Friday, March 16, 2012

Year 2: Week 26 – Calling Them Out

Teachers calling students out is something we have all experienced or have witnessed at some point in out lives. When I say, “call out,” I’m talking about a teacher correcting, reprimanding or being overtly negative towards students in front of the whole class. This public display happens all of the time at most levels of education. Do all teachers do this? Of course not, I know one 3rd grade teacher who never calls kids, but rather uses more subtle signs to the students to get them to change behavior.

I’m probably like most teachers.  I call kids out almost every day. I don’t like doing it, but I feel it’s a necessary part of classroom management. Lately I’ve been thinking more specifically about when it is appropriate to call a student out and when it’s not okay.

This is what I’ve figured out. It’s only okay to call a kid out when they are behaving in a disruptive and rude manner. That’s it. Here’s my reasoning: when does public humiliation actually help change behavior? Does pointing out to a whole classroom that one student didn’t do her homework motivate that student to do her homework? Does reprimanding a student for providing an incorrect answer make them more likely to give you a correct answer? Basically what it comes down to is: when does negative reinforcement actually work?

Being a teacher is kind of like training a dog. There are so many ways to run a class and the key is finding a system that works for you and your students. I’ve seen many teachers be successful teaching in ways that I do not feel comfortable. In the three schools I’ve taught in I’ve found that different things are required of me to be a successful teacher.

The one constant in my teaching (and my dog training) is that I’m not successful in dolling out negative reinforcement. I do better and my students do better if I spend more time capitalizing on the positives. Part of this thinking is really reflecting what you are trying to accomplish as a teacher.

When I ask a class a question, I’m not always looking for the right answer. More than anything I want my students to engage in the material, so I welcome wrong answers and try to point out what was good in what they shared with the class. It’s all about the exchange and when you call kids out, you aren’t welcoming a dialogue and even with problems with students’ behavior, I feel they have the right to express their perspective.

So why do I still call kids out? I think some things deserve being called out. If a student is being rude to another students, getting reprimanded by a teacher and embarrassed provides a little bite that sometimes kids need.  Moreover providing public feedback on students’ behavior both good and bad helps the entire class understand where the boundaries are and sometimes students have to try to cross that invisible fence and to get shocked.

I’m not sure about this issue. I hate calling kids out but I feel like some of them give me no choice when they act a certain way. When a student does something that is inappropriate you have to let them know know immediately. The softest way to do this, asking them to leave the room is pretty public as well, so I do think calling kids out is a necessary evil.

What I worry about are kids who feel bullied by teachers and whom a level of public humiliation that does nothing to correct behavior, simply hurts feelings. I don’t mind if a kid feels bad for not doing their homework or cries because I reprimanded him for misbehaving. What I don’t want to happen is for a student to think that I don’t like them and that I don’t care about them.

I'm really concerned about this. So I’m setting a rule for myself that I think we all need to think about. If you are going to call a kid out for whatever reason, you must follow that up with a talk with that student after class to explain why it was necessary for you to cause public embarrassment. Maybe it’s because they were being rude, distracting other people or not living up to their potential.

Whatever it is, that kid deserves one minute from you to be reassured that you acted not out of meanness but for out of respect for their potential as a human being. We can never remind our students enough that the only reason we get frustrated with them and feel a need to call them out is because we care.

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