How do you view your students?

There is always discussion in schools, professional circles, and social media about managing student behavior.  This post was born out of a recent discussion on Twitter about behavior management, PBIS, carrots, sticks, etc. 

My thoughts began to circle around the word “manage.”  This is another of those words that reminds us that education was formed around the factory model. Managers/supervisors exist in factory work to oversee the floor labor.  Managers exist in fast food to oversee the high school students workers.  Managers exist in telemarketing offices to oversee the entry-level phone bank operators.  (I realize that this is a bit shortsighted in my view of managers, but bear with me.)  

Why don’t photographers, artists, and musicians need managers?  Why don’t doctors and nurses need managers?  Why don’t teachers and preachers need managers?  In my view, there is one big difference in the two categories of work.  In one group (the one with managers), people work to make money.  Ask someone working at a local fast-food restaurant why he/she is working there.  You won’t get an answer filled with deep philosophy, you’ll get an answer that relates directly back to making money.  In the second group (the one without managers), people work to fulfill their passions, to live out their visions, to make a difference.  Some might say that they work at their craft because they are driven to (by an internal drive).  

In the first group, managers work to ensure standards of quality.  In the second group, no manager is needed.  People working to fulfill their passions always work toward standards of quality (quite often these personal standards are higher than those that might be held up by a manager).  

So what does this all have to do with education?  This is a blog related to education, right?  If we assume that students need managers (i.e. behavior management, PBIS, etc.) , then we are also making other assumptions about them–putting them in the first group described above.  (CAUTION: this next part may reflect more on you than on your students.)  This means that we don’t trust students to do quality work–we feel they need managers to ensure that.  We don’t trust students to live up to a standard of behavior–we need managers to ensure that as well.  Most of all, this means that the work the students are doing is not connected to their personal passions–or their teachers have not imparted passion for the subject to the students.  

As you reflect on last year, or begin to think about next year, ask yourself, “Do I consider my students more like factory workers in need of a manger, or more like artists who will naturally seek quality?”  If you don’t like that question, ask this one:  “Do I want to train my students to be conformists so that they’ll be ready for factory managers, or do I want to train free-thinkers who will follow their passions and transform the world (or at least their part of the world)?”  

Your answer to these questions will make a big difference in how you plan for your classroom.  Do you want a COMMUNITY of artist or a group of factory workers in need of a manager? How will you make your vision a reality? 

**For more information on forming classroom community, see Beyond Discipline by Alfie Kohn.  

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About tkslibrarian

Middle school science teacher--hoping to inspire wonder
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