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View Diary: A Reflection on Mental Illness from a Former High School Teacher (140 comments)

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  •  I agree with much of this diary. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, ladybug53, worldlotus

    I've never been employed as a classroom teacher, but I've sure worked in and around schools enough. I know about being hanged for saying the wrong thing--or for saying the right thing that gets heard wrong. I know about politics.

    But this remark raises my hackles a bit:

    It's a broad stroke, I know, and I was fortunate in my last school that, at least most of the time, I could be honest with kids and parents about the former's ability and performance, and found that more often than not they appreciated it.
    Maybe it's your use of the word "ability." I can imagine a scenario where some obnoxious, narcissistic helicopter parent expects their child to be super-human, and doesn't want to hear about their offspring's human limitations, from anyone. On the other hand, this trendy burst of "educational reform" in the last decade, for ways its misguided, HAS at least re-inserted "universal student potential" into the discourse about educational reform. Any student of at least normal intelligence, no matter what their cultural background, should be able to master any academic subject, at all. I believe that. When kids are failing in school, we have to look to their surroundings--and this  includes their teachers.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 12:05:56 PM PST

    •  Not really sure what you're getting at. (8+ / 0-)

      All I meant by the quoted remark was that I didn't have to pretend that a kid was an "A" student if (s)he wasn't.

      I once had a student, an 11th grader, not Special Ed/IEP, who could not compose a coherent English sentence. What passed for "sentences" in her reader-response notebook and in formal compositions were naught but disjointed strings of words, barely approximating meaning. She simply did not have the capacity to assemble words into a clear, grammatically-correct sentence.

      Now, when I told the parent (or grandparent, not sure which) about that, she began to cry. Not because she was upset by me, but because no one had ever told her that the girl's literacy skills were so limited, and it was now probably too late to bring those skills up to par with the state Regents Exam which was only a few months away. It occurred to me to ask myself the question, How does a child get to 11th grade without being able to compose a sentence in English? The answer is obvious: Because no one ever told her, and no one ever told her parents, the truth about her abilities.

      Reading and writing are skills; like any other, some people are better at them than others. Telling a student or parent that the student's work is exceptionally good when it isn't, doesn't ultimately help anyone. No learning can occur if you think you're already an expert.

      •  True enough. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53, rosarugosa

        All except this:

        Because no one ever told her, and no one ever told her parents, the truth about her abilities.
        "Abilities"? Please substitute the phrase, "skill attainment to date." Her level of accomplishment with writing English sentences, was really what was at issue. Had this student received what she needed from her schooling? No, obviously not. Her problems were deep, and preceded her enrollment in your class. How could you be blamed? The fact remains, if she'd had what she needed from the get-go, she'd have grade-level skills.

        I'm making a distinction you may well intend, but don't make clearly. The distinction is between this student's "skills" (which are acquired by training) and her "intelligence" (which is innate). I believe schools, usually, are rightly concerned only with the former.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 12:52:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I appreciate what you're saying but I think you're (6+ / 0-)

          splitting hairs here, looking for something to get upset about. Specifically you're splitting the word "ability" into the words "skills" and "intelligence," which are not synonyms, but "ability" can be a synonym for either. "Skill attainment to date" strikes me as a euphemism, like "deferred success."

          I don't really see a negative connotation in the word "ability" and its variants, in this context. Whether a student's inability to do [X] is the result of a lack of training or ineffective training, or an "inherent" lack of "intelligence," is irrelevant to the basic fact that the student, in the here and now, cannot do [X], or cannot do [X] well enough to pass a state exam.

          I appreciate the importance of framing and of using words with precision. I was always very careful to do that in order to avoid misperceptions. Just one example: Most students understand the structure of an essay to be "Introduction-Body-Conclusion." But I would not let them refer to the middle part as the "Body;" I insisted that it be called "Discussion" instead. Why? Because that's what an essay does. If you change the nouns to verb form, you have Introduce-Discuss-Conclude. "Body" has no verb form; it does not denote what the writer is doing in that part of the essay. "Discussion" does.

          In this case, though, I think you're looking for a negative connotation in the word "ability" that simply isn't there. I understand that there's a difference between that which a person is inherently capable of doing and that which a person is presently able to do, but "ability" can mean the latter without implying the former.

          •  I think you basically get me: (0+ / 0-)
            I understand that there's a difference between that which a person is inherently capable of doing and that which a person is presently able to do, but "ability" can mean the latter without implying the former.
            (I know I'm getting off the topic of your diary here, although my point is tangentially related.)

            You believe I am "making too much" of that distinction between "accomplishment" and "intelligence." I'd respectfully disagree. You and I live in a culture where a lot of money is spent promoting the meme that "some of us have it, and some of us don't." Poor people are poor, well, because they're dumber. In the 1990s, didn't some clown come out with a fat best-seller all about how some races were just naturally smarter than others?

            There is an element in our culture, a powerful one, devoted to keeping that thinking alive. Public schools, at their best, flout it.

            It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

            by karmsy on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 01:27:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

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