Tip #297: Lifelong Learning Deterred by Burnt Out Teachers

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When seasoned teachers literally give up teaching and give in to chaos in the classroom, no learning takes place. Here is the audit of a long term high school teacher whose classes are detrimental to the students who really want to learn.

Seasoned Teacher Who Is Burnt Out

1. Does the teacher know how to write an effective lesson plan? No

A review of the one page lesson plan that Mr. H provided during the feedback session indicates that he has a very rudimentary concept of how to write a lesson plan. The lesson plan was also focused on what the teacher would do rather than the students.

2. Does the lesson result in specific, observable and measurable learning? No

Mr. H had a lesson on line plots, but was unable to execute it because he had absolutely no control over the classroom to ensure that the students could hear or learn from the lesson.

He began by saying: “We’re going to talk about something I think you’ve done before.” The auditor wondered why Mr. H didn’t know if the students had already worked with line plots.

He referred to a line plot on the board that related to Nielsen ratings of television shows. He checked to make sure the students understood what a “sitcom” was and gave examples to make it clear. He also explained that Nielsen uses statistics based on who watches the television shows during prime time in order to know how much to charge advertisers. So Mr. H attempted to make the example relevant and meaningful to the students. He then read off another example on the board, which was apparently also in their textbooks. He asked: “Everyone understand what this data means?” Unfortunately, although he kept shushing them, most of the students talked throughout his lesson so they didn’t respond to his question.

Mr. H asked one student what the range was and she answered correctly. However, Mr. H did not have her explain how she identified the range.

At this point, Mr. H wanted the students to complete problems # 7, 12 and 14-18 in their textbooks. Unfortunately, many of the students did not have their textbooks and some had the wrong volume of the textbook (volume 2 instead of volume 1).
When it became clear that students did not have their textbooks, rather than simply writing out the problems on the board so that all of the students could get down to work, Mr. H started giving out passes for students to go to their lockers. He also asked the students without textbooks to pair up with students who had them.

It became clear from their questions that the few students who were actually paying attention did not know how to work the problems. Mr. H attempted to reteach by going through all of the problems he had just assigned. However, since the students were talking while he was teaching, no one heard him or learned anything. Surprisingly, Mr. H continued to talk, seemingly oblivious to all of the student talking going on.

There was no earthly way that learning could occur in this classroom.

3. Does the teacher create and maintain an effective learning environment? No

Mr. H had absolutely no control over the classroom. It was clear that the students did not respect him and equally clear that he did not expect or require that they treat him or their classmates with respect. There was no signaling for behavior change, other than Mr. H’s ineffectual shushing. During the class, two students had their heads on their desks, one student was busy texting, a few were writing notes, one was listening to an iPod, and several were talking.

For a period of more than five minutes, students without textbooks wandered up to ask Mr. H for passes to go to their lockers. Some returned relatively immediately and at least two took 10 minutes to return to the class. Every time a student returned, that student would yell at Mr. H: “What problems? What page?” This information was clearly written on the board in front of the class and Mr. H had pointed it out when he made the initial assignment, but no one was listening at the time. Mr. H told one student twice to take out a pencil or a pen. This student never responded or did any work, even when Mr. H actually handed him some paper to write on.

At no time did Mr. H: teach and adhere to signals to modify behavior; create and adhere to rules of engagement for positive class behavior; stop the lesson and constructively address behavioral issues where necessary; use positive reinforcement; ensure that all students were quiet and paying attention during the lesson; separate students who were goading each other into disruptive behavior; or insist that the students treat the teacher and each other with respect.

Mr. H appeared completely worn out. He was unable or unwilling to manage the class. He did not have the students’ respect and did not seem to care. He did nothing to engage the students or to set them up for success. The resulting chaos in the room guaranteed that no learning would occur. The principal should seriously consider whether this teacher should continue to be in a classroom.

Consider the damage to immediate learning as well as to an interest in lifelong learning when the teacher shows by action and attitude that learning is not worth the effort.

Next week’s Tip will attempt to balance the scorecard by looking at new teachers who encourage and nurture learning.

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