Classroom Management

Synopsis prepared by Lee Risley
This is the practical ideas department. You want to:
 a) have a smooth-running class with kids (and YOU!) on task.
 b) create an atmosphere in which discipline problems seldom crop up.
 c) understand more about motivation, the important glue for the whole process.


A. Starting the Class (“Bell Ringers”)
B. Smooth Transitions Between Activities
C. Seating Charts (Virtues of and How to Do)
D. Room Decorations (Some Practical How-To Stuff)
E. Motivation, Empowerment and Reality (A Wide-Ranging Discussion of Some Length!)
F. Contracts With Students
G. Who Are These Experts Telling Us How To Teach? (And What’s a Teacher Do Anyway?)

A. Starting the Class (“Bell Ringers”)

96/10 From-> Janice Dirmeitis <>
Subject: Re: BELL WORK - Class Management ideas! (fwd)

Some "tried and true" activities that you use each day, .

Actually my system is set up every September. I explain that when they
come in they are to look at the side board and immediately start
whatever assignment I have written. (These are always related to the
lesson varying from practicing orally with a partner some exercise,
writing a short exercise, reading, practicing an original dialogue with
their partner, etc.)

As I check H.W. or deal with "other things" I watch and see if everyone
is "on task". If the whole class is doing what they're supposed to when
I am ready to start the class, then the class gets a heart around the
date of a calendar I have posted for each class. Five hearts in a row
and the class gets a reward. (Again all this was set up and they know
what reward they'll get varying from candy, H.W. pass etc.) If not, an X
goes over the date and the class must start again toward the
accumulation of 5 hearts.

This is for high school students who "love" it, compare their class
performances and will get on the case of those who hold them back! In
addition I always hold them responsible for the activity by randomly
calling on students to give me some of the answers to what they did.

This is what works great for me!

Janice Dirmeitis


96/10 From-> Pamela Casler  CASLER001@WCSUB.CTSTATEU.EDU
Subject: Re: BELL WORK - Class Management ideas! (fwd)

Sponge activities which get the student working the minute the bell
rings are a wonderful way to get the class quiet and on task while you
take roll. Then when you finish, you can get right to work. Here are
three activities that I do: The first is a verb schema. A French teacher
in Wakefield, Ma. shared this idea with me. This is for upper levels. It
is a schematic of the verb tenses; I write a verb and a pronoun on the
board (e.g. chercher, tu forme) and they have 7 or 8 minutes to put the
verb into every tense (except plus-que-parfait et l'imparfait du
subjonctif); We make models for -er, -ir, and -re verbs when we first
start schemas.

They get to use their models for about the first two weeks. After that
they must clear their desks and work as if it were a quiz. They DO learn
to form verb tenses with these! I have had kids write me from college
asking me to send them some blank schemas because they are such a help
for remembering what to use as the stem, which endings, English
equivalents, etc. Warning: while they can be graded very quickly, they
do get tiresome to grade. I tell the class that we will do them only
until everyone starts making fairly good grades on them (usually about 6
weeks) and then we are all happy to stop them.

Another activity is my "phrase du jour" which is posted in the corner of
the black board every day. This can be anything which they wouldn't
typically learn in the textbook, but which is useful anyway. (e.g. terms
of endearment, slang expressions, how to bless someone when he sneezes,
etc.) My students know that they must be in their seats copying the
phrase when the bell rings. Then we talk about it after. This is mostly
for my lower level classes because I tend to use basically the same
phrases each year.

One final sponge activity, good for all classes, is to put a number on
the board which they must write out. God knows that the numbers in
French are confusing, and daily practice helps keep all of those picky
rules in mind.

Pamela Casler


96/10 From-> Jessica Roberts
Subject: Re: BELL WORK - Class Management ideas! (fwd)

The point of a "bell ringer" is just to keep it simple. Put several
vocab words on the board and encourage them to come up with creative
sentences to show they understand the words meanings. Or challenge their
cultural knowledge. Have them discuss differences they may know about
within the language. (i.e. Spanish in Puerto Rico vs. Spanish in Mexico)
Have one of the activities be a list of ideas they come up with they
could add to your lesson plans. It will give insight into where they
need assistance. Just a few.....

Jessica Roberts


96/10 From-> Jack Yerby <>
Subject: BELL WORK - Class Management ideas!

One of our Spanish teachers has an excellent system that gets his
students running to get to class on time. When the photography class was
dropped at our high school, the Spanish teacher got the timer used in
the dark room that shuts off the light used for making prints. (It has a
plug that one plugs the light into, and it automatically shuts off the
light after a pre-set time.)

He has the timer set to his overhead projector. When the bell rings to
start class, he turns on the overhead. On it are 10 vocabulary words in
Spanish from the previous day. The students have 60 secs to translate
them into English. At the end of the 60 secs, the timer turns off the
overhead, and the students immediately pass their little quizzes forward.
If a student is late, or wasn't in his seat, ready to take the quizz the
instant the bell rang, then he/she gets a zero on a very easy quiz.

It is while the kids are taking the quiz that he checks roll, etc. Like
I said, it has his students running to class in order to be ready for a
quiz (in their seat; desks cleared; pen and paper ready to go) when the
bell rings.

Jack Yerby


96/10 From-> "Cindy A. Kendall" <>
Subject: Re: BELL WORK - Class Management ideas! (fwd)

On the board in my high school Spanish room is a simple dialogue, with
the standard greet, ask how are you, (content related discourse), close,
and take leave. The content related info is usually focusing on the
material at hand, recirculated with old, familiar material. There is
usually one line that is a "stopper" (stop and really think how do you
say this....). The students work on this conversation orally while I
take role (etc.), practicing furiously.

I then ask for volunteer (or "victimas") of three different pairs to go
to the middle of the room and act out this dialogue. Everyone in the
class then does a dialogue once or twice a week, informally, with some
preparation. Students have come to appreciate this practice because it
makes the actual oral dialogue tests much easier and not threatening. If
I see they don't practice during the beginning minutes, that pair will
be "victimas". Sometimes I follow up by asking two people who are not
partners to perform the dialogue. Dialogues will be both formal and
informal. Once a positive environment for taking the linguistic risk to
speak in front of peers is established and expected, this activity can
be successful for you as a review and warm-up activity!

Cindy A. Kendall


95/10 From -> "Erwin A. Petri" <>
Subject: Re: HS/UNIV checking grammar exercises

Hi, Some of my teachers make transparencies of the exercises with the
correct answers included. They are projected on the screen while
students are entering. Students start to check them (sort of sponge
activity before class actually starts) as they arrive. If they have any
questions, those are the sentences that are explained or discussed. If
every student has the correct answers or has no questions when he sees
the correct answer and understands a mistake. The classd moves on. This
can potentially save a lot of time that can be used for more
communicative work.

Erwin A. Petri


95/10 From -> Anne Lessick Xiao
Subject: Re: HS/UNIV checking grammar exercises

A colleague of mine, Patty Kuntz, taught me a great way to check workbook
exercises. We put the answers on an overhead. The students are then
responsible for checking their own work (college level). The teacher can
prepare the answers ahead of time, or individual students can be asked
to write their answer (more time consuming). Of course too, there is the
more traditional method of having students go to the board to write
their answers.

Anne Lessick Xiao

B. Smooth Transitions Between Activities

97/10 From-> Allison Improta <>
Subject: smooth transitions

I just started my student teaching last week and one of the problems
that I had was when I went from one activity to the next, the kids
started to act up and then it would take me a minute or so to calm them
down again. My question: What can I do while Im changing activities to
keep them quiet? I found that it was when I started to hand out
worksheets or go get my book that they started to talk. Should I have a
student hand out the papers instead? If so, what should I do in the

One more thing!!! I find that in my Spanish 1 class, when I’m trying to
explain something(i.e. directions) the students are constantly saying: "
Whaaaat?? I don’t understand! Can you repeat that!"

I think that half the time they're just testing me. They figure the more
time they waste the less they have to do. I think this because I say the
directions in Spanish and then back them up in English and other times I
know that they know what Im saying because they've had the stuff before.
They look at me like I have 6 heads. ( I never thought that I would be
intimidated by 25 high school freshman) How can I tell if they
understand or if they're faking it? I would like to be able to figure
this out before I test them on the material.

P.S. I know that I shouldn't back Spanish up with English, but if I
don't they will not have any clue as to what I'm saying. As the weeks go
by I plan to gradually eliminate English.

You're comments will be GREATLY appreciated! Thanks sooooo much!

Allison Improta


97/10 From-> Robert Ponterio <PONTERIOR@SNYCORVA.CORTLAND.EDU>
Subject: Re: smooth transitions

>I have found that weaning beginning students away from teacher directions given in the target language does not work. They are testing you to see if you really expect them to communicate in the language. Stick to your guns. There are usually a few....

Some very good advice has been given on the subject in this thread and
in the archives. Pre-service teachers most certainly do need better
preparation in this area. Alisson's specific question about TL vs. L1
use is really two problems:

- students who intentionally waste time and do not try to listen to the

- students who unconsciously learn to focus on what is "important," and
if "what is important" is always repeated in English, that is what they
will listen to, even with the best intentions.

I want to address the latter.

For some reason this reminds me of a case that I read about in some
linguistics class, oh so many years ago. Someone was certain that he
could communicate with his horse. The horse could listen to a
mathematical problem in spoken language (I don't remember which
language) and tap out the answer with its hoof. No one could figure it
out and the researcher was convinced of the horse's abilities. Finally
someone put a screen in place to prevent the horse from seeing the
questioner. The horse could then no longer find the answers. It tapped
its hoof in a futile attempt to please. Subtitle cues from the
questioner's body language had been letting the horse know when to stop
tapping. The horse was paying attention to the important information,
though everyone thought it was understanding the spoken language. If
other information is available, THAT is what the students will pay
attention to.

I am also reminded of my French regents exam in high school. The amount
of teacher body language was so great that I could have found the
answers on the listening comprehension section if she had been speaking

I am a believer in the role of comprehensible input, but comprehensible
isn't enough. Students have to _NEED_ to comprehend.

