Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day #2---Mr. Thompson's strict! (Or What makes us human?)

After school this afternoon, I bumped into one of the 6th grade teachers.  She mentioned that her former 6th graders had termed me strict.  This is probably the first time in my teaching career that I've been labeled as such.  At first, I was slightly dismayed, but then realized that my ploy is working!  Hammer'em hard at first so they get it and later, you can ease back a little.  WoooWhoooo!

Actually, I find it interesting that having expectations for respect and kindness being means being dubbed strict.  Now, I won't go into the way it used to be when I was in school--which seems further and further away each time I think it, but when did expecting students to be nice to one another become strict?

Example:  When calling roll, one of the names got several snickers and a few outright guffaws.  I immediately stopped and brought to the class just how inappropriate their laughter was.  Thankfully, this student wasn't in class.  Thankfully, the child didn't show up to be laughed out of the class by disrespectful children who aren't mature enough to understand how hurtful this could be to someone.

When did this become okay?  I've heard it argued that when corporal punishment went away, behavior went as well.  I'm not sure.  I don't relish the thought of spanking any of my students.  For many, I'm not sure it would even work----at least not at my level.  Regardless, there are standards of behavior that must still be taught to pre-adolescents and adolescents that we, as teachers, can't assume they should know just because they made it to middle school.  As much as I'd like to say it's not my responsibility to teach these expectations, I know that if I don't, it may not get done.  I also know that if I don't supply the right amount of scaffolding for my students they won't be successful.  Behavioral expectations are part of this necessary framework and I'm happy to provide it--even if I'm labeled as strict.

I chuckled at that.  Me?  Strict?  Nope--I just demand that we treat each other as human---with courtesy and respect.  I don't think this makes me strict, but I'll accept the label if it helps my students understand the value of another human being.

Speaking of humanity...A favorite novel of mine is Metaplanetary by Tony Daniel.  It's hard science fiction set in the far future.  It's a novel of interplanetary war (per the book cover), but speaks to the notion of what defines us as human.  It's got lots about nanotech and whatnot like that, but it's the relationships between the characters that I really like.  Particularly, I'm interested in the relationship between Danis and Kelly Graytor.  He's human--biological, and she's a free convert--a complex program.  They have two children.  The antagonist in the story is determined to coop every free convert in the inner system, the Met, while the outer system has no trouble accepting free converts into every aspect of daily life. I first read Metaplanetary while teaching World War II to my students several years ago.  I was reminded of man's inhumanity to man seen not only during the Holocaust, but the "little" things leading up to Hitler's Final Solution.  Remember the Pyramid of Hate?  Hate begins with something most would consider insignificant.  Acts of subtle bias I believe it's called.  Below is a link to the pyramid from the Anti-defamation League.  Have a look and see if it changes your view of certain things kids and many adults say without a second thought.  (Soapbox...)


Anyway---It's a good book.  I liked it and so should you!

I also just finished Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick.  It's the novel that the movie Blade Runner was based on.  Definitions of humanity are considered here as well.  A good read.  If you've only seen the movie, I recommend the novel.  It's different to be sure, but much of the gist remains. 

Anywho...I like novels where questions of humanity are considered.  Call me a geek or a nerd.  Doesn't matter.  Good stories are good stories. 


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