Order and Respect in the Classroom

Order and Respect in the ClassroomLitreracy Weblog)

[Note: I’ve changed the title of this entry and edited it slightly — mostly by changing which words I used to link to Mike Arnzen’s blog. The previous version the previous version implied an association that I didn’t mean to create.]

On his PEDABLOGUE, Mike Arnzen confesses he raised his voice at his students today, because they were rustling papers and preparing a portfolio to be collected at the end of the period, rather than paying attention to his lecture. I also had a lot of students submitting work today, but I specifically asked them not to use binders — just a staple or a clip was fine. I admire my colleague for trying to get some serious teaching in the day before a vacation — I just used the day to preview some upcoming assignments and grade part of a quiz in-class, and let them go about 5 minutes early.

Due to the power differential in a classroom, I try to be very careful about raising my voice or getting mad. I try to smile almost all the time; I’ve felt since high school that, when I listen to recordings of my own voice, I often sound annoyed or angry. [And sometimes, I let students get away with behavior that would offend me if I were a fellow student. I was already pondering this issue when I learned that…] According to Stuart Twemlow, there’s a problem in schools — teachers are bullying their students. See the article responding to Twemlow, on “Irascible Professor.”

Twemlow (with his associates) has a few academic articles on his website, www.backoffbully.com, but as you can guess from the name that website markets videos and a curriculum to school systems. Of the articles posted on his site, one — “Feeling Safe in School (PDF)” is identified as having been published elsewhere in a shorter form; when it was peer-reviewed, apparently parts of it were cut. The bibliography for that paper mentions at least four articles by the same researchers (in varying combinations of names) that hadn’t yet been published.

So… researcher makes claims about a problem. Researcher also happens to sell videos and other materials to solve that problem.

I trust that the academic peer-review process will do its job and ensure the accuracy of Tremlow’s published works and the validity of his research methods. There’s nothing wrong with making an honest buck, but this is a potential conflict of interest. A good journalist should notice and be skeptical. There’s a difference between cynics and skeptics, of course — I don’t want to exaggerate the issue. Nevertheless… keep an open mind, but double-check publicity information coming from somebody with a product to sell (something the TV reporter duped by the “Hunting for Bambi” hoax didn’t do).