Does this mean there should be no L1 in the FL classroom. That depends
on a lot of things and is up to the teacher, but each of us should be
able to articulate WHY we make any given utterance in either L1 or L2,
and we should think about the consequences. We also probably need to try
doing it in a number of different ways to see what works best for us as
individuals. There is probably not one right answer for everyone.


C. Seating Charts (Virtues of and How to Do)

96/09 From-> Janel Brennan <>
Subject: Seating Chart Idea

So good, I just have to pass it on...

For those if you that make seating charts, the big pain is that when
your arrangements change, you have to re-write all of the students
names. Well, to solve this, one of the teachers in my county uses cut up
post it notes to place all of her students' names on the seating chart
and then places it in one of those clear plastic inserts. When it comes
time to change seats, you just move the post it notes! What a time
saver! I immediately bought some post it notes and got all my charts
ready for tomorrow. Yey!

Why can't I come up w/ things like this? :)

Janel Brennan


96/09 From-> Susan George <>
Subject: Re: Seating Chart Idea

my friend the journalism teacher frequently has subs due to picture day,
competitions, etc. he has all of the students' pictures on CD rom, so
last year, he made a seating chart not only with names but with
students' faces. it made taking roll a lot easier for the subs.

maybe some of you have this technology to use....

i like the post-it idea!

Susan George


96/09 From-> "Barbara S. Andrews" <>
Subject: Re: Seating Chart Idea

I did this last year with my QuickCam. The students loved it, and so did
the subs. However, it was a lot of work to change the seating chart
often--which I like to do every couple of weeks--so this year I'm just
making one page with students photos in alphabetical order that can be
checked by subs when necessary. <italic>Grade Machine,</italic> the
grading program I use, can easily re-arrange and print out new seating
charts, but it doesn't allow you to add photos of students. I had to
make the original picture seating chart in PageMaker (you can use
ClarisWorks too, but you can't crop the photos), and it's just too much
work to rearrange everything for six classes every two weeks or so when
I want to change the seating chart.

Barbara S. Andrews


97/09 From-> Janel Brennan <>
Subject: Seating Chart Idea-Repost from last year

I just wanted to repost a great idea that I got from one of my
colleagues last year that has saved me a lot of time. This was posted
last year but it is helpful, so I'm posting it again! (Since I just went
out to buy my post it notes - and will be making my seating charts
tonight!) School starts tomorrow!

Buy a small pack of post it notes (the smaller the better! You may have
to cut them in half) Write each student's name on them and then stick
them where you want on your seating chart. When you change room
arrangements or move kids, no more erasing or whiting out names! You
have them for the whole year! It would be helpful to stick it in a clear
plastic pocket just so you don't lose a student!

Janel :)

D. Room Decorations (Some Practical How-To Stuff)

97/08 From-> Liz Klem <>
Subject: Re: Make Your Day Program and Room Decorations

Laura--use those ceiling strips for all they're worth. When I shared a
room at the middle school with a math teacher, she left me only one
little board but that left me the ceiling! I was teaching three
exploratory languages so I had flags up at ceiling level just for
starters. They looked great! Those were tied up high but otherwise I
used (still do) hanging strings with a paper clip at the end for easy
changing. Lots of things go up and down. The trick is to keep them out
of easy kid reach. You may have to experiment.
You could even put two posters back to back and hang them up at ceiling
level or hang light pinatas, etc. I have also used a "washline" type
arrangement with paper clips or clip clothespins to hang student work or
small realia. *One* can more or less understand the desire for
preserving the clean walls but those removed from the classroom,
especially the FL classroom, underestimate the importance of our

Maybe in the future your administrators could budget for cork strips up
high for posters, etc. (I'm still trying to get them.)

Liz Klem


97/08 From-> Veronica M Dees <>
Subject: Re: Make Your Day Program and Room Decorations

>>P.S. I HAVE thought of hanging posters from the ceiling (we have the
>>drop ceilings with the tracks) that have been attached to string. What do you think?

Have you tried those little hooks that clip around the ceiling track and
"supposedly" support the weight of a hanging plant? I found them (in
packs of 2) at Big Lots and Home Depot for around $2. My principal saw
them and fell in love with them. She said that she hates to have
teachers leave leftover string hanging from the ceiling tracks after
they take the displays down. Also, you might try securing each end of a
clothesline - try fishing line (it's strong and transparent) - to the
ceiling tracks on each corner of a wall. Then hang your realia from it
using colored clothespins. It's quick and easy to change. My students
even decorate my clothespins for me!

Veronica M Dees


97/08 From-> Cherice Montgomery <>
Subject: Re: Attaching things to walls

>Re: I can't attach stuff to my walls--any other ideas?

I have used string to hang things from the ceiling. Also, if you can
attach it to either side of the wall, you can hang things from it along
the wall.

Try asking your administration to install tack strips on the walls (not
too expensive, compared to additional bulletin boards). If they won't do
that, ask them to insert metal hooks or protruding screws all across the
top of the wall (drill into the wall with a cement drill bit and
insert)--they can be painted and I either hang framed type things from
them or run the string between them for a more even look and then
suspend things from them.

Finally, my best answer--VELCRO. It must be the black kind (for some
reason it sticks better than white. It comes off without removing the
paint (at least on our cinderblock type, painted walls) and will hold
pretty heavy posters. It is kind of expensive [you need it to be at
least 1" (or maybe that is 1/2") in width] but I can buy a huge roll at
Sam's Wholesale Club (in the office supply section) for about $10.00.
I've used it for the last several years with no problems (except it does
tend to peel off if you have huge temperature changes in your room--they
turn off our air-conditioning at night). I also attach strips of it to
the front of the chalkboard tray so that I can hang things from it. It
will leave a residue when removed, but the residue can be eliminated
with products like Goo Gone.

One last thought--try magnets on the back of light posters (available in
adhesive strips at craft stores like Hobby Lobby) or refrigerator
magnets or magnets with the clips on the bottom. Chances are, your
chalkboard is magnetic and you can affix them to it with no problems.

Cherice Montgomery


97/08 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: Room decorations

You might check out whether they will let you use "Ezy-Up Clips" (I
think that's spelled that way). These are plastic clips with kind of a
wax back that stick and then remove -- they don't leave any marks on the
surfaces. I've used them for years to put things on file cabinets,
walls, blackboards, windows, etc. I have found them various places, one
of which is Hammett's Teacher Store, which has a catalog.

Marilyn V.J. Barrueta


97/08 From-> Becki Stratis
Subject: Re: Make Your Day Program and Room Decorations

What about asking if they could install those strips that you put
thumbtacks in. How's that for circumlocution? They are less than an inch
wide and could run the whole length of the wall. I could take a picture
at our school, Laura, so you could show Mrs. Scharrer. If your posters
are the same size, you could have a top and a bottom strip put in so you
could attach the posters at both ends.

I had a room once with a wire hung from one side of the room to the
other like Bob mentioned. You have to use clothespins or some type of
clasp fastener. With gravity there is a certain amount of redoing almost
daily to keep them up and at the same height (obsessive/compulsive that
I am).

Becki Stratis


97/08 From-> "Rosemary A. Zurawel" <>
Subject: Re: Make Your Day Program and Room Decorations

I recall a  situation in a newly repainted school several years ago. We
were told to remove "everything" before Christmas vacation and to put
nothing back using any fixatives of any sort. This edict lasted a whole
two weeks when students complained of the sterility and went home to
their parents who called the administrators and then voiced their
complaints to the school board members. Their complaints worked, and the
limitations were eased considerably. My 20-year cache was pulled out and
reaffixed, and the students all appreciated the work involved in making
a rich learning space appealing. They also paid much more attention to
the realia after that spartan period.

As for suspending posters from the frames of the ceiling, I have mounted
them on heavy cardboard, one on each side, punched a hole in each of the
two top corners, and used short string fastened to paper clips bent to
it into the groove of the frame. This is a pretty stable way to do this.
Additionally, students have made projects to hang from the posters, and
pretty soon there is a paper jungle canopy in the classroom. Keep a step
ladder handy, et bonne chance!

Rosemary A. Zurawel


97/08 From-> Pai Rosenthal <>
Subject: Re: Room Decorations

If you have venetian blinds, you can hang posters, etc. with paper
clips. You might also run string across your ceiling from various points
(if you have drop-ceiling tiles) and use clothes pins for displaying
student work.  You might have kids do more mobile-like projects :-) -
The added dimension can do a lot for a classroom anyway.

One year I had a French I class in a veteran Spanish teacher's room in
which I was alotted a 1/4 of a bulletin board, total. (When my students
met with me after school in the other room in which I taught a few were
actually visibly awed.) I can relate.

Pai Rosenthal


97/08 From-> Susan Shelby <>
Subject: Re: Attaching things to walls

I figured this out this school has got air conditioning and
the walls are nice and "sweaty" by 10am, hence everything is off the
walls by 11 am! Use a hot glue gun! The great thing about this is,
first, it sticks all year long, and second, when you want to pull your
poster off the wall, the glue just rips right off of the poster, and
doesn't stick to it!

Susan Shelby


97/08 From-> Shari Kaulig
Subject: Re: Make Your Day Program and Room Decorations

No decorations?! Strange! Maybe this will help. I have purchased some
"poster holders" for my daughter at a store called "The Container Store"
here in southern California. They are very inexpensive ($4??) and
consist of two black plastic clips into which you slide the top and
bottom of a poster. The weight of the bottom clip holds the poster flat
against the wall. I would imagine if you also slip string into the top
clip you could suspend the poster from the ceiling. Let me know if you
can't find such a thing near you. The store ships, and I'll get you the
address and phone number. Buena suerte!

Shari Kaulig


97/08 From-> Willis Ray <>
Subject: Re: Make Your Day Program and Room Decorations

We too had the same edict when our schools were remodeled a couple of
years ago. It eventually went away, so the best advice I have there is
to be patient.

In order to hang things from a suspended ceiling, I would suggest that
you go to a large grocery store or Wal-Mart and ask a manager for a bag
of ceiling clips. They hook onto the tracks and let you hang things down
from them.

Willis Ray


97/08 From-> Ann Pulley <>
Subject: the answer to clean walls!!!!

