Sunday, February 05, 2012

Active Participation Is Not For Everyone

Mr. Principal walked into Ms. Worrier's class.  He  noticed a class that was participating and actively involved in the lesson.  He also noticed Shyboy, a young man who did not speak once during the 15 minute drive by observation.  Mr. Principal asked the boy's name and then looked up his record on his I-pad.  He saw that Shyboy was a poor student.

Later in the day, Ms. Worrier got a letter requiring her to attend a meeting with Mr. Principal.  She couldn't think of anything she had done wrong, but her nature got the best of her.  As her stomach churned, she made her way to his office.

Once inside, Mr. Principal did commend Ms. Worrier on some of the things he saw.  She, however, looked in his eyes and saw the big but about to arrive.  Sure enough, without hesitation, it all came out.  Mr. Principal began reprimanding Ms. Worrier because Shyboy was not called on during the period.  She tried to explain Shyboy's fear of talking, his thick accent and his fear of getting the wrong answer.  She explained Shyboy had been a cutter and she didn't want to do anything to scare him off.  Mr. Principal didn't care.  He told her everyone should be forced to participate.

I was reminded of this incident during today's Zumba class.  I have two left feet and am as graceful as an elephant in a china shop.  I always stand in the back and try to stay behind a fat woman so I cannot even be seen in the mirror.  After 20 minutes, the teacher had everyone in the back move to the front.  I thought I would die.  I stayed several minutes and then slowly made my way back.  The teacher noticed and said nothing.  She came back a few times to offer help and encouragement, but she let me be.  I finished the class and plan on going to many more.  If she had made an issue about my position, I probably would have left and never returned. 

Ms. Worrier knew her student.  She knew the best way to reach him was to let him be.  She didn't scare him off by forcing him to do something he didn't want to do.  He worked hard in class and his refusal to speak had nothing to do with his learning.  Shyboy went on to pass the class and pass the regents.

Active participation is not for everyone.  Too bad administrators don't know that.  It is a shame Ms. Worrier was put on the spot, forced to unsuccessfully defend herself when she did what was best for the child.


NYC Educator said...

I agree that it's sometimes better to leave kids alone. In fact, kids may be going through traumas unknown to supervisors. Sometimes after teachers themselves upset kids, by calling their homes or demanding work, or complaining about a test score, or whatever, it's best to give a cooling-off period. In any case, nothing is ever really one-size-fits-all.

Anonymous said...

These principals and APs have no sensitivity to the needs of our students. i was a shy child in school. It really "hurt" if a teacher "made" me speak when i was not comfortable. But most knew other ways to find out the kind of student I was. I am a much more confident person because of their caring and nurturing. I get the same kind of responses from administrators when many of my ELLS don't or refuse to speak. That doesn't mean they know nothing. I know my students. I am with them all day long. I know who can and can't and how to reach each one. Administrators need to take a step back and consult with the teacher instead of making assumptions. They are hurting our students by forcing them into roles they are not ready for. Not everyone is going to be a politician. And BTW, I know plenty of politicians who do not have a public speaking ability. Perhaps they too were shy or quieter children growing up. Thanks for this report.

ChiTown Girl said...

I don't want to even touch the school stuff, lest I go off on a rant. However, I do want to say that I'm really proud of you for sticking with the Zumba. Good for you!! You just may be the inspiration I need to finally sign up for the local Zumba class.