Listening to students (narcissistic fools)

Education Nation is Full of Narcissistic Fools, writes Math Curmudgeon in a brilliant, read-it-all rant.

He didn’t actually watch NBC’s Education Nation, but he read The Innovative Educator’s list of what students want.

For example: “I can’t learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.”

Teachers can connect but it’s a two-way street and you’re not playing. If you can’t learn without the touchy-feely crap then you’ll never learn from Salman Khan, a computer, an online program, a disinterested presenter or any teacher who is even slightly less than your ideal of perfection.  That’s a damn shame.

“Teaching by the book is not teaching. It’s just talking.”

Teaching by the book is accepting that someone smarter than I and with more time and help from his graduate students, has put together a pretty damn good calculus book.  Why would I change it radically?

“Caring about each student is more important than teaching the class.”

 Teaching is a profession and one that I enjoy but I am not your parent, your priest or your counselor. I am the teacher.

This is my job.

“Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams.”

Curmudgeon disagrees. His job is to teach math. Nor does he aspire to be a “life coach” for students, though he wishes someone would say: “Stop being a navel-gazing narcissist and grow up.”

“Us youth love all the new technologies that come out. When you acknowledge this and use technology in your teaching it makes learning much more interesting.”

I love them, too. Now get out your iPads and load up the Kindle version of the textbook and get to work. If you can’t connect to the school’s network, then set up a wi-fi hotspot off your iPhone, go to wolframalpha.com, find the answer to the first part of the question and incorporate it into the Excel spreadsheet to further analyze the problem, dump the results to Powerpoint, send it to your portable printer or convert it to one of the four acceptable electronic formats.  Then, don’t send it to my email account but rather submit it to the class Moodle in the proper forum.  You know how to do that, right? By the end of the week, I’ll want you to be able to explain all this and apply your knowledge to something completely different, so you need to get cracking.

“Our teachers have too many students to enable them to connect with us in they way we need them to.”

Seek out the teachers.  The good ones will be there. Just wait until you get to college and have the privilege of sitting with 400 of your closest friends in a lecture hall listening to a TA with a heavy foreign accent.

“Education leaders, teachers, funders, and policy makers need to start listening to student voice in all areas including teacher evaluations.”

Nope. Until you have some experience, your “opinion” is worthless and people will blow you off.  When you have that experience, you’ll find we already do listen.

“You need to love a student before you can teach a student.”

Awesomely silly.  And false.

Via Darren, who’s also a math teacher rather than a parent, counselor,  life coach, Facebook friend or XBox consultant.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. “Education leaders, teachers, funders, and policy makers need to start listening to student voice in all areas including teacher evaluations.”

    Nope. Until you have some experience, your “opinion” is worthless and people will blow you off. When you have that experience, you’ll find we already do listen.

    And once you have gained that experience, you too will ignore worthless opinions. Now that is a Win-Win situation if I ever saw one.

    Regards
    JJ

  2. Actually, I *am* a parent–of a 15 year old. But he doesn’t seem to expect his teachers to be his parents. He also doesn’t go talk to his counselor all the time, that’s what grandma is for!

  3. “Teaching by the book is accepting that someone smarter than I and with more time and help from his graduate students, has put together a pretty damn good calculus book.”

    The book and the class should not present exactly the same material taught in exactly the same way. If they do, then you have only one chance to learn it. If the class and book vary somewhat, then you can consult the book for a different take on a concept you don’t quite grasp in class. Also, most math professors are mathematicians first and teachers second if at all. All of my high school math teachers were superior to my college math professors and some of my college profs had won university teacher recognitions.

    “Seek out the teachers.” (if you can’t get attention in class)

    This is a BS answer. It doesn’t scale. If all the students heed this advice and seek out the teachers then the teachers once again don’t have enough time to deal with all of them. Also stop putting all the work of learning onto your kids. If your kids aren’t learning the material, then it is your collective problem.

    “You’re a big boy, now. If you don’t know your strengths, my telling you over and over isn’t going to help.”

    Another total BS answer. Kids in high school are kids. They aren’t physically or emotionally mature yet. They can’t be both too stupid to know anything (which is why you shouldn’t listen to them very much) and smart enough to be complete and capable masters of their own fates. This is also the sort of statement made by every lazy asshole instructor I have ever had.