I wish that I had a phone number of distributor. All I know is that I
bought them at a teacher's or office supply company and I have the
original container.


Contact the Quick Grip Clip Co. in Sioux City, Iowa, 51104. These will
allow you to attach to the walls and the chalkboards (If there is some
type of border or facing above or below the chalkboard.) You can hang
paper or cord with them.

Ann Pulley

E. Motivation, Empowerment and Reality (A Wide-Ranging Discussion Worth One’s Time)

95/08 From-> Bernadette Morris <>
Subject: Classroom management and motivation

I am working on a presentation to my state FL conference in the fall
dealing with motivating the difficult and unmotivated student. I am
especially interested in practices that teachers can apply to enhance
student learning.

My angle is that the majority of classroom discipline problems are due
to student boredom, lack of power onto their own learning, and lack of
clearly defined rules and procedures. The book Discipline with Dignity
by Richard L. Curwin and Allen N. Mendler published by ASCD has been
very helpful. Are there any suggestions for additional reading and/or
for strategies?

Bernadette Morris


95/08 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation

I would suggest that you try to state some other reasons as well-- we
constantly allow the burden to be placed totally upon the teacher to
modify the class, the environment, the procedures, the activities to try
and pull in everyone, including those who simply don't want to be
involved. YES, we should make every effort to diversify our classes, but
there has to be some recognition of responsibility on the part of
society, parents, and students. Your three concepts seem to put the onus
and a certain level of guilt on the teacher alone.

Marilyn V.J. Barrueta


95/08 From-> Bernadette Morris <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation -Reply

I agree with you 100%. Schools are affected by the social context, they
do not exist in isolation of society. There are many out of school
causes of discipline problems, violence , the media, the changing family
structure, etc. and those certainly contribute to the lack of motivation
and or discipline problems within the school.

In my presentation, I devote some time to these outside causes, however,
teachers cannot change these outside causes but they can change some of
the in-school causes of discipline problems and those are the ones I
would like to concentrate on. As a previous classroom teacher, I am
aware of the challenges of teaching and managing such a diverse student
population and I do not mean to imply that all the responsibility lies
with the teachers alone.

There are, however some practices that would enhance learning in a
classroom and that is what I want to stress during this session. Thanks
for your comments!

Bernadette Morris


95/08 From-> Kitsinis Marti <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation -Reply

While I certainly believe that students have a right to know what is
expected of them in the classroom, I do not prescribe to the discipline
methods that endorse posting, distributing, and reviewing an extensive
list of rules and  consequences for breaking these rules on the first
day of class. To my mind, this sets up an adversarial relationship
between the students and the teacher and serves as a challenge to many
an adolescent mind. Instead, I try to focus on our common goals and on
establishing a relationship and environment that will help us to achieve
them. One advantage FL teachers have is that most students have (to some
extent) opted to take our courses (or have at least chosen which FL to
take). I tell  my classes that our goal is for them to learn to
communicate in French. Their reasons for wanting to do this vary-some
simply want credit, some want to travel, some enjoy learning about
another culture-but no matter their reasons, learning to communicate in
French is the only way to accomplish those goals. I ask that students
who do not share this goal drop the class. Later in the year, when
dropping the class is no longer possible, when a student refuses to
participate or disrupts class I suggest that they leave and sit in study
hall, the office or the corridor. (Next year, we will have a supervised
room where such students can join the In-School Suspension crew.) About
once a year per
class, the following scenario ensues: the student stands up to leave,
then stops and asks, "Will I get demerits?(or a detention?)" I tell them
no. They take a few steps. "Can I make up the work I miss?" I tell them
no. They ask, "Will I get behind?" I tell them yes. They usually return
to their seats. Of course, some students will immediately take the
opportunity to leave and often rightfully so. On occasion, a student
will be so overwhelmed by a personal situation or so angry
that s/he is unable to focus on learning and will not be able to stay
out of trouble. Given the alternatives that holding these students in
class and trying to force them to cooperate brings, I prefer that they
leave the classroom

Kitsinis Marti


95/08 From-> William Armour <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation

Dear Bernadette (and others),

In a paper entitled "Managing the LOTE classroom: complications for
teachers and learners" which I presented at the recent Japanese Studies
Assoc. of Australia held in Brisbane early July, I argued that classroom
management is a way of socializing the learners into being students,
that is, mainstream education has a particular line that it plays with
teachers and learners and both are socialized (teachers through policy)
learners through what happens in class.

In my review of some of the literature (mostly North American
literature) behaviour modification seems to be quite popular. If we as
teachers believe what James Gee has written in his book "Social
Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses", then we need to
explore the actual language we as teachers use in the classroom, either
in the target language or English to understand what messages we are
actually feeding the learners.

If as Worell and Nelson (1974) say it is true that teachers are "agents
of change" then they are correct in pointing out that "a classroom
teacher becomes the cultural transmitter of many community values and
goals". If the learners are unmotivated then I would expect that there
is some mismatch between the messages from the teacher (one member of a
particular Discourse as Gee would explain), the language used: if it is
the target language then the teacher is attempting to socialise through
this medium which as Claire Kransch argues creates a third culture in
the classroom; and if the teacher code-switches then the students are
getting lots of potentially conflicting socialisation messages (e.g. I
teach Japanese language and the socialisation patterns are vastly
different from English language culture); and finally there is the
learner (another Discourse in Gee's theory), however, there is usually
more than one learner each of them tapping into their primary Discourse
(how they were socialised at home) and if the literature is to be
believed the hidden curriculum of mainstream schooling attempts to
change the learner into a student (another Discourse yet different from
the student Discourse).

Perhaps we as language (or should I say literacy) teachers could
consider what language we are using as well as the inherent messages
embedded in this discourse as well as the impact on the learner and
naturally vice versa. Why are the learners learning the FL in the first
place ?

Interesting string. I am having fun reading the various opinions. Great
stuff !

William Armour


95/08 From-> Patrick Barrett <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation -Reply

I entered teaching late in life and found that classroom teachers have
no support. The approach in counseling I had found useful was applied to
the classroom in a book by Michael Grinder entitled Righting the
Educational Conveyor Belt, Metamorphous (sic) Press. The approach,
Neural Linguistic Programming, allows you to play to the variety of
learners you have in your class without taking responsibility for their
problems. Don't try to implement everything in the book; just read it
for ideas.

BTW, the diverse population referred to is an important factor. Be aware
of your actions if people around you are not all of your culture. I
return to school from a predominantly African-American environment to a
staff that is 98% Anglo. Most assume the rightness of their way of doing
things and pass that on to the 75% Anglo student body, shutting out a
lot of the Latino, Af-Am, Native American and Asian students, and me. My
own adjustment problems help me be aware of the students'.

What is asked of us is so crazy (FL classes with 40 students; 1
assignment a day = 750 papers a week to grade; no way to keep insane and
criminal students out of the classroom; no telephone in the room;
distant bathrooms; and isolation), and what we ask of 15 and 16 year old
kids is so crazy: to sit in a little chair for six straight hours and
listen to some old fart lecture them on the Compromise of 1850. Good
teachers recognize that not all kids can handle this, (though most do)
and try to reach the problem learner without sacrificing standards and
personal dignity. I am looking forward to going back......I am looking
forward to going back.............I am................

Patrick Barrett


95/08 From-> "Mrs. Cynthia Sinsap" <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation -Reply

I let my students know what I expect of them work-wise - what our
learning goals will be, but I let them come up with those "rules" for
classroom behavior themselves. Of course, there are usually a few who
suggest totally unacceptable "non" rules, but the rest of the students
usually veto them after a laugh. I have found that once the students
realize that you are willing to accept their in-put, they come up with a
set of guidelines for the classroom very much like the ones you might
come up with yourself. The big difference is that once THEY have made
them, and done it as a group, they feel more responsible for following
them. It's also a wonderful way to start out the year or the term with a
cooperative atmosphere. Classroom management becomes partially a group

Even with the best of situations though, there are times when motivation
slips. We often do a quick "game" or just put the books aside to talk
for a while. Talking about the problem (I allow some L1 when needed
here) and turning it into a mini brainstorming session for solutions
(especially silly ones) can usually get us back on the right track.

And then sometimes nothing seems to work; something new is needed. What
ideas do others have? Please share some of your techniques.

Cynthia Sinsap
Bangkok, Thailand


95/08 From-> Bernadette Morris <>
Subject: Classroom management and motivation

Wow! what great responses! This is the best preparation one can do for
an upcoming preparation. I'd like to address several points made:

1. I agree that our students are not always being challenged. This lack
of challenge leads to student boredom and usually is translated into
discipline problems unless the students have already developed good
"classroom etiquette". Therefore our no. 1 goal should be to challenge
students at levels matching their ability in order to ensure success. By
connecting to their motivation, we will be able to prevent many
discipline problems.

2. In reference to the issue of powerlessness, students at the middle
level and even in high school do not always choose the second language
class. This decision may have been made for them when they are on an
exploratory wheel or when other classes are closed. And yes ideally
each student should be responsible for his own learning. But let's face reality students are told and I quote "6hrs a day where to go,
what time to be there, how long to take for basic biological
necessities, which learning is relevant, what to learn, and how their
learning is evaluated." So, why not empower them by including them in
devising "rules" for classroom behavior as suggested by Cynthia, why not
provide them with choices for school work (i.e., choices for
demonstrating understanding of an identified concept), and why not
involve them in self-assessment?

The bottom line is that teachers cannot motivate students when
disruptions interrupt learning and discipline itself does not ensure

Well, I am finished with this novel. I hope I am not boring y'all (this
is the South) to tears.

Bernadette Morris


95/08 From-> "Jo Anne S. Wilson\"" <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation

Take a look at the work being done by Gardner on multiple intelligences
and some of the spin off from that theory. There are some good materials
available from Zyphr Press in AZ. I'm convinced that many problems are
due to our taking an erroneous (or at least less than optimal) approach
to the process of learning.

