Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Was This 3rd Grade Teacher Going Overboard?

Last month was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  In an attempt to illustrate what it was like for the slaves to ride in a ship, below deck, without moving for days or even months, a teacher made her 3rd graders lay down on a rug and not move for 45 minutes.  Now, for me, I'd love it.  I'd pass out and not wake up for awhile and totally come out of the teaching experience thinking that while it must have totally sucked to have had to travel worse than steerage class, and against my will at that, I definitely needed the rest.  But for a classroom full of 3rd graders, that might be a little bit of a  hard lesson.  A real concept of time and a sense of empathy for others based on their own experiences are things that we don't really expect them to fully grasp at this time in their short lives
   I think that possibly a 15 minutes stretch would have been ample time to show them how hard it must have been to lay like that on a ship coming to America. 
  Evidently, though, a parent feels so strongly that this was a misuse of a teacher's authority that she has filed a complaint with the Canyons School District's office of civil rights.  The mother, a legal emigrant from an Eastern European country several years ago said this kind of teaching tactic hits too close to home.  She grew up in a school system ruled by the old Soviet Union, which "introduced a destructive educational system: teachers enjoying corporal punishments, verbal abuse and humiliation, voiceless students and helpless parents."   
    I believe that the above is a true statement, based on my acquaintance with my friend, Viktoriya, who grew up in the Ukraine and told me tales of the teachers there, who were very cruel and humiliating to students.  
   I do not believe, however, that this teacher was acting irresponsibly or cruelly.  Perhaps, uninformed and overly dramatic would be better descriptions.  I don't believe there is any looming danger of our school systems becoming encumbered with teachers who are empowered with weapons of corporal discipline and lack of guidelines.  Not a chance. I think this teacher was a young and zealous teacher, with strong beliefs about this historical event in America.  I say no harm, no foul! 


CassiLou said...

I like your term 'overly dramatic'. Honestly, laying down for 45 minutes is not bad at all. Now if she were screaming at them or saying she would absolutely not allow any bathroom breaks or something then I could understand how it was not o.k.

But to be honest I think teachers are bullied way too much by parents to baby their kids. I'm with you. No harm, no foul.

Lynn said...

So it hits "close to home." Then the other students can have more empathy for her child. Besides, it is actually not even close to the same as steerage. She needed to introduce seasickness and odors and buckets for bathrooms, maggots in the hard biscuits, and darkness for days on end. Now that would be realistic!

Of course I would not approve of such actions; but I think having to lie still for a little while is okay.

Amber or Asiyah said...

I would have to say that I stand up for this teacher. I think our kids are babied way too much and not understand what happens and how privileged they are. I have spent much time in 3rd world countries. One time in fact I traveled in side a Palestinian camp. They literally live on top each other. I have a sister in law who lives in one camp. She has a house that is les sq then a one bedroom here in Cali, it has 4 tiny rooms she has 6 kids, and they live on the lower floor, they get no sunlight because the houses are built next to one another, the windows open to a brick wall. The front door opens to the drainage ditch that carries all sorts of stuff and its not enclosed so you have to be careful not to fall in it. This is something they live in every day 24hrs a day, they have a curfew that they can’t leave the camp in times, no play grounds, no gardens and no sun its dark, wet and cramped. The sad thing is they have no choice in this at all. Because they are refuges they can’t live anywhere else’s but these camps.

So to take 45 mins to show how cramped these slaves lived is just a few sec of what their lives went thru and as one person said they didn’t include all that the slaves had to endure. I think the parent is going overboard !!!


Mehnaz Kapadia said...

If the kids were just told to lie down,thats fine i guess! But you know how fidgety the kids get and in such a case if the teacher scolded them not to move or do ANYTHING else, then thats wrong! Looking at the negative aspect, i would say 45 mins was too much! Probably the teacher herself wanted to take a 45 minute nap :p

Barbarawr said...

I agree with you that it was simply a case of an enthusiastic teacher making a bad choice. I believe that it is far better to have teachers like this who are using innovative ways to teach our children than to have the old beaten down teachers using the same slides (OK - probably not slides anymore - they probably made powerpoint presentations from their old slides) to teach the same boring lessons year after year after year.

Jennifer R. said...

I work in a school district. Kindergartners have a rest daily for 45 minutes. I'm with you, no harm no foul.

Sarah said...

I was a teacher. Five minutes would have been enough for a demonstration for third graders. Did they really prove it was actually 45 minutes. If so, this lady was definitely crazy and wanted a break from the kids. When I was tired of the kids, I'd have them read silently or write in their journals/activity books for a few minutes. Although not the best use of time, at least it was constructive. If they actually had to lie there for 45 minutes, this teacher should be supervised more often!

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