    • “The book and the class should not present exactly the same material taught in exactly the same way.”

      They should if its the right way. Especially with mathematics, there is sometimes only one way to skin a cat.

      • Nonsnese, supersub. The same lesson can be taught many different ways. all it takes is a bit of creativity and knowledge of pedagogy.

        • We’re not talking about English Language Arts, History, Art, or Government here. We’re talking about Math. And the higher up you go in Math, the more true what SuperSub says is. How else are you supposed to teach gradient, divergence, curl, and Laplacians, for example? With hand puppets? Role play? Field trips?

          • “How else are you supposed to teach gradient, divergence, curl, and Laplacians, for example? With hand puppets? Role play? Field trips?”

            OMG! You mean that all those lesson plans I did in ed school are….bad?

            *Sniff*

          • No it isn’t. I have a masters in engineering. While many techniques are the same, there are generally multiple ways of visualizing and applying them. You could teach second order differential equations using the ubiquitous spring-mass illustration, but there are tons of other ways to visualize the same mathematical phenomenon from other sciences. But everyone uses spring-mass even when teaching chemists or electrical engineers.

  4. I was called in for a full team conference because one of my kids said, “I don’t want to be loved or understood in school; I have parents for that. I’m in school to learn academic stuff.” Heresy, to be sure, and I echoed the sentiment at the aforementioned conference. Apparently, bright, confident and well-adjusted kids with no desire to whine or cry on the shoulders of either teachers or counselors need to be remediated. It didn’t happen. Since the child in question is now a happy 28, with a MA, CPA, CFA, MA-spouse of four years, a 1 yo child, no college debt and is enjoying a good job (ditto spouse), I guess remediation wasn’t really needed.

    • Momof4, I respecftully have to call you out on your story. I have been teaching for fifteen years, and never would we have a “full team conference” because a student said that they wanted to learn “academic stuff” and not be bothered with being “loved or understood in school.” I know you find it hard to believe, but teachers are too busy to conference over something like what you presented in your tale. There has got to be more to the story.

      • I’ve seen faculty meetings get called for even more ridiculous reasons over the years while teaching K-12…

        • I have to agree with Swede. My principal would laugh us out of the office if anyone attempted to call a whole-team meeting for one off-the-cuff student comment. To even request such a conference, there has to be a host of documented evidence, such as test scores, behavior incidents, etc. I wonder what else was going on?

    • No, there was nothing else; neither academics nor behavior. It was, however, only the second year after the switch from a JHS to a MS, so perhaps they overreacted, but I knew other parents called in for similar comments.

  5. Former Teacher says:

    This reminds me of that idiotic Fires in the Bathroom book. The problem with our “failing” inner city high schools in Houston was apparently that we teachers just didn’t care enough about the kids. This book was to open our eyes to the errors of our ways. I believe my book ended up in the trash (as much as it pains me to throw a book away).

  6. Roger Sweeny says:

    I suspect that if you really probed deeply, you would find that students feel something like this, “I’m not really interested in this. Am I really going to use it in life? Is this really going to help me get a good job? When I ask those questions, I get bs answers, so I’ve stopped asking. Why am I here?”

    We force kids to go to a building for six and a half hour a day where they do academic work. Academics require a significant amount of non-warm and fuzzy.

    I think the question we need to ask ourselves is why we are requiring so many people to spend so much of their lives in academics.

  7. “Until you have some experience, your “opinion” is worthless and people will blow you off. When you have that experience, you’ll find we already do listen.”

    This is a quote from a teacher? A student’s opinion is worthless?
    Experience?
    He didn’t watch the video but wrote a rant about it? Oh. Let me get this right . . . a rant about another blog post about “it’.

    Good to know.

  8. Kids mean a variety of different things when they ask that school focus on things that interest them, or are relevant to them. Some mean, don’t expect me to practice the content/skills. Some mean, give me harder work. Some mean, give me entertaining experiences based on my outside interests. Some mean, give me chances to socialize with my friends. Some mean, let me use my favorite social media. Some mean, let me pursue my future occupation. And so forth.

    One personal point: I did not want to be loved by my teachers. Many, including some very effective teachers, did not have good personalities for getting close with students. Some probably did, but their time was better spent actually teaching, and referring students with major problems at home to the counselor or social worker.

    It is not a good thing for students to be emotionally dependent on their teachers, with very rare exceptions.