Jo Anne Wilson


95/08 From-> Madeline Bishop <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation

Marilyn's concept communicated to Bernadette about motivation in the

Your three concepts seem to
>put the onus and a certain level of guilt on the teacher alone

I've decided that I'm tired of letting this monkey ride on my back. This
year, during the first week of class, on the fourth or fifth day, after
I've "hooked" the beginners into loving my class, I'm going to give them
three contracts. "The teacher promises" is one I will have signed,
telling them how I'm going to be a fair, fun, etc. teacher. "The student
promises" will be signed by them, promising to bring their materials to
class, to miss only when necessary, to really work toward the stated
goals. The final contract is for the parents "The parent(s) promise(s)"
and will involve the parents being involved in the learning process. The
students will have to bring the contracts back signed by self and parent
as an assignment. Students may think twice about how they approach the
gift of education which we as taxpayers and teachers offer to them.

I haven't typed out these contracts yet, but I'm thinking a lot about
them. I welcome ideas.

Madeline Bishop


95/08 From-> Bettylou Leaver <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation -Reply

I have just come into this discussion in the middle, but it seems that
in all the repartee that I have read here the student (who is the person
doing the learning) is being left out.

The issue is not whether the teacher should be a facilitator or a
disciplinarian, or whether the teacher should write one lesson plan or
ten different lesson plans, or whether the teacher should compensate for
a rotten home or social environment, or how much control a teacher
should turn over to a class. In all these cases, the focus is on teacher

When we talk about learner-centered, the focus should be on student
behavior (although most everything I see written (and spoken) about
learner-centered instruction still focuses on teachers).

Students need to be empowered to learn (they need to understand how they
learn best and how to manipulate the learning environment to their
advantage). Students who fit the mold (i.e., whose personalities and
ways of processing information (learning styles, although that term is
overused and not as well understood as most people think) match those of
their teachers) do well -- often regardless of bad home environment (how
about those children who come from impoverished, even criminal
neighborhoods and families and yet excel at school -- they do exist, and
usually it is because of compatibility in the way material is presented
and the way in which they learn). Students who do not fit the mold, do
not, regardless of how talented (or initially motivated) they are.

I recently conducted a radio show with four gifted high school dropouts.
All had made their way into college through unorthodox preparatory
programs, including home study. The reason they gave for dropping out of
school in each case boiled down to a learning style issue -- they wanted
to be able to research, make their own decisions on curriculum, and
develop systems. Their teachers wanted them to memorize (or at best,
"apply" what they knew -- teaching for proficiency gets us no more than
half-way up the taxonomy of educational objectives -- it is not the
end-all in teaching foreign language that we would like), to accept a
watered-down curriculum meant for the average learner, and to accept
systems that had been developed by others.

These students did not drop out, because they were disinterested in
learning. They dropped out because they WERE interested in learning. All
were excellent college students (ranging from 3.8 to 4.0 GPA), and all
were bitter about the fact that they could not receive a high school
education at their local school.

Empowering students to learn does NOT mean letting them make decisions
for which they do not have the requisite schemata. It means helping them
to understand how they learn, how to recognize when classroom
instruction is impairing instead of helping their ability to learn and
knowing what to do about it.

One talented youngster I know, before he was empowered, asked a teacher
not to teach during class, because it interfered with his learning. Once
he became an empowered learner, he had more socially appropriate skills
for dealing with this situation. Being an inductive learner, he knew
that he would be confused and frustrated by his deductive math teacher,
so, in advance he examined the upcoming concepts and used examples for
figuring out the rules. Then, when the teacher stated and illustrated
rules, he could follow, because he had already figured them out the way
in which he needed to.

In so many cases (more than I could possibly list here), parents have
been able to resolve learning problems that schools created.

In one case, a fourth grader was required to recite math facts aloud and
was not allowed to learn more math without being able to do the oral
recitation, even though her written work was excellent. Her mother
realized that the daughter needed to be able to access her visual memory
and in one evening taught her to visualize the oral math problems on the
ceiling, and the daughter performed just fine after that.

In another case, a seventh grade student, labeled LD, was placed in a
remedial math class. The math, taught in a very de-contextualized mode,
was broken down still further for the remedial students. This made it
more difficult for the "LD" student, a synthesizer and field-dependent
type, who got further and further behind. Finally, the mother hired a
math tutor, who, in just one session, was able to catch up the student,
by putting all of the concepts into a real-life context.

The list goes on and on, including a recent case in which something as
simple as a sensory preference difference caused a gifted elementary
school student (belittled when, as a visual learner, he could not
function in an auditory mode and punished for not doing homework
assignments which he could not remember or wrote down incorrectly
because the teacher insisted on giving them only verbally) to attempt

The work that is available on learning styles, for the most part, is
very superficial. Worse, the vast majority of "experts," including the
few college professors working in this area, recommend the
plaster-on-the-wall approach. Make up a lesson plan that includes a
little bit for every style, they say, and all students will learn. They
could not be more wrong.
Teachers need to understand how each student in the class learns (not
that hard to determine) and students need to understand how they
themselves learn.
From there, knowing the differences in any given class (and the
orientation of the materials and the teacher's teaching style), students
can quickly take charge of their own learning and teachers can become
true facilitators, rather then disciplinarians.

I will cite two examples of learner empowerment at work, although there
are MANY more.

An empowered psychology student was receiving Cs and Ds. She analyzed
the situation, realized that she was a sequential student in the class
of a random teacher, who wrote notes on the board in whatever location
he happened to be standing. The student was subsequently unable to
organize the notes enough to study. She had a couple of options: get
notes from another student who was able to organize them OR get copies
of the lecture notes from the teacher. She chose the latter, but either
would have worked. The result: a grade of A in the course.

Another empowered student, in taking a physics exam, realized that
because she was a reflexive learner and the teacher obviously an
impulsive learner, there were far too many problems on the test for her
to be able to answer all of the questions in the time allowed. So, she
responded to each problem with the correct formula, then went back and
solved as many as she could (a total of 3 out of ten times that many).
As a result, she had the highest score in the class on the test (all the
formulae were right and the teacher realized that the student had simply
run out of time). As a result, the teacher turned the tests into power
exams rather than speed tests, and other reflexive students benefited.

Teachers who can empower students to be effective learners in addition
to teaching them subject matter, give them a gift for life. And the bond
that builds between teachers and students in working on empowerment
often circumvents the need for rigid discipline, punishment, etc. The
reward is that students find that they CAN learn, and when they realize
that they can learn, they LIKE learning. (After all, learning is an
innate attribute of the human race. It is usually only in school that
students learn to dislike learning.)

I've seen learner empowerment work with thousands of students on more
than one continent. The toddler's excitement at learning new things does
not have to stop at the school room door.

Bettylou Leaver


95/08 From-> Madeline Bishop <>
Subject: Reply to Betty Leaver on classroom management

Dear Betty and other interested readers,

I found much to agree with in Betty's remarks about empowering students.
However, it is not my experience that everyone is prepared to learn in
your class if you just empower them. Students deal with horrendous
personal issues these days. Here's an example from my own classroom.. A
young woman, gifted to learn languages, also has to deal with the fact
that her mom and dad have been arrested for marijuana use and her dad
went bonkers and they put him in the insane asylum for observation and
her mom decided to just leave town and is living in Tacoma, now. This
young woman whom I know well and with whom I have a mentor-mentee
relationship could not, at that time, learn any French by being in my
classroom. Her own life was an impossible distraction. She is easily the
most gifted (for languages) student I have ever taught and she almost
didn't graduate because of this horrible situation.

In support of what Betty said about empowering gifted students, during
this young woman's soph year, after one year of French plus her own
independent study during the summer, (I empowered her with a borrowed
textbook) she was the outstanding student in French IV class and earned
an NEH grant to study Baudelaire's poetry with me last summer. But, that
was before her real family problems impacted her ability to be present
in mind and spirit in the classroom. She is wisely not going on to
college until her family situation improves. But our high school
students don't have that choice, they are in class with us. If they do
take time out, they become " dropouts" and we the teachers, and the
schools have failed. Ha! I say, Ha! I am not God. I can not save
everybody by having the right attitude about how I teach students. I can
not save them because I have analyzed their learning styles and found
just the right approach. For some anguished kids, there are things much
more important than learning how to describe objects in their bedroom in

So, I would ask, in all kindness, Betty, if mine is a real classroom in
the real world, where is your classroom? In your classroom, have your
really found that any student, I mean ANY student will learn in your
classroom if you empower them? Can any student learn regardless of their
living/family situation? I certainly would be unable to teach
effectively if my family had grave problems, and I'm a mature adult.

I don't mean to be too harsh, here. I appreciate Betty's point of view,
and live by it. To empower gifted students, every year I have
independent, accelerated French students who learn on their own and
check in with me for evaluation and speaking practice. It's a total
pain, for this overworked teacher, but I do it for them. ) But I don't
want to believe, as Betty seems to, that I really can be the key to
everybody's success in my classroom. If that is true, I have failed, and
I have worked my buns off while failing. I refuse to believe this
interpretation of my career.

I am interested in other teachers' thoughts on this issue.



95/08 From-> Patrick Barrett <>
Subject: Re: Reply to Betty

The majority of teachers would like to reach Betty's ideal, so well
expressed. Madeline reminds us of the reality.. All of this is great
stuff. My colleague and I discuss it every day. The Latin list is also
discussing this sort of thing. The dividing line at my school is between
those who think their job is to teach all the kids and those who agree
with the netter who responded to that notion by saying I did not know
how to distinguish between the fit and the unfit. One of our teachers
said, "I wish I could have an intelligent class; I get so tired of
looking at all those little brown faces." Class and race do enter into
our notions of who can learn what, and Betty's proposals and examples
were excellent in counteracting the tendency to teach only to those
students most like ourselves. Some of her comments, though, reminded me
of those teen movies where the kids are so smart and the adults so
stupid. Our teachers work hard and all the work I do teaching 3 levels
of Russian, 3 of Latin and 1 of Spanish is done on my own time. The
district then wants me to serve on committees and attend events.
Students expect homework and tests to be graded promptly and my
colleagues expect me to serve in professional organizations. In class we
have to deal with Betty's kids who want to design their own curriculum,
which is fine, but then I have to look out for the kids raised in
authoritarian homes (we have tons at my school) who immediately lose
respect for any teacher who gives them alternatives and choices.
Teachers do come to me for advice on just the sort of thing Betty is
talking about, but first we have to listen to a kid tell us what to do
with our sex lives just because we asked him to stop screaming in the
hallway during classes. I am sure there is a way to empower even this
kid, but sometimes I just can't think of it. Let's keep this going, but
let's clarify what we mean by a troublesome student: one who forgets his
pencil or one who keeps getting pulled out of class by Security for
questioning on gang activities.

