Thursday, January 8, 2009

Teacher-pleasing behaviors

Yesterday a student asked me, "Did you like this book (A Tale of Two Cities) the first time you read it?" I knew what he was getting at, and I told him it wasn't my favorite Dickens book then or now.

I was struck, though, at how politely he broached the subject, even as a tenth-grader. This is something I've had to teach explicitly to students as part of my "teacher-pleasing behaviors" on-going curriculum. It goes something like this: "Let me give you a tip. Never, never, never tell a teacher that you hate or even dislike something he or she has assigned you to read. That is definitely not going to endear you to the teacher, and he/she is the one who gives you grades! And another thing (now I'm on a roll), don't tell them you didn't read it! That's just as bad. If you don't like something or don't understand it, find a nice way to bring up the subject without offending the teacher. Besides, you're only in tenth grade. Do you think your opinion of Machiavelli or Shakespeare really carries any weight?"

Kids actually aren't put off by this kind of thing; they appreciate knowing "how to play the game." I find it amazing that they haven't learned it anywhere else, though. I'm pretty sure my own kids would be too polite to say anything like that to a teacher, because they would think it would hurt their feelings.

"Teachers have feelings, too, and they usually feel a strong love of their subject and the things they assign to you!" Students seem surprised by this thought.

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