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Saturday, March 25, 2006



I don't think the essay deserved its grade either. It reads more like a set of talking points than an academic piece.

More to the point, I am struck by how absolutely naive and clueless this person is. It's clear he's never actually been a teacher and doesn't have any experience with children, except maybe for a couple of charming nieces and nephews. He certainly hasn't faced the realities of the classroom and doesn't sound at all ready to face those challenges.

Legally, I could see this case being decided in a number of ways, hinging on what constitutes achieving the school's requirements for successful graduation. If he was receiving satisfactory grades, then the school would be hard-pressed to prove that he was not meeting the standards for obtaining a degree. On the other hand, the purpose of attending school is to interact with and draw conclusions about the material presented, not simply to parrot one's own beliefs. Therefore, if I were his professor, I would have graded according to whether he demonstrated an academic understanding of the issues and principles presented in class, such as individualization and accommodation for disabilities. If he could not demonstrate mastery of these concepts, such as by summarizing the body of research and current thinking in his academic work, I would flunk him and recommend non-continuation in a graduate program.

Whether he personally disagrees with current research is almost beside the point - if his work suggests that he has not learned the information, he does not deserve to pass the class.

I firmly believe in critically examining one's opposing viewpoint, so as to find its weaknesses as well as its areas of commonality with your position. One of my heroes is Ken Miller, the author of Finding Darwin's God and a biology professor at my alma mater. When he debates creationists, he embarrasses them by producing larger copies of the diagrams and charts they've brought and has an answer for every single one of their statements - because he's done his research and knows their arguments better than they do. It is tiresome when people think that having a position exempts them from any more thinking or learning. Folks from all different philosophical positions are guilty of this. The non-teacher in question certainly is.

Ms. Cornelius

Hmmm. "I base my philosophy of classroom management upon the pre-1960's learning when discipline was present in the learning environment."
How old IS this guy? Did he get his info from "Leave it to Beaver?"

Besides the well known fact that each generation seems to think that the succeeding generation is dissolute (and vice versa) let's remember that many students who were "different" were no longer IN school in the 1950s because they dropped out. And I've talked to teachers who were in the profession at that time, and it wasn't all bread and circuses then. either.

I think this person is either incredibly naive or ...perhaps none too bright himself in the ways of the human psyche (there, I was gentle.)

Now, nonetheless, I believe he has all the right in the world to try to learn and experience what teaching is really like, He can believe anything he wants. HOWEVER, good luck on him getting hired by any school in the public sphere.

Since he was in school on a probationary basis, he has no beef with being disinvited to continue.

I particularly liked his discussion of how he would use contact with the parents, not the students. Good luck on that, too, with the kids who are creating problems-- there is usually a reason why that's so, and it has to do with the parents and never being told "no" at home.

As for self-esteem, I believe real self-esteem comes from doing a job right, not before one does a job right. I dislike the idea of giving every kid an award for something-- it actually undermines self-esteem, because the kids KNOW they're getting something for nothing.

Mr. McConnell is as unrealistic as those people who disdain teaching content in the interest of affective development. It is no doubt a kindness to save him money until he gets a bit of a dose of reality. He is a fool who dreams of a time that never was and certainly will never be.

Coach Brown

Obviously, this guy is very naive to the actual world of teaching students. He has no clue about the challenges of teaching a diverse populationa and would utterly fail in any attempt to do so.