Patrick Barrett


95/08 From-> Linda Zimmerman <>
Subject: Re: Reply to Betty Leaver on classroom management

I agree with Madeline. Many outside problems interfere with learning.
Drugs are a noticeable one in high schools. When I look at a student and
his/her pupils are twice the size they should be for the light in the
classroom, I'm now wise enough not to try to agonize over his/her
foreign language motivation or learning. I drop a counselor a note
saying I suspect the student has a problem, let the student know I like
him/her, and don't worry about his/her academics. The student may not
even remember being in school the next day, let alone what we did in a
particular class. Before I wised up to the signs of drug abuse, I spent
hours and hours of extra time trying to find a way to motivate, thinking
I was somehow not a good teacher. All I did was piss off the student who
just wanted to be left alone. Believe me, you don't want a "high"
student pissed off at you. It can be downright dangerous. Thank goodness
such a student is the exception. I do my best for those there to learn. Linda Zimmerman


95/08 From-> "Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez (Cindy H-G)"
Subject: Another Reply to Betty

First of all -- Greetings Betty from FSI! It's nice to see you on
FLTEACH; you've already managed to generate quite a bit of discussion!
Most of it has been following Marilyn's lead that 'we're not God, we
can't solve the environmental problems that students bring with them,
and those problems DO matter.

I'd like to make a different point. You say: "The issue is not whether
the teacher should be a facilitator or a "disciplinarian, or whether the
teacher should write one lesson plan or ten "different lesson plans, or
whether the teacher should compensate for a rotten "home or social
environment, or how much control a teacher should turn over to "a class.
In all these cases, the focus is on teacher behavior. "
"When we talk about learner-centered, the focus should be on student
behavior "(although most everything I see written (and spoken) about
learner-centered "instruction still focuses on teachers).

I think that's a bit disingenuous. ALL classes start with the focus on
the teacher by default; it's partly a cultural thing, partly the simple
fact that the teacher KNOWS and the students don't, and very much a
role-definition thing: the teacher is paid to be there and has
responsibilities to the school, etc. Frankly, all this talk about
"learner-centered" is just one way that the teacher has opf managing
his/her task and responsibility. It takes an active effort and strategy
to turn the focus from the teacher to the student, and I think that is
what much of this discussion has indeed been about.

You yourself point out that this learner-focus is not a blanket thing,
and it is certainly not automatic --
It takes teacher strategies to be learner-focused!

"Empowering students to learn does NOT mean letting them make decisions
for "which they do not have the requisite schemata.

Empowering students takes conscious, judicious strategy and measured
action, not simple abdication. Isn't is legitimate for teachers to talk
among themselves about how best to accomplish this? If that looks
teacher-focused to you, it's because this is shoptalk. There is no sign
that teachers who talk long and hard among themselves about what they're
doing are only focusing on themselves in the classroom. Totally to the
contrary, I'd expect that it is these thoughtful teachers who are here
on this list demonstrating active learner-focus (focus on themselves
learning to be effective teachers) who have the clearest in-class
learner-focused environments. But this is a discussion of strategies for
achieving that move from the default condition.

Fair enough?

Cindy H-G


95/08 From-> Madeline Bishop <>
Subject: Re: Another Reply to Betty

In many cases, the best strategy for bringing students along with us in
a learning environment is somehow communicating to them that we care
about them, personally, and that we believe they can learn what we have
to teach. We also need to communicate our sincere interest in the
subject matter, and demonstrate our continued growth and learning in
this field. Also, we have to structure learning activities which
intelligently lead the students exactly where they need to go next
(we're the experts here, not they) and involve them actively in
practice. Creating humorous repartee and including some fascinating
contrasts between the target language culture and our own make the class
more interesting, less mechanical. Finally, by including art and music
studies (from the target culture) and art and music activities for them
related to the lessons, we widen the learning circle to include some
students whose verbal aptitudes may be less developed but who love what
the class has to offer anyway. Because of they feel the class has value,
they will want to learn badly enough to continue, even though their
learning a language requires more effort.

All of what I've said assumes that the student has little emotional or
familial "baggage" preventing him from being mentally present in the
classroom. A student whose father is dying, who is on drugs, who just
came from a serious break up with a friend, etc. is not a good candidate
for learning. (And a teacher who has those problems is not completely
present in the classroom, either.) These are real problems, and in a
competition for the student's focus, they win.

A teacher who has the privilege of counseling one of these students (and
who also has the time, I might add), may, at a later date, find the
student ready and eager to learn. But maybe not. The point is, we have
to care up to our capacity, and then we have to let it go, in order to
have enough of ourselves to be present for the others. Unfortunately, as
enrollments go up, as family life in our society deteriorates and as
budgets diminish, toomany kids are lost. And we, the teachers, weep for
them, because these youngsters are not faceless numbers.

Madeline Bishop


95/08 From-> "Marilyn V.J. Barrueta" <>
Subject: Management and motivation

I think Leslie has just sent us a good example of what I was trying to
say at the very beginning of this thread. She appears to have been left
with a feeling of failure -- and I don't think she's alone. I admire the
fact that she is obviously still trying. I, sadly, know several fine
young teachers who gave up, partly because the messages that kept coming
at them were that if they just reached out for this or that particular
truth, they could become a cool, motivating teacher and solve all

The original spark for this discussion kind of came from my suggestion
for a proposed workshop that some recognition be made of the factors
outside of the classroom that students bring with them. I was *never*
suggesting that we can do nothing to try to reach more students; I
repeatedly stated that we must *always* strive to be informed about what
the research shows, search for better techniques, and enlarge our
repertoire of materials and activities. I think, as one of the postings
so nicely pointed out, that just reading this list shows how much many
people care, and how hard they are trying. While offering ideas on how
to improve our classes, we must be careful not to give the impression
that we *can* necessarily motivate 100%, only that we must always *try
*-- and that we are not failures when and if we fall short. I don't mean
to imply that that is stated -- but rather that sensitive, hard-working
people can come to that conclusion on their own.

For Leslie, I would say that "more experienced" teachers deal with it by
recognizing that we have limitations, that we must keep trying to do our
best -- and when we do that, feel good about what we have done. And, as
for suggestions on motivation and class participation, 1) stay tuned --
they keep coming, and 2) for more ways of encouraging and checking class
participation, check back in the FLTEACH archives of January, 1995, when
there appeared a number of relevant postings.

I end with an anecdote -- kind of as usual. Many years ago a colleague
asked me what I was doing in my last period class, having seen students
racing down the hall to get there. The truth was that there were 32
students in a small classroom -- and only 29 seats.

Marilyn V.J. Barrueta


95/08 From-> Jean Bodle <>
Subject: Re: Motivation and participation

I agree with Marilyn's answer to Leslie. You are not going to reach all
of the students no matter what you try, but you have to pick yourself up
and try again. That said, I know from almost twenty years
experience--and mistakes--that teacher attitude makes a big difference.

I've certainly had individual days when I felt that all of my students
were only interested in their lives outside of class, and that nothing I
tried made any difference. That said, I believe that the best thing a
teacher can do to motivate his/her students is to LIKE and enjoy them
and appreciate their interests. It's sometimes difficult for me to like
certain individuals, but I try very hard to put that into a locked
corner of my mind and find something positive about them. I find that if
I appreciate them, they are more likely to appreciate me and what I'm
trying to teach. If a teacher feels as if the class is the enemy, that
teacher has probably lost the battle. Honestly, a little interest from
you for the student as a person makes teaching much easier--and it feels
better, too. Ask the kids about their cars. Compliment them on their new
clothes. Find out what they enjoy, and ask them about it. Really, it
makes a big difference in the cooperation you'll get.

Jean Bodle


95/08 From-> Bettylou Leaver <>
Subject: response to classroom management and motivation responses

Dear FL Teachers:

This is a generic response to all your responses, before I run off to
Uzbekistan for a short period. I will respond to the conceptual
framework of the responses, rather than to the specific words, if you
will permit me that global learner idiosyncrasy.

I appreciate all your responses, both those which came to me on the BBS
and those which were sent directly to me.

I also want to point out that Marilyn Barrueta is correct, when she
stated that my purpose was not to criticize teachers but to point out
opportunities that are not always recognized and a means of motivating
students that had not been discussed. I am also glad that she reiterated
the reason that she had started the original discussion -- coming in at
the middle, I suspected that I had taken the discussion in a different
direction than originally intended, and her note confirmed that.

I found it interesting to try to analyze (using the contents of the
comments) the styles of those who responded. It appears that the
majority of off-line comments came from rationals (to use Keirsey's term
for intuitive thinkers) and the on-line comments from the guardians
(sensing-judgers) and the idealists (intuitive-feelers). With the latter
two groups, I seem to have hit a raw nerve; with the rationalists I seem
to have struck a responsive chord. All of this is understandable, since
I am a rational and tend to word ideas in ways that are true to my

Now, let me provide a framework for my comments -- and let me state,
once again, that my comments are not meant as criticisms, but as
starting points for discussion.

I have conducted both short-term and long-term faculty development for
literally thousands of teachers from the US, Latin America, Europe,
Eastern Europe, Asia, and some other places. Much of what I use in
faculty development workshops has been borrowed from teachers who have
invited me into their classrooms. I have worked with and/or supervised
brilliant teachers, good teachers, mediocre teachers, and incompetent
teachers. (I'm sorry to say that the latter two groups DO exist -- in
all disciplines -- but based on the commentary that I see flying across
the FLTeach screen, I suspect that the latter two groups do not
subscribe to this BBS, and it is not likely that teachers who are not
highly involved with their craft would spend the time and effort sharing
ideas with and borrowing ideas from colleagues.)

