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Tuesday, September 11, 2007


  1. Guess What’s In My Mind. As a student this one drives me nutsI consider this game dishonest. If you ask a question, you should care about the person’s answer. The best questions (unless it’s a review for a test) are those the speaker does not have a definitive answer to. If you find yourself asking others to guess what’s in your mind, I think the most obvious thing to do is to tell your audience to guess what’s in your mind or to give them the answer and move on.
  2. Poll Taking. Virtually every teacher I have observed makes this mistake frequently. They ask "does everyone understand?" or "can we go on?" or "do you remember that?" And three "smacks" who always nod their heads affirmatively nod their heads affirmatively and the teacher assumes these three speak for the entire class and continues. If you want accurate class feedback to an important question, you should take a quick, but accurate, person-by-person pole.
  3. Competing with self. This mistake is almost as ubiquitous as the previous two. Its most frequent manifestation is that the teacher has already passed out the worksheet and now s/he is trying to make some unrelated point to the entire class." In private you can have honest discussions with students, but "arguments" in front of the class harm the integrity of the professional role. "Let’s talk about it after class" is a much safer out.
  4. Disciplining a student in front of peers. I have never had a student who was a discipline problem when confronted alone. I have never found a "safe" discipline problem when confronting a student in front of his/her peers. Don’t put them in that predicament of being "cornered."
  5. Apologizing Don’t ever apologize. And I mean by that don’t ever make excuses in front of the class. "I forgot the worksheet." I couldn’t get the movie projector."Sometimes the lessons with missing components work for no explicable reason. So don’t apologize, justify, defend. No use making things even worse.
  6. No wait time after questions. I think every teacher makes this mistake every class. It’s okay to wait at least ten seconds so students learn you are serious about soliciting good answers.
  7. Not circulating throughout the class during seat work. I know why teachers don’t circulate much during seat work and why they don’t like to do so. Students need to be successful early to reach high standards later.
  8. Attention reinforces negative behavior. As much as possible, ignoring the negative behavior and reinforcing other constructive behaviors works more effectively.
  9. Teaching stuff you wouldn’t learn.
  10. Overcalling the name of a student you are worried about. I recently observed a truly exceptional P.E. class, but his near flawless teacher called one name, "Anthony," over half the times a student’s name was called.
  11. Bias in grading tests with names on them. In my undergraduate days I saw a classmate in her freshman year get typified as an "A" student.
  12. Taking things personally. One of the radical ideas is the old Postman and Weingarten’s book Teaching As A Subversive Activity was that teachers be required to teach outside their specialty.
  13. Red INK. Who decided to use red ink? James Herndon know. It was Noman. Red ink is as indigenous to teaching as unreadable prescriptions to medical doctors. And like unreadable prescriptions, red ink is dangerous.
  14. Threats. Many, if not most, books on discipline recommend making conditional statements to students. "If you don’t __________, then I’ll _______." Fill in the blanks. I’m troubled by that approach for two reasons. First, too many teachers learn to make the threat, but don’t follow through. Slow death. Second, as soon as you say, "if you don’t sit down, I’m going to send you to the principals," you’ve backed yourself up against a wall.
  15. Asking, "Why are you doing this?" I am amazed how many teachers ask students, "Why are you doing that?" Haven’t teachers read Mad Magazine’s Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions? Why did you hit Sam? Why did you pass that note? What do you think you are doing? Dumb! I hit Sam because he has an ugly wart on his nose
  16. Being perfect. I do a rather elaborate oral interpretation of Edgar Allen Poe’s "Telltale Heartyou can see all the artical inthe following site http://arachnid.pepperdine.edu/goseweb/GMSTKES.html

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