It seems to me…we must constantly look for ways to encourage students to want to learn and make learning interesting, if not exciting. As a teacher I have kept up with current needs, new methods and computer programs that help both students and teachers. I strongly believe that learning should be fun but recognize it does require hard work. Every semester I revise my courses to incorporate the latest in information and methods of transmitting it to students. To be clear, I don’t believe all the old ways are best, but it always involves hard work. So, after decades of teaching elementary, high school and college, I just don’t get this new “activity hall” program that Stafford County schools are adopting and introducing at Conway Elementary this year.
As I understand it, one purpose of having a hallway with activities painted on the walls and floors is to have a place for “fidgety students” or a whole class of “fidgety students” to go when they get fidgety. The teacher sends a “fidgety student” to the hall to get release from the fidgets. I suppose they will have someone in this “activity hall” who knows what to do with each “fidgety student”, or a handful of “fidgety students” and possibly fidgety for different reasons. Or, will the students be sent to the “activity hall” without a hall supervisor and allowed to do as they please. While there, is there a requirement they must fulfill? Is there a gauge to determine when they have rid themselves of the “fidgets.” Are there “fidgety standards” by which a teacher determines when a student is indeed “fidgety” enough to warrant a trip to the activity hall?
Now, I can tell you that on the college level where I have been teaching for many years, most of the students develop “fidgets.” I also recognize that forever in the schools of every generation students have had “fidgets.” To be honest, I’ve had fidgets even in graduate school classes. However, I knew leaving the classroom does not contribute to learning. Students miss information covered in class while they are out in the “activity hall.” And there will be some students who will learn that being “fidgety” is a free ticket out of the classroom. Also, knowing how students — especially in elementary, middle and high school — think, there will be students who will develop signals so buddies can get “fidgety” to get out of class and go to the “activity hall.”
Now, I’m not suspicious or a classroom curmudgeon, I just know what students do. And, the more we allow them to escape from learning, the more we cater to the non-learner at the expense of the “non-fidgety” learner.
I recognize some students have emotional needs that makes them “fidgety” and we have a system that is designed to help these students learn. Many schools have special needs programs, with teachers trained to teach students with emotional problems. I tip my hat to these teachers. Theirs is not an easy task but what they do addresses special learning needs using methods that address the core issues. They deal with the root cause of the student’s issue.
Sending a student to the “activity hall” provides some relief to the student, class or teacher, but it doesn’t deal with the root cause and fidgety will remain day after day.
Teachers should be capable of judging when they need to change the pace, provide a break, move to another topic or whatever adjustment needs to be employed to keep the students on the learning path. Granted, every teacher has a time when they are “losing” the attention of much of their class. As a professional, they know what to do because their goal is to teach and not send students out of the classroom. The bottom line is sending “fidgety” students to the activity hall is not dealing with the root cause of what makes them “fidgety.”
I have experienced that more students are leaving high school with very short attention spans and a lack of focus and are “fidgety.” While I may be criticized, I believe one of the root causes is a lack of discipline at home and carries over into school. I don’t blame the teachers. They are restricted on how they apply discipline. I know they do their best, but the school system and the legal system make it difficult to apply “tough love.”
I don’t believe in using any harsh treatments in education. But, when we send a child to school, it should be clear to the child that they are there to learn and learning sometimes is hard work. Learning to do anything well is hard work, whether it is music, mathematics or science, or athletics. Learning to deal with hard work takes concentration, focus and personal discipline. Many things in life are difficult and involve hard work and learning to deal with hard work is necessary in all aspects of life. Students must learn that when they get a job and they get “fidgety” on the job, there is no activity hall. Well, at least not up to now.
Harvey Gold is a contributing writer at InsideNova. Reach him at StaffordNews@insidenova.com.