I have also visited hundreds of classrooms (again, not an exaggeration);
I have team-taught some of them for short periods of time as part of
faculty development activities. I also have personally taught foreign
language at every level from pre-school through graduate school and in a
variety of adult education programs. I have taught methods courses, as
well. And I have administered several foreign language programs. I may
not have "seen it all," but I have certainly seen an awful lot.

Every program, no matter how "easy" to teach the students seem to be
compared to someone else's students, has problem students, albeit for a
variety of different reasons. Young students vary in learning styles,
which conflict with teaching styles (this is where the de-motivation
starts); older (high school) students have often already been
de-motivated and are now entrenched into other kinds of activities
(gangs, drugs, etc.) where they think or feel that they CAN find
success, since they did not find it earlier in school and, of course,
the hormones are raging and many have difficult home situations. Adult
students in some programs, such as military ones, are unmotivated,
because they wanted to be in the military but not in that particular
language program or came into the military because there was nothing else
to do, someone forced them in, their grades were not high enough for
college, they thought this would be a good place to find a spouse, etc.

Even diplomats, highly motivated students, have language learning
difficulties of a wide range of types. Nevertheless, I do not step away
from my statement that all students can learn and that all students can
be empowered learners (including retarded children -- I have one of
those of my own).

It is based on the above experiences that I provide responses to those
who wrote. I have grouped your responses into several categories. (My
style is "pattern maker" -- I find patterns even where others see total
chaos, so I had to categorize your responses.)

1. We cannot expect to reach all students.

My response to this is: not true. While it is very difficult (and I
would agree that the older the child and the more turned off and the
more involved in alternatives to school, then the more difficult it is
to deal with the situation), it is still possible to reach all students,
and I have seen programs accomplish this.

The teachers who have the most difficult job, in my opinion, are high
school teachers. They lack time, and they are dealing with
already-established behavior patterns.First, their problem students have
already been de-motivated by previous failure in educational settings.
They have already chosen alternatives to school (gangs, drugs, etc.),
and their home situations and peer influence often exacerbate these
problems. Second, high school teachers have limited opportunity to
interact with these students. One hour a day, working with as many as 5
different classes of up to 30 students, is unrealistic but the order of
the day in most schools. Getting to know students, even through
facilitative teaching, will take a while. Third (and probably the most
important), these students also suffer from the lack-of-time attribute.
They see the FL teacher for only a short period of time each day (and
with block scheduling, maybe not even every day). Therefore, by the time
teachers gain enough trust from these students to start to empower them,
the school year is well into full swing.

The combination of lack of interaction time, classes oversized past the
point of being able to individualize AND maintain the teacher's sanity,
and teacher obligations which require working with 150+ students in
addition to paperwork and professional activities is a serious problem
in our conceptualization of school programming and one which
administrators MUST address, if we are to help those students who drop
out psychologically, although not physically, before reaching high
school. It cannot rest solely with the high school teacher.

That said, teachers can teach facilitatively and can reach these students.
Foreign language teachers are in a better position than many of the
teachers I work with who are dealing with the LD, independent study
(euphemism for behavior out of control), limited English proficient, and
general education students. Students taking foreign language tend to be
in those classes by desire. That is already a hook with which to work.
Why did they elect the language? If that desire is defined and met, many
learning problems will disappear. But to define and meet the need
requires facilitative teaching (listening more than instructing,
analyzing more than reacting, and re-organizing curriculum to match
learning style and specific interest). It does NOT necessarily mean
letting students make all the decisions. It may mean not letting them
make ANY of the decisions. It DOES mean understanding how each one of
them acquires information and serving up information in a way that all
students can succeed. And that latter activity will be made MUCH easier
if the students themselves have been empowered, because they can adapt
to the needs of the group and to teaching style -- empowered students
should be expected to adapt (unempowered students cannot adapt, because
they do not know how, and this makes the onus on the teacher far
greater, because the teacher ends up doing all the adaptation).

2. We cannot compensate for a poor home environment.

My response to this is the same as above: not true. There are many
examples of children who come from poor home environments who do well
school -- school becomes their haven. I can give you two personal
examples, but I'm sure every one of you can find a number of examples in
your own classrooms.

I came from an abusive home in a rural community where less than 1% of
the students attended college and nearly 25% never finished more than
the eighth grade. I was the first in my extended family of more than 200
cousins to attend college. All children in my farming community missed
school during the spring planting season and the fall harvest. However,
I excelled in school. I found that school was where I received my
validation, when at home I was physically beaten on a near-daily basis,
including suffering deliberately broken bones which were never medically
reported or treated, routinely raped from the age of twelve, and
constantly told that I was no good. Why did I become a good student (the
#3 student in my high school graduation class, honor society, debate
awards, school letters, state talent awards, etc., etc.) instead of a
drop out, when several of my eight siblings, who had the same home
environment AND the same teachers, became drop outs?
Because my learning styles better matched the styles of my teachers.
While these teachers were not facilitative, at least there was a match
in style and type. And, I am very flexible in learning style; where
there was not a match, I was frustrated, considered the teacher a poor
instructor (not knowing any better at the time; learner empowerment
helps students to understand, not criticize, teaching style), but
adapted my strategies to match the required style. (Unfortunately, in
all the learning styles assessments I have done over the last 13 years I
have found so few individuals who are this adaptive in learning style
that I can name each one of them!)

Personal example number two: five years ago I took in the 14-year-old
son of a drug addict mother, who had ignored the son, slept with a
variety of men, and had three children by three fathers, all of whom had
left the home. Members of the Latino community, the mother and children
lived in a barrio-like area. Shootings there are routine. Many children
do not finish high school. Most of those who do finish have no jobs and
no plans for their lives after high school. Children, when they reach the
age of work permits (age 14, here in California), are expected to drop
out of school, go to work, and support their parents. Many have been
supporting their parents for years through drug sales. My "son" ended up
on the street in this manner, because, when he refused to drop out of
school at age 14, his mother locked him out of the house. Not only did
he not want to drop out of school, he was in the gifted program --
meaningless to his mother (and he had no father). What had salvaged him
and brought him to the gifted program? His learning style. An idealist,
he very much wanted to please his teachers. That caused him to learn
some. A concrete sequential, he matched that particular cognitive style
of the majority of his teachers. A left-brain processor, he fit in with
the way in which materials are normally presented by teachers and in
textbooks. I could go on. In nearly all of the 16 learning style domains
that I normally work with, he matched the dominant types found in most
American schools. He is now in college -- the only person from his
barrio to attend college and is setting an example of what his possible
for some of his peers, who question him (he visits frequently), trying
to understand him.

The question I put to all of you is: how many more such children could
be rescued from poor home situations, if they did not have to adapt to
the school, but the school adapted to them, giving them instruction via
the modes in which they learn best? How many more would start to feel
that they were "good" people, not "bad" people, if they were empowered
with the knowledge of how to learn and how to adapt? How many students,
finding success (rather than failure) at school would find school an
exciting alternative to home and rise above a poor home environment,
actually finding a way out of the barrio, ghetto, abuse, etc.?

3. We are concerned teachers; we care about our students; we work very
hard to educate them and to reach them.

I have found the range of teaching style and motivation among teachers
to be as wide as the range among students. The point of my message was
not to say that teachers (especially those who are reading these
messages) are not concerned and capable but that even capable and
concerned teachers often still proceed from the point of view of the
teacher as the central actor in the learning process. Don't we talk
about being on stage, etc., and what was it that Lucinda said about
teachers being traditionally considered the center of the educational
process and by default still find themselves there? The problem with
viewing the teacher as the center of the learning process is that such a
teacher will not have the time needed to observe learning in action in
order to find out how the students in the classroom learn.

At the risk of receiving even more strongly defensive responses, I will
reiterate that if not all students in a class are learning, then the
teacher has unfinished work -- no matter how hard he or she has been
working. (In such cases, I'm not questioning the effort, just the

I will concede that occasionally (rarely) there is a situation where a
student cannot learn, and this is almost always because of external
circumstances beyond a teacher's control (and, in my experience, is more
likely to occur at the high school level than at any other level).

And, of course, there is the stupid administrator syndrome (I can say
that, I think, because I am an administrator), where the teacher's hands
are tied -- probably more common than any administration would admit.

Further, burn-out does occur from such intensive involvement. I think
ALL teachers should periodically have paid opportunities to do something
educational other than teaching -- not just those who write books and
become famous. I think the pay-off would far exceed the funds required
for implementing such a program. I have seen burn-out hit even the best
of teachers (and I, too, would burn out, if I were not an administrator
who can pick and choose when and where I teach).

4. We try to let our students make a lot of their own decisions.

Yes, this is important for some types of learners. Other types of
learners, however, don't want to make their own decisions and become
angry, frustrated, or confused, when asked to do so. One respondent
pointed out quite clearly that he had students who lost respect for a
teacher who did not "take charge" -- some learning styles need and want
to have structure imposed from without.

Learner-centered instruction does not equate to letting students make
their own decisions. There are many ways to involve students in the
instructional process. Individual decision-making is only one of them.

More than anything else, learner-centered instruction means that
teachers should LET students learn. I remember one inductive gifted
ten-year-old in a high school algebra class, who politely requested his
teacher not to teach during class, because it interfered with his
learning. This teacher, whose feelings were quite hurt by this request,
clearly was not attuned to learning styles. Had she been, she would have
allowed the inductive learning needs to be met, before proceeding to
teach deductively. In another example, one highly visual rational
(remember, rationals have a great need to feel competent) fourth grader,
discouraged beyond control, attempted suicide, because he was failing in
school. He would do the wrong homework assignments and make other such
mistakes, because his teacher refused to write down the assignments for
him on the board or to let him tape record the class. She thought that
he needed to learn to listen better. (I could go on, but I won't. I have
more than 150 case studies of such problems.)

5. We use contemporary, learner-centered teaching methods. We facilitate

My comment here is: if learning is truly being facilitated, then all
your students are probably learning. Therefore, these comments do not
pertain to you. What I have often found, however, is that the term,
facilitative learning, is misunderstood.

