Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 29, 2014

MARK HEINIG: Teaching a 1-word lesson: Why, how to do it

Saying no terrifies some teachers, administrators, parents

On May 1, the Kokomo Tribune published my column complaining that adults have surrendered control of our Hoosier schools to the pupils. I hope to elaborate on that theme in this column.

Another school year is ending, and old, retired teachers like me can’t resist the temptation to compare today’s school kids with yesterday’s. It’s part of the overpowering urge of all old-timers to tell younger adults how much better we were at running the world than they are!

Truthfully, we did do some things better, but certainly not everything. Younger teachers make better use of technology to enrich and enliven their lessons. However, they aren’t as good at teaching the one-word lesson that determines the success or failure of most subsequent learning.

That one-word lesson is no! It’s a simple lesson I used for 40 years in Hoosier schools, both public and nonpublic. Educators depend on it to build a structured environment that helps young people learn.

Saying no in the context of the one-word lesson doesn’t mean we never say yes. It means adults set the boundaries and make the rules, not the children. Within that context, educators can teach important concepts without losing control.

Good learning requires good behavior. Most youngsters want to learn, but sometimes they can’t. When a few students are inattentive, uncooperative, disruptive, rude and defiant, nobody learns! Can teachers overcome this when the children control the adults? Not without help!

Some administrators pretend to have such marvelous schools and well-behaved pupils, they don’t need the one-word lesson. That’s misleading. I have yet to find a perfect student or a perfect school. I don’t think anybody else has either.

What I have found are some teachers, administrators and parents who ignore the one-word lesson. Saying no terrifies them. Denying requests and enforcing rules isn’t easy, and these people love the easy way! They choose the path of least resistance. That path is comfortable, but it leads nowhere.

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