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! 
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