Facilitative teachers take a back seat to the learning process. They
foster it. They harrow the ground. They fertilize the learners. Then
they observe (analytically), as the learning occurs. Facilitative
classrooms tend to be noisy; they are usually beehives of activity.
Meanwhile, teachers are provided the opportunity to observe learning in
action (in non-facilitative classrooms teachers are so busy instructing
that they have limited time to observe the learning that is/is not
happening). They can determine how students are learning, which students
are learning, what students' strengths and weaknesses are, what their
approaches to learning are, which strategies they use and which they do
not use, what their interests are, how they interact with their peers,
and much more useful information that can be used to successfully adapt
activities to maximize learning for that particular group of students.

6. There is not one magic answer to teaching well.

Agreed. I merely offer yet another "tool."

7. Teachers, by definition, are the center of the classroom and control
the learning, even when they are teaching facilitatively.

Agreed. I never meant to imply that teachers ever give up control of
their classes, just that there is more than one way to be in control.

8. Thanks, Cindy, for welcoming me to FLTeach. I have actually lurked
for some time, since my institution has been a member of the Board for
more than a year, but finally got around to subscribing on my own. You
said that I stirred up a discussion. I suspect that the beehive is about
to become a hornet's nest. I look forward to find out what waters have
splashed over the dam, when I return.

And to all who have taken the time to read this long response -- only
really involved teachers would do that!

And, once again, to all of you who responded earlier, thanks! Such
discussions are the means through which we all learn. I very much enjoy

Finally, let me reiterate and slightly re-state Marilyn's comment that
none of us is a failure, if we cannot reach all students all the time,
only if we fail to try and fail to believe that they all are worth

Betty Lou Leaver
American Global Studies Institute
Salinas, California

F. Contracts With Students

95/08 From-> "Frank B. \"Pete\" Brooks" <>
Subject: Statements of Promises

Madeline Bishop talks of having students and parents, as well as the
teacher, sign promissory "contracts." How will these contracts be
monitored? What if the teacher is not "fun"? Who determines whether or
not the teacher is fun, interesting, and so on? How will this be
monitored and who will do the monitoring? Is the teacher the sole judge
of whether or not he/she is interesting, boring, mean, not fair?

Another idea is to map out for the student what the teacher's image is
of the A student, the B student, the C student, the D student, and so
on. For example, I've seen the following used:

The A student:
-shows initiative
-initiates and maintains interaction with fellow students and the
instructor -shows leadership in group activities
-almost never uses English in discussions and group activities -asks
questions mainly in (the L2)

The B student:
-shows willingness to participate
-cooperates fully in discussions and group activities although may not
necessarily be the leader
-answers readily when called upon
-elaborates somewhat on answers
-occasionally resorts to English

The C student:
-participates more passively than actively
-tends to use English especially in small activities -gives slightly more than one-word

The D student:
-participates but does so only grudgingly (This [activity] is stupid.
Why do we have to do this?
-speaks mostly English in discussions and in small-group activities

The E (or F) student:
-is always obviously unprepared for discussions -is disruptive, prevents
others from hearing, and so on -refuses to participate in class
activities -is disrespectful of the other students and the instructor
(e.g., talks when others are talking)

Students can rate themselves on a weekly basis using some kind of rating
scale and the above descriptions.

Just another idea...

Frank B. \"Pete\" Brooks


95/08 From-> lelliot <>
Subject: Classroom Contracts

While I was at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, I used
classroom contracts to denote appropriate and inappropriate behavior in
the classroom. Inappropriate behavior included cursing, arriving late,
etc. and appropriate behavior included listening when someone else was
talking, participating in discussions, etc. Many of the university
students in the classes were taking Spanish not because they wanted to,
but because it was a requirement for their liberal arts degree. Since I
had a few students the first semester that caused problems not only for
me the teacher, but for the other students in the class who were annoyed
and distracted by their behavior, but did not want to interfere, I found
when I started the contract the second semester, that I had no more
problems with student behavior because they knew their limits and they
knew what the result of their actions would be. This enabled all of us
to relax and enjoy the class and not go through the period of testing
the teacher.

I have also used a student self-participation grid that Bill Van Patten
included in his book, Sabias que, which is excellent and worked very
well with other classes.

In other words, the student/teacher contract worked for me, and since
ASU went through some problems with students suing the school if they
got bad grades, having a signed contract saying they understood the
class rules, the syllabus, and what was necessary to achieve a certain
grade in class, helped. (Sad, but true).

Linda Elliott-Nelson


95/08 From-> Fran Turner <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation

I love your ideas for the classroom contracts -- especially the one for
the parents to sign. It's amazing how few parents believe they can be a
part of their child's language learning experience! Your "contract" will
show them not only that they CAN, but that it is their responsibility.

One thing you may want to consider for the other two contracts. I worked
with the Foxfire approach for a while, and started the year with two
lists: Qualities of a Good Teacher (which then translates directly into
Qualities of a good learner, since I believe we are all teachers and
learners), and Qualities of a Meaningful Educational Experience. I
usually have the students make the list on their own first. Then I ask
them to share their lists with a small group. Last, the groups help me
make a final list on the blackboard. This is then put on posterboard and
posted in the class.

I've been pretty impressed with how well the students use the list that
they've made up. At any point, any of us can point out that certain
behaviors violate one or more of the qualities of a good
teacher/learner. Be careful, though, to discuss thoroughly "qualities"
that may not be appropriate. The students are pretty savvy about weeding
out bogus "qualities" once they're pointed out.

My point in all this is that perhaps the students and you TOGETHER could
come up with some or all of the contracts they sign -- that way they'll
have ownership.

Good luck and thanks for the good ideas!

Fran Turner


Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation

I like Madeline Bishop's idea of the three contracts. We just heard a
good inservice speaker today, Harry Wong. I think he would approve of
the principle of your contracts, but he would certainly insist that they
go home on the first day or two of school.

I've always felt that I should teach students some German on the very
first day of school, but Dr. Wong insisted (backed by research, which I
can't cite for you) that it is more important to teach students your
policies and procedures during the first two weeks of school and to
rehearse them than to jump quickly into content.

Mike Watson


95/08 From-> Bernadette Morris <>
Subject: Classroom Management-the saga continues

The book Discipline with Dignity by Richard L. Curwin and Allen N.
Mendler, ASCD devotes an entire chapter to contracts. They suggest and
provide examples of contracts designed by students and teachers for the
student, contracts designed by the students for the teacher and finally
contracts students design for each other . Those contracts are usually
developed following input, discussion, and agreement of ALL the parties

Contracts are a great way to involve students and having some ownership
in the contracts, they will be more apt to follow them. I like the idea
mentioned by Madeline pertaining to the parent(s) contract. If the
parent contract is not option for you, it still will be important to
communicate your expectations to the parents. Once they have seen the
different contracts and they understand how they can become part of the
learning process, they will be more likely to cooperate when their child
breaks the contract.


G. Who Are These Experts Telling Us How To Teach?  (And What’s a Teacher Do Anyway?)

95/08 From-> Madeline Bishop <>
Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation

Mike wrote:

>I like Madeline Bishop's idea of the three contracts. We just heard a good inservice speaker today, Harry Wong. I think he would approve of the principle of your contracts, but he would certainly insist that they go home on the first day or two of school.

>I've always felt that I should teach students some German on the very first day of school, but Dr. Wong insisted (backed by research, which I can't cite for you) that it is more important to teach students your policies and procedures during the first two weeks of school and to rehearse them than to jump quickly into content.

Mike, do you really believe this guy? Is Dr. Wong a person who has
recently been in a high school classroom?

Wouldn't you be totally bored out of your tree if you sat in 7 classes a
day and heard policies and procedures from each teacher for two days? I
think it is better to give students an active language experience
through TPR, + teach them some greetings the first day.

On the second day I have students fill out an info sheet which gives me
not only their class schedules, and parents' phone numbers, etc. but
asks them personal questions about who they are Questions such as "Do
you have a job and do you like it? Why or why not?" or "Who is your
favorite musical group." and "Did your family take a fun vacation this
summer?" I also continue with the TPR on the second day.

About the third day, we get into the "nitty gritty" of rules. By then
students know they want to be part of the class because l) They can see
already that this is a participation class, hence less "boring" 2) They
just might be treated as an individual by a teacher who is interested in
them. At this point they are more ready to accept the parameters and
organization of the class. On the first day, how do they even know if
they like the class? Have they even decided that it is relevant to their
lives? Many of them sign up for courses knowing there is an option of
transferring out the first two weeks if they don't like it. So the idea
of rehearsing your rules and procedures for two weeks and then beginning
the content is hard to envision as the best way to start school.

That's why I asked if you really believe Dr. Wong. Could you give us
some of his rationale for delaying the content?

Madeline Bishop


Subject: Re: Classroom management and motivation

Dr. Wong, unlike many inservice speakers, seems to still be in the
middle school classroom. During the course of his talk he spoke about
having substitutes in his room while he was out on speaking engagements.
I assume then that he still teaches.

I agree that students need to be engaged and to experience a bit of your
class very early on. I don't believe Dr. Wong intended that content be
COMPLETELY put off or that every period for 10 days be completely
devoted to learning the rules--I don't think I could make up that many
rules anyway! I don't recall what I typed in my original post, but my
plan for implementing what I heard at inservice is to go over the rules
very thoroughly at first and return to them daily for shorter periods
over the next two weeks. Some of the rules and procedures involve use of
German. We will spend several days learning handy classroom phrases. I
will also begin by teaching them how to greet each other, but then it's
off to the rules and procedures.

I've only been teaching five years, so what I say does not come from a
wealth of experience. I will always remember what a student said in my
first year of teaching. After an activity (suggested by a professor
teaching classroom management) in which students took part in
formulating the class rules, a girl caught me after school and said that
when teachers seek student input, the students lose respect. She told me
that she preferred teachers who laid out the rules and made expectations

This girl came from a troubled background I later learned. I believe her
response is a result of that background. She needed structure and people
to look to for guidance. Several people in responding to this topic have
discussed the problems that students bring with them from home and from
their relationships and addictions. Children dealing with such problems
look for and need the reassurance of structure and discipline. I don't
mind providing it from the start--along with instruction in German.

