Do they understand?

Discussion in 'Behavior Management' started by TeacherShelly, Jul 19, 2007.

  1. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Jul 19, 2007

    Hi!

    I'm finishing summer school tomorrow and have a question. Today I experimented with helping all of the kids in class understand an assignment - we choral read the three sentence instructions, then I had a volunteer paraphrase the instructions, another volunteer defined the terms, and I asked each student to raise their hand if they knew what to do. Ok, "Begin!"

    Several kids finished in a minute or two. Then one tugged my sleeve and whispered, "What are we supposed to do?" I couldn't believe it - so I got down to her level and asked, "I'm curious. Remember when we went over the directions together as a class, and everyone said they knew what to do? What could I have done to help you really know, or so you could have told me before that you didn't understand?" The look on her face was a form of terror. I stopped and said, "I'm sorry, Jessica, I put you on the spot. Let me help you," and went over the directions again.

    She was not the only one - two others also did not know what to do. One was staring around blankly with his paper also blank. I asked him if he had a question, and he said, "I don't get it." Same for the other one, "I don't get it."

    Initially I was disgusted that they wouldn't understand what seemed simple to me, and that all of my efforts to gain their understanding were failures. Then I got curious again and tried to figure out what was going on.

    My husband is of Asian descent. He didn't have to hear my whole story before he said, "Are these kids Asian?" (they are) and told me it's a cultural thing. "You must never ask a question or appear to not understand something. Yes! is the only acceptable answer when asked if you understand. And if you fail, you will be treated as a failure." This is how he was raised. He said the girl's terror face was a result of her facing the impossible paradox that she HAD TO understand but DID NOT. I was really saddened by this. Another boy of Asian descent in the class was actually crying and pulling his hair today for missing a math question on the computer. No one even knew he missed it. He told the teacher, "I do NOT like to display my failures!" when asked what was so upsetting to him. He was hitting his own head and crying.

    All the behavior management training I've received has NOT prepared me for kids who absolutely cannot fail YET cannot ask for help either.

    Anyone also seeing this? Ideas?
    Stumped,
    TeacherShelly
     
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  3. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Jul 19, 2007

    Looking for some insight from some of you teachers... anything?
     
  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Jul 19, 2007

    I wish I had some great insights or solutions for you. There was an interesting post on another thread stating that we need to understand the roadblocks to education that come with different cultural backgrounds--you have certainly encountered one here. I wish more teachers took the time to ensure understanding like you did; it is helpful to all of your students, even those who won't admit that they don't understand. Maybe you could talk to these students privately and individually, explain that you know they are reluctant to ask for help and that you respect that, but you need to be sure that they understand the work and instructions so that they can be successful. Work with them to develop a private, discrete signal that they can give you so that you know they need more clarification, you can then, in the course of your movement throughout the class, help them further.
     
  5. cjven

    cjven Rookie

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    Jul 19, 2007

    I think it's important to remember that in a group setting most kids are not going to raise their hand and tell you that they don't understand.

    I'm not sure how to help you in your current situation but just keep walking around after they begin the assignment and check to make sure everyone is on the sam page!
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jul 19, 2007

    One sees the same thing with GATE kids, Shelly - kids who are GATE (for the rest of you, that's California's acronym "gifted and talented education") learn very early in life that their job is to get the answers right and to get them before anyone else does, and I'm afraid that primary education as we know it does little to nothing to disabuse them of that notion. About all I can suggest is modeling ways to fail well - try something, don't succeed at it, get a discussion going about how it feels not to succeed and ways to deal with that feeling, and emphasize the appropriateness of getting help when help is called for. AND keep working the room as you've done!
     
  7. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jul 19, 2007

    My favorite question is: "Is there anyone who doesn't know what to ask, but just doesn't understand??"

    Maybe some form of that might help?
     
  8. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Jul 19, 2007


    I also ask if anyone would like me to do another example with them.
     
  9. Christine3

    Christine3 Cohort

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    Jul 19, 2007

    Love it!
     
  10. Christine3

    Christine3 Cohort

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    But I ALWAYS walk around the room after I assigned out something. For someone you looks "lost" I just begin re-explaining the steps...I do it even if they don't ask then others can hear too.
     
  11. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Jul 20, 2007

    Thank you sincerely!

    Thanks for the replies. I am so grateful.

    Alice, that is brilliant - I'm sure I'll ask this every day. I'll bet kids respond well to this question.

    TeacherGroupie, indeed. GATE students learn very early in life that their job is to get the answers right and to get them before anyone else does, and I'm afraid that primary education as we know it does little to nothing to disabuse them of that notion.

    It makes my hear ache. And then I get to action. The idea of modeling failure is full of potential. I remember my daughter learning to roller skate - she fell a few times and looked ready to give up, tears in her eyes. Then I staged a fall with big arms and a loud, "whoop!", ending with my legs and arms flailing in the air, shrieking, "What happened?!". She cracked up, laughing so hard. Then she did it. She "practiced" her falls, laughing hard every time, and became pretty good at skating.

    Now, applying this to the classroom...
     
  12. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jul 20, 2007

    You could:
    have them turn and tell a partner what the directions are and then indicate with thumbs up if understand, down if don't understand, sideways if there are questions

    give them cups- red and green stacked together. If the red cup is showing it's an indiction to the teacher to stop by to help when the tudent is working, if it's green they are 'on the go' and ok...
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Get students understanding that failure isn't the end, and, paradoxically, test scores and achievement are likely to go up - because students will begin to be comfortable taking risks with what they know and extrapolating their knowledge - if it's safe for the GATE students to make mistakes, it's safe for everyone else too.
     
  14. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    This thread has been incredibly interesting to me. Although I am not of Asian descent, I was one of the kids who was not supposed to say they don't understand. (Some would say it's the "oldest child" syndrome, too). If I made a B, the world was going to end. I don't know when I grew out of it, but I definitely remember the incredible amount of stress I felt! I needed the reminder, because I will need to reach kids like that, too!
     
  15. BASAM

    BASAM Comrade

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    There are always kids who are not going to feel comfortable asking for help in front of everyone so after the lesson is finished and they begin the independent part I always end with if you don't understand come and see me and then I go sit down somewhere for a least 10 minutes before I start walking around. If someone comes up during that time I help them out and then I know that they need more check in's while I am up.
     
  16. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    "Could you do a sample, please?"
     
  17. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Jul 21, 2007

    Where did I just read this? Deja vu.
     
  18. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    Jul 21, 2007

    I went through the same thing with my own daughter (A GATE kid) when she hit about third grade and it didn't get better until this summer. She's always gotten A's in her accelerated programs but she just didn't know how to say she didn't know!! Poor thing!! She's starting 8th in the fall and is just now learning how to say "Mom, I don't get this!" or "Mom, I need your help!" I LOVE it because she's never said those words before! I've always had to sit back and keep my mouth shut or the situation would get worse. It was a long 4 year wait!
     
  19. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Jul 25, 2007

    I found it on a website... but I couldn't find it in my bookmarks. I happened to write that quote down in my notepad.
     

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