Counterproductive Things Teachers Do
At my house, we had a sink which had a problem with the drain overflow, requiring it to be replaced. I decided, despite having absolutely no handyman skills, that I was going to do some research and replace it myself. I read on websites, watched YouTube video, and bought the supplies I needed.
One year later, after many attempts at fixing my mistakes, we finally had to call a plumber to rip the whole thing out and replace it, costing us a significant chunk of money. Here it is, in all its glory:
My actions made the problem worse. And it has happened in the classroom too. I made some mistakes in the past and realized those mistakes just made the problem worse. Here are the first three that come to mind:
Saying, “This is your warning.” – Luckily I learned the problem with this one quite early in my teaching career. If you tell a child who is not following your expectations “This is your warning,” they learn that it is okay to break the rules once, just not twice. This is a recipe for chaos. If a student clearly understands the expectation (which will only happen if a teacher models and has students practice) but does not follow it, there has to be a consequence. It doesn’t have to be a huge one or even a formal one, but the poor choice must be corrected.
Giving a Daily Chart to Track Home Reading – I am ashamed to admit that this one lingered in my room for six or seven years. My thinking was this: I’m not assigning reading worksheets because I know they’re worthless, but I have to have something to hold kids accountable for their reading at home. This was flawed reasoning. The daily reading chart turned into something everybody hated. The students in my room hated it because let’s face it, who wants to fill out a chart when you’re done reading? Adults don’t do that. The parents probably hated it because they had to sign it too many times, and I hated it because I had to give a consequence for students who didn’t get it signed. Therefore, I’m sure there was plenty of times kids wrote down their reading time when they didn’t read and just as many times parents signed it without knowing whether or not their child was actually reading. Reading each night is still part of my expectations for students. I hope they are completing it. They might not be, but the chart wasn’t helping this.
Marking Up a Finished Product for Grammar Errors – Imagine that, as an adult, you decide to learn a new skill. You get some help from an expert, a little help each day. Then, you begin a project and work tirelessly on it for three weeks. Then, you show your expert and that person proceed to write all over it. How’s it feel? Probably not too good. Yet, this what many teachers still do to published student work. I did this as a beginning teacher but learned the negative effects it has on students when they begin working on the next writing piece. Suddenly, their effort wanes and we’re surprised. We shouldn’t be. There’s a place in the writing process for grammar and editing – plenty of places, but marking up the final copy of a student’s hard work isn’t one of them.
As teachers, we’re constantly trying to solve problems – it’s what we do. However, sometimes our solutions cause the problem we are trying to solve to get worse. Reflecting on our own decisions can help us to identify these counterproductive solutions. It can also help us remember to call the plumber for our leaky sink.