Mike Watson


95/08 From-> "Catherine R. Meza" <>
Subject: Re: Management and motivation

Ever notice how teachers who are celebrated for being cool and
entertaining and effective leave the profession?

*Louanne Johnson whose book "My Posse Don't Do Homework" inspired the
current Michelle Pfeiffer film "Dangerous Minds" is now a grad student.

The South American math teacher Jaime Escalante ("Stand and Deliver") is
doing something else.

Jonathan Kozol, who won fame and $$$ writing books that essentially say
the same thing "School sucks and poor kids' schools suck harder" taught
for a couple of years and that's it.

What ever happened to "Up the Down Staircase" Bel Kaufman (1960's)?

Most of my education teachers at Eastern Michigan University haven't set
foot in a public school in years IF EVER (my Educational Psychology
teacher NEVER).

So, my question is, what are the characteristics of the veterans? Are
they burned out hacks counting the hours 'til retirement? Or have they
discovered a reservoir of strength and inspiration that others lack?

I suspect that foreign language teachers in immersion or bilingual
programs (where the language is the medium for meaningful
information, not an object of curiosity for people who can communicate
just fine in English, thank you) are less subject to burn out than
others. Any comments?

Catherine R. Meza


95/08 From-> "Nancy A. Humbach" <HUMBACH_N@HCCA.OHIO.GOV>
Subject: Re: Management and motivation

Catherine and others,
Bravo! for your comments. I, too, am quite frustrated at the people who
leave the profession after a couple of years and then dare to call
themselves veterans. I left, but after thirty years and after a great
deal of hassling by an administration bent on getting rid of experienced
teachers because "you cost too much." And I didn't leave because of the
kids. I left because of those same administrators who had no vision,
little sense of mission and a great deal of burnout. One of my
principals noted that he was "playing the back nine" for the last four
years he was there, and so he suppose I was, too.

Allow me one comment after 30 years in the public school
classroom-albeit a suburban district, very unlike those portrayed in the
books you mentioned, yet with some similarities-and that is to second
what someone mentioned a number of weeks ago. We have to step back and
realize that when our students complain about the work, when they become
angry with us, that we must stand firm in what be believe to be a
curriculum that is valid for them. If we have really given that some
thought, then we have to respond as a parent who has just heard her/his
young child scream, "I hate you!" Upsetting as it may be to hear that,
it is often not meant as it sounds.

I found that I needed to focus on what kids said when they came back,
wrote, called, telling me that what I had done for them had some kind of
value. Obviously not everyone calls, writes or returns. But all you need
is one here and there, and we all have them. Keep the notes in a drawer
and read them on bad days.

Lou Anne Johnson suffered burnout and so do the rest of us. What makes
the difference in the real professional is how we deal with it. Do we
rejuvenate and reinspire ourselves through inservice, through course
work, through rest, relaxation, doing something meaningful away from the
classroom? I think professionals do just that. I also think we are aware
that there are highs and lows in the teaching profession and in our

A colleague of mine, professor of English at Miami University, took a
semester sabbatical to return to the HS classroom-a suburban school with
a large population of kids that could be considered comparable to any
inner city situation. After about 8 weeks, he was feeling frustrated,
angry, and has just been told by a student that he (student) would
rearrange his (professor's) face if things didn't change. Don was
talking with another teacher, saying that he felt like quitting. The
other teacher said, "How often do you feel this way?" "This is the first
time," responded Don. "Then you're going to be okay," said the other
teacher, "because I feel this way on a regular basis, but I keep coming
back because I know I'm having an effect on them."
Last year I heard Jaime Escalante talk. His ideas were good, but they
are nothing that the rest of us don't use. I think he was so successful
because he could relate with his kids on a cultural level. I also
believe that most of us, if we could locate an agent, could publish the
same kind of book.

Now you're wondering what I did after I "bailed out." I'm preparing
future teachers of FL's at Miami they can't say their
instructor hasn't been in the classroom for years. And what's more, I'm
planning to take my methods classes back there in the Spring for their
methods block observation and field work. I couldn't agree more that
teacher trainers need to stay in touch with the realities of public

Nancy A. Humbach


95/08 From-> Lauren Rosen <>
Subject: Re: Management and motivation -Reply

>>Most of my education teachers at Eastern Michigan University haven't
set foot in a public school in years IF EVER (my Educational Psychology
teacher NEVER).<<

This is the unfortunate truth for at least 2 other Universities I have
been connected with. They have all these wonderful ideas which don't
work very well in today's secondary classroom.

I am one of those teachers that after 5 years realized that I couldn't
stay in secondary school because I couldn't help all the kids who were
going home to troubled families. I still keep in touch with a few of my
students because I want to be sure they go on to college. At that point
I will feel like I was successful as a secondary teacher. They came to
me I believe in part because I was younger and in part for my empathetic
ear and attempt at providing at least some support for them. I couldn't
do it all though without destroying myself. I couldn't fix it.

>>So, my question is, what are the characteristics of the veterans? Are
they burned out hacks counting the hours 'til retirement? Or have they
discovered a reservoir of strength and inspiration that others lack?<<

Of the veterans I know there are a few types. Ones that are so out of
touch with what is going on with their students personal lives that they
remain unaffected. They teach the same lessons they taught 20 years ago.

Another group are the ones that are doing their best, getting burned
out, but rather than trying to make themselves happy by finding
something they enjoy more they feel stuck. They have taught for a
billion years so there is nowhere else they feel they can go now. It
would be nice if some of these guys moved to teaching methods. They at
least know what is going on in the classroom and might find that they
actually enjoy teaching adults how to put their skills to work
effectively in today's classroom.

The youngest group is the most innocent and idealistic. Coming out of
college with an ED. degree and expecting it to be just like when they
were in school, before gangs, violence, and other family issues that
have become more prevalent. In their attempts to make the classroom work
they find that they know lots of Ed. Psychology and little of it is
useful to today's kids. There is a big push now for multicultural
education. That is helpful but it is taught in this ideal view of how
students should be not how they actually are.

It was hard for me to choose to leave secondary because I really do like
working with the kids, just not always their parents. Eventually I was
so tired that I wondered if I could ever be a good parent after a day at
work. That's when I decided to move on. I now feel that I am helping as
many or more people and I don't carry home the emotional baggage that
was wearing me out.

I'm sure I have missed lots of types of instructors and I know that I
have only touched on the surface based on my experiences. I do not mean
to discourage people from staying in, but much of the solution to these
issues I think lies with the family not with the teacher. We do what we
can but when managing 150 students a day, we can't work miracles. We can
hope to at least touch the lives of a few and hope that they go on to do
the same for others.

Lauren Rosen


95/08 From-> Dawn Santiago-Marullo <>
Subject: Re: Management and motivation

In response to Catherine R. Meza:

I believe that the veteran teachers are those who do what Cindy H-G
suggested, they celebrate the successes and move on from the failures.
The acknowledge that they are only human, and that that's OK. As a
teacher of 15 years (I assume I can count myself among the veterans) I
love what I do, but there are down times. I guess teaching is like
riding a roller-coaster. I have seen many "new" teachers come out of
education programs pumped up by ideals that crash when the reality of
the classroom sets in. I'm an idealist and I do believe that we want our
new teachers excited about teaching but let's not set them up for
failure (or burn out). I'm reminded of a poem that I read and saved.

I must be...
Relaxed for Danny
Organized for David
Creative for Lucy
Gentle for Joan
Stimulating for Gerald
Humorous for Richard
Tolerant for Larry
Dogmatic for Aaron
Quiet for Jenny
Understanding of Sue
Orderly for Christopher
Patient for John
Innovative for Scott
Repetitive for Adam and
Sympathetic to Janette.

I must have the devotion of a saint
The dedication of an inventor
and the love of Mother Teresa.

I must find multiple intelligences,
wherever they are hiding, in Nicholas
I must be a dictionary, a spell checker, an encyclopedia, and a computer

I must have the patience of Job,
the judgement of Solomon
and the Wisdom of the Ages.

In my spare time I must troubleshoot
for the Golden Rule, the Bill of Rights, the Disciplinary Code, the
Administration, the School Board, and the PTA's ever-present

I must divert the hell-raisers while
simultaneously raising their self-esteem and motivating them to loftier
In the end I must have an epitaph that reads: the teacher.

Dawn Santiago-Marullo


Subject: Re: Management and motivation

I believe Catherine Meza has touched on one of the real problems for
teachers. Our role models and instructors LEAVE TEACHING! Read the
research: How much of the research is based on direct observation in
secondary or elementary classrooms? I think very little.

Only one of the teacher educators I studied with while preparing to
teach was completely honest. He told me that he left the high school
environment and got his Ph.D. because he just couldn't take it. I
applaud his honesty.

A friend who taught for less than one year after finishing an MAT degree
and quit because she just couldn't handle the kids and their problems (
and the callous response of the administration to her difficulties) was
told by a former professor that she should return to grad school and get
into teacher ed.! What a plan!

No wonder new teachers arrive with naive expectations and false ideas
about how the kids will react to them. They have not been prepared for
the realities of the classroom, because their instructors are not
familiar with these realities.


And here are the 42 contributors to this vital topic:

Barbara Andrews
William Armour
Patrick Barrett
Marilyn Barrueta
Madeline Bishop
Jean Bodle
Janel Brennan
Pete Brooks
Pamela Casler
Liz Clem
Veronica Dees
Janice Dirmeitis
Linda Elliott-Nelson
Susan George
Cindy Hart-Gonzalez
Nancy Humbach
Allison Improta
Shari Kaulig
Cindy Kendall
Bettylou Leaver
Kitsinis Marti
Catherine Meza
Cherice Montgomery
Bernadette Morris
Erwin Petri
Robert Ponterio
Ann Pulley
Willis Ray
Jessica Roberts
Lauren Rosen
Pai Rosenthal
Dawn Santiago-Marullo
Susan Shelby
Cynthia Sinsap
Becki Stratis
Fran Turner
Jack Verby
Mike Watson
Jo Anne Wilson
Anne Lessick Xiao
Linda Zimmerman
Rosemary Zurawel

Return to  [FLTEACH Main Page]


W3 page maintained by address & address
Copyright © 1998 Jean W. LeLoup & Robert Ponterio