Since this is only the second in the series of "tips to teachers", it is still important to continue the bonding process between the teacher and the student.  So, there are two essential steps covered here.  First, letting the students know that you know who they are by name.  Second, establishing a way of thinking that informs students how you will be speaking into their minds and therefore, how they can effectively respond to you.

In bonding with students, we can assume safely that they too are human beings.  Humans of all ages love to hear their names spoken in a positive, uplifiting way.  That is why, especially at the beginning of a school term, but also throughout the school year, that those students who cause no trouble hear their names spoken every day.  The troublesome students will have their names said repeatedly during class time.  That will often be in a negative tone.  However, they too need to hear their name spoken in a positive way, even if they did not earn it.  Everyone can use a positive start to the class session in order to establish a positive classroom atmosphere for learning.

These are all reasons why I strongly suggest that teachers consider greeting their students at the door as they come in.  All that need be said is, "good morning, Suzy" or "good afternoon, David."  Each student will have heard their name before they leave class that day.  Further, students who were troublesome the day before can hear your positive tone of voice to mean, "This is a new day with no mistakes in it yet." 

This is also a good reminder for the teacher that they should not carry grudges from yesterday into today's class.  Anger to crush student spirit in order to manipulate control brings temporary control but long term negative consequences for the learning relationship.

Next subject:  Choosing to value truth.  This is not talking about honesty here, although it is related to this subject.  This is about truth inside our heads (subjective truth) related to truth outside our heads (objective truth). 

The basic job of the teacher is to bring information that exists outside the knowledge of the student into mental view so that information can be integrated into what the student knows and can then use. 

In today's US society, this understanding should not be taken for granted.  There are other ways of thinking, other philosophies, which say that what one person thinks is just as important as what some other person thinks, and so one person does not have to consider what some other person is saying. 

If there were no such thing as truth that exists outside of our own brains, that might be true.  However, there is information outside of our own brains and so we have to consider the value of information that is what we call objective truth.  The argument, depending upon the subject, might well not be about what one person has a right to think for themselves, but rather might depend upon whether the outside information is true and important in this circumstance.

True story.  One day in the late summer of 1968 I was walking outside my apartment door to go to work (I was an elementary grade teacher at the time).  Across the courtyard of the apartment building was my friend who was also on his way to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  (That company had a contract with NASA to help send astronauts to the moon.)  We were the same age but he already had a PhD in math or physics, I think.  Anyway, in his arms he had a stack of paper neatly folded.  The stack was about seven or eight inches high and must have weighed a lot because he was carrying it with both arms outstretched in front of him. 

I called down and asked, "What have you got in your arms?"  He called back, "The way to the moon."  I replied, "Can I see it?"  "Sure," he replied.  I went down the stairs and crossed the courtyard to take a look at the papers. 

They were all one sheet of paper, with perforations between the pages and little holes on the outside edges to help the paper go through the printing machine.  On each page were horizontal rows and vertical columns of numbers.  Each number had a series of maybe eight digits, like 81843572 or something.  Each number was different and there would be perhaps a dozen numbers in each row.  It went on like that page after page.  These were the calculations of navigation through space.  If you put all the numbers together in one stream, it would give you the direction to get through space to the moon and to return to the earth. 

The next year, July 1969, my wife Stefanie and I watched on TV the live pictures and sound from the astronauts on the first moon landing.  What I had seen in the apartment courtyard, the papers in my friends arms, had worked to get those astronauts to the moon and back home to the earth.

The point is this.  It mattered what the outside truth was.  Those numbers did not come about because someone felt this way or that way about things.  Being sincere and having a right to your own thoughts had nothing at all to do with the numbers.  The numbers were the results of careful discovery and logic.  They were checked and rechecked by some number of mathematicians and scientists.  These numbers turned out to be correct.  That means that these numbers were a kind of objective truth.  That truth led to the safety of our astronauts and to their success in going to the moon and their return to earth. 

Objective truth is the sort of information that teachers try to use to inform their students.  Sometimes what is taught in the classroom is not totally accurate or truthful.  Some of what is taught is opinion.  Or, it might be music or art.  Whatever it is, it is information that does exist outside the students' heads. 

Wisdom is the correct and skillful use of knowledge.  Once we have knowledge of what is presented in class, it is the job of the teacher to explain it and to assist students to perceive it so that it can be used correctly and skillfully.

The students do not have to automatically accept as truth what a teacher presents.  Nor do students have to either accept or reject what teachers present in class.  Students have a third choice.  They can "receive" the information for later consideration and use or for later rejection. 

There are often things presented by teachers that especially adolescents do not wish to accept.  Since adolescents are in the business of finding out who they truly are, they frequently accept advice and information from other adolescents while they refuse such ideas from parents or other adults. 

When it comes to moral issues, teens are frequently tired of hearing the same old rules.  They have not yet had the experience of tragedy that would lead them to understand that the rules are actually warnings against self destructive behavior.  They may only see the fun, the attention, the feeling of self-control that certain ideas bring.  They cannot yet see the unintended consequences simply because they do not want to believe that they would really happen. 

The consequences, though, are a form objective truth.  The rejection of rules is a form of subjective truth.  Eventually, the rejection of the rules will meet up with the consequences.  It will be something like a traffic accident.  Some one was perhaps speeding.  They did not know they would miss the light and it would turn red right as they were going through it.  They did not know that a person coming the other direction was looking down at their cell phone as their side of the light turned green and they went forward into the intersection.  The consequences were tragic.  Subjective truth met the objective truth and the objective truth won.

In the case of the way to the moon, the objective truth and the subjective truth of the scientists agreed.  In the case of the teen age drivers, the objective truth and the subjective truth did not match.  Wisdom comes when we find ways of making our subjective truth match the objective truth and then use it correctly and skillfully. 




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03/23/2014 9:51am

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