some of their methods in the classroom. I’m sure there’s some room for reverse application as well. Any parent-teachers care to comment?

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From HuffPoEdu: How Teachers are Addressing the Death of Osama Bin Laden

Huffington Post reporter Joy Resmovitz has written an article that addresses the ways that teachers across the country are contextualizing the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death for their students.

I think this article hits at a vital point that I want my blog to continually stress: teachers are responsible for how their students think. Also, your students should see you as an educated, informed authority who can voice a knowledgeable opinion. Of course, not every teacher feels comfortable expressing their opinions to a classroom full of adolescents, and that’s fine. Some things are best kept out of the classroom discussion.

But given these current events, there’s no doubt that teachers in the humanities feel the need to contextualize the death of Osama Bin Laden and its larger implications. Today in one of my classes, where we are studying cosmopolitan East Africa, the professor was able to relate Bin Laden’s ideologies and what he stood for to other things we’ve learned throughout the semester.

Personally, in an English classroom, there are a lot of different ways you can deal with current events. If it sounds like something students are really pressed to talk about, and they have questions, allow an open discussion. One of the best things a teacher can do is create a classroom where students feel comfortable expressing themselves and their unique ideas. They should be able to bounce their ideas off of each other–and you–and learn something from the process. After all, isn’t this how learning in the real world works? How often have we walked away from a discussion or debate with a new perspective and new outlook?

Of course, discussions can be implemented in the classroom in a variety of ways. You can do a whole-class discussion, or even split the students up into small groups if you think it would be useful to them. It also might be a good idea to have them journal on it, at the beginning or end of a class discussion. What do you guys think?

I’d also try to relate it back to course material, if at all possible. For example, in my East Africa class today, the discussion had me thinking about the fact that Osama Bin Laden was really the “face” behind a movement, more than just an evil person in and of himself. This could be comparable to other villains in texts that students have read. If you’re studying the Diary of Anne Frank, Night, or other Holocaust literature, this could be related back to Hitler. Ask the students to relate the event back to how Holocaust survivors might have reacted upon hearing about Hitler’s death. There isn’t any “right answer”–it’s just a great way to show students that they can connect what they’re learning in your classroom to their own lives and “the real world” (as they call it–haha).

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Linguistics in Secondary Schools?

It wasn’t until freshman year at GMU that I had any idea what linguistics, as a science and study, was all about. Even worse, it wasn’t until my junior year that I took an actual linguistics course! Surprisingly, I was required to take the course for my English teacher endorsements; apparently the Virginia state teacher licensing requires English teachers to have taken a class in linguistics now!

This is fantastic, because there are countless ways that teachers–especially English teachers–can apply linguistics and linguistic theories in their classrooms. But just because they can, and should, since they’re taking the coursework anyway, doesn’t mean that they will. Which is a tragedy and a waste, in my opinion.

I love linguistics, and I’ll be an English teacher soon. A unit on linguistics could be a useful substitute to a traditional grammar unit, or any other language study unit. Even better: an entire linguistics elective class would be a neat alternative to the more standard creative writing and film studies electives that English teachers often turn to.

One project I’d like to undertake is designing some tentative linguistics lesson plans that secondary English teachers could use in the classroom. History teachers could use them also–how great would it be if, when learning about European history, students got a few quick lessons on European languages?!

I think my first lesson will be a brief study on Native American languages. I’ll try to design it to be taught in a history or English classroom. Any ideas and suggestions are welcome. I’m mostly using the internet as a source right now (personally, I don’t know too much about Native American languages, but now I have to learn!) so any book suggestions or other resources would be helpful!

Also, I have no idea when this Native American language lesson will be completed. I’m in the middle of finals, and if I want it to be well-researched and well-put together, it could be months and months until I’ve got the finished product pieced together. But I’ll try to keep updates as I’m working!

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