Saturday, November 13, 2004

Having the Stupids

The last post here reminded me of an insight into a particular student behavior that I got about 20 years ago when I was the parent of three teen-aged boys. When my sons screwed up on something, they often took refuge in locutions such as "I forgot" or "I didn't know" or "no one told me." They'd get these "I'm just a kid, whaddaya expect" looks on their faces.

I began to recognize the same technique among some of my students. I had long realized that some students try to turn teachers into parents--and then they can use the well-honed "having the stupids" methods on teacher qua parent. But teachers aren't parents--and it's a trap when we let students maneuver us into that role.

The two ways I usually deal with this are to turn the responsibility back on the student (essentially what Rosa G did with her students) and/or to name it. When I get a lot of "stupids" behavior in a given class, I just call it that. "Oh, we're having the stupids today, eh?" The first time I explain what I mean by the "stupids" and usually see lots of recognitions around the classroom. Probably some students don't even recognize their method because they've used it so successfully for many years.

This particular insight is an example of what Schon and others call practicioner knowledge. Experienced teachers develop insights from the act of teaching. Sometimes we can make those insights explicit and theorize them. Other times, we just apply such an insight because it works. Getting a lot of teachers to capture this kind of practicioner knowledge would be a worthy project. It's one function this blog might serve.


At 1:08 AM, Blogger Styles said...

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At 1:10 AM, Blogger Styles said...

The ruses you describe are, I think students should know, a source of delightful academic anecdotes from the trenches. Teachers usually share "stupids" over drinks. What Gerald Graff has called "Teaching the Conflicts" maybe applies. Jocalo, you've effectively broadened our understanding of his stuffy concept. Stupids! What a Cool Word!


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