Saying that, it sounds like Mr. McConnell is dealing with the frustration that many of use have to deal with. The concept of what practices are best used in an "inclusive" classroom has been debated for years, especially lately with the massive influx if ESL students from around the world. I'm not even going to touch the issue of Special Education students. Obviously, they need accomidations to fit their disability. However, I think that so many kids are misdiagnosed, and so many IEP's are tools of enabling, that although I can't agree with MCConnell's methods, I see the basis for his frustration. Same with multicultural education. When we base our teaching on culture, and not the best teaching practices, then we are actually doing children a diservice. Yes, some of his style is old and proved to be ineffective (social isolation, corporal punishment), but again, this comes from the frustration of having to deal with society that isn't necessarily focused on education. It seems focused on being nice.
Take the last point about classroom environment:
" The classroom environment would only be conducive to learning and occasionally having fun, after all the work is done. The student's main objective would be to work hard, focus on making themselves better citizens, and improving their community at school and at home. The classroom environment would revolve strictly around the American culture and state culture, not multicultural learning. In addition, the classroom would be micromanaged so that the students would only have time to eat lunch and use the restrooom. Team building exercises would be implemented into the school day so that students could learn to work with one anther. They will not be placed into cooperative groups to do work. To sum up the classroom environment, I would run the class like a dictatorship."

First of all, the only objectionable part of that comment is the dictatorship portion, and that is a stretch. Does any teacher (at least at the high school level) truely call their classroom "democratic"? The best teacher's I've ever seen are benevolent dictators, showing the illusion of giving the kids power, but really pulling the strings for the successfull instruction of the kids. Other than that, let's run down the objectives:
-Work ethic with a little fun.
-Better community
-Better citizens
-Teach immigrants the culture they actually need to be successful in (ie this one)
-Show them the effectiveness of teamwork
-Show them the effectiveness of individual work
-Show them what work in the real world is like

Now, I'd throw in some recess for the younger ages, and PE for all ages, but his goals for a successful learning environment are admirable.

As for his way to go about, not my style. But again, I feel his frustration. Notice all the results towards education and the statistics about literacy, and the prepardness of college bound kids. The touchy-feely teaching method is also not cutting it.

Stephen Lazar

You asked me in the comments on my blog: "What do you think? Does McConnell have a mind-set that is appropriate for a classroom teacher? Is his approach one you would be glad to see in a colleague?"

Obviously he's naive, but I wrote some pretty naieve things when I was in college as well (granted, from a different POV) so I don't think that's a real valid criticism. My gut feeling from reading the essay is that he was writing a polemic. I have no way of knowing if this represents his real mind set, so I can't really comment on if he should be a teacher from it. This certainly is nowhere near my mindset, but I've worked with teachers who have VERY different mindsets from me and are still effective teachers. I'd have to see the guy in practice.

With that said, there are two points that would give me seriously concern: his desire to use corporal punishment, as well as his disregarding of "special" needs. The bottom line is that corporal punishment is illegal, and IEP accomadations are mandated by law. It really doesn't matter what he, or I, think of them - they're part of the game. If he is simply going to disregard the law in his classroom, then he probably shouldn't be teaching in a public school.

Dana Huff

I, too, have concerns about the corporal punishment and absolute refusal to consider divergent points of view. How he plans to teach American anything without multiculturalism is beyond me. I think Ms. Cornelius is right -- he'll be hard pressed to find a job with this sort of thinking, and if he manages, reality will smack him the face so hard he won't last three weeks.

k from the bog

>>I do not feel that giving special rights to some children and not to others belongs in the school. For example, in an inclusion classroom, if a child is given extra time, then all students should be given extra time.<<

I ran into this attitude when my cohort started discussing sped kids. Drove me nuts. Most of them (we are all midlife teacher candidates)have never run into a sped child.
I ended up doing a class presentation on children with dyslexia starring my very bright and dyslexic youngest son.

Scott McConnell's comment should be rephrased. Since dyslexic children work up to five times harder than normal children ( why we should give those normal children five times the work TO MAKE IT FAIR!!!!

Sherman Dorn

If LeMoyne had dismissed McConnell because of failing grades, based on the quality of his papers, then no one could really argue. But they didn't. This is what comes from not making the right decision the first time. I've occasionally had to swallow the consequences of my grading decisions, not very comfortably, but them's the breaks, and I generally decide just to learn from my mistakes, not to compound them with violations of due process.

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