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Monday, February 18, 2013

Broken Record (Dear Katie V1 #8)

Dear Katie,

I believe it was one of my education courses at The King's College that Dr. Anderson first introduced me to the concept of the broken record technique.

Katie, in case you don't know, before your phone played songs that were downloaded, you had to go to these places called record stores with names like "Off the Record" and "Turnabout" (in fact, that one still exists in the town your Mom and I grew up).  You bought these black plastic discs called records, and placed them on these machines called record players where a needle ran along the grooves creating music.  If you scratched the record, the needle could keep on repeating what you last heard, over and over again, thus the idiom...

"sounding like a broken record."

So if you are teaching and several groups of students around the room are still talking as the class is beginning, you would say calmly, "Please stop talking, class is about to begin", over and over until the desired effect takes place.

That's one way of thinking about the "broken record".

At the same time, if you find yourself repeating the same admonition like a "broken record" for days, weeks, months, its time to find out why people aren't listening.

If you find yourself repeating the same challenge like a "broken record" for days, weeks, months, its time to find out why people aren't listening.

The days of people listening to those in authority just because of their position are over.  Our society has fully embraced the 60's call to "Question Authority".

Ask them why they aren't listening.  
Most people won't ask that question due to pride.

People, especially those who hold positions of authority, do not want to be told by those under them what they are doing could possibly be wrong.

Don't be that teacher.

Ask your students why?  Tell them to be honest.  I have done that on occasion.  Most times I have to tell students I can't change, but there have been times where I have listened to what was said.

Students need to know that changes to your class they suggest will be considered, not necessarily followed.  In this way, they will know that you care about THEM, more than you care about your subject, your classroom structure, etc.  At the same time, you are keeping the final decision on all matters in your hands.

Explain what you can't change, accept what you can.
(Unless of course you can't defend your classroom practices.  If you can't, you have bigger issues)

If you do not provide an opportunity for suggestions to be voiced, you will find their disobedience is their way of "shouting" their dissatisfaction.

And don't do the "talk to me privately" if you have a suggestion.  You'll have only one or two students approach you and you'll dismiss it as a small fraction when it could very well be the whole class is in agreement with what the two privately told you.

I think the "talk to me privately" is the cowards way out.

Ask the whole class for suggestions for change.  Yes, one voice could turn into a chorus calling out for no homework, tests, or essays ever again.  Trust your students...you will find out there will be those who defend your classroom structure.  You may not even have to speak in your defense.

Remember it's not MY class it's OUR class.

I tell my class in the beginning of the year that the classroom is not a democracy, but led by a benevolent dictatorship, and there is nothing wrong with the dictator receiving suggestions from the citizens of the classroom on how things should be run, because ultimately, the final decision rests in the hands of the dictator.

Sadly, most benevolent dictators are too insecure; as if changing a routine based on a suggestion from a student will somehow lessen his/her ability to lead.

Don't be that benevolent dictator!

Just my opinion.

Uncle Kevin

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