Teaching in a Secondary School

By Robert Griffin | Go to book overview

3
Our Values Matter

It was late in the morning on a crisp winter day in a Midwestern city. I was observing a 10th-grade English class that was part of an alternative program for at-risk students, as they are called. These are young people having serious enough problems getting along in their classes that they appear to need something other than the regular school program. Most seemed likely to drop out of school. Many of these teenagers came from low income backgrounds and difficult home situations, and it looked to me as if minority students were overrepresented among the 20 or so in the class.

The teacher, Sharon Smith, 1 was a woman in her 30s but new to teaching. This was her first year. In manner she was pleasant, soft-spoken, and kind. Her lesson for the day focused on cartoons she had cut from the newspaper. I learned later she had been up at 5 a.m. pasting them onto sheets of paper and then came to school early to duplicate them. She distributed the examples of 8-10 cartoons to each of the students. Their assignment, she told them, was for each to choose the cartoon he or she most enjoyed and to write a paper during the class hour on why it was funny. Five or six students got down to work. Others formed little clusters and began talking to one another about whatever adolescents find compelling (the cartoon assignment didn't make the list). A few sat quietly, not doing much of anything. Several more, boys mostly, began walking around the class talking loudly to other students and to Sharon herself. Again, none of these exchanges had to do with the writing activity.

This went on for about 15 minutes. Suddenly, Sharon began to address the class. Most students turned from what had been occupying them, although a clique of girls in a corner continued their conversation, with one

-21-

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Teaching in a Secondary School
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Teaching as Work 5
  • 2 - The Self-Surpassing Classroom 11
  • Conclusion 19
  • 3 - Our Values Matter 21
  • 4 - A Focus on Studenting 27
  • 5 - Getting Students to Think for Themselves 31
  • SUMMING UP 40
  • 6 - What is a Good Student Like? 41
  • Conclusion 48
  • 7 - The Importance of Language 50
  • 8 - What Can a Good Student Do? 65
  • Conclusion 71
  • 9 - Teaching Values: The Early Years 72
  • Conclusion 78
  • 10 - What Can Get in the Way of Being a Good Student? 80
  • 11 - Curriculum 88
  • 12 - Becoming a Good Student in School 114
  • 13 - Discussions, Lectures, and Textbooks 124
  • 14 - Motivation 138
  • 15 - Style Counts 149
  • 16 - Advice to a Student on Achieving in School 156
  • 17 - Teaching Values: The Later Years 162
  • 18 - Thoughts on Discipline 181
  • 19 - Helping Students Become More Effective in School 191
  • 20 - Evaluation 200
  • 21 - Planning 211
  • 22 - Teaching and You 229
  • Acknowledgments 239
  • Endnotes 240
  • Index 247
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