Let’s call her Mrs Browne. You probably know her. There’s one in practically every school.
Mrs Browne’s been teaching for thirty years. She knows what she’s doing.
Mrs Browne’s classes get fantastic results in tests and exams. Her students run to get to her classes. None of them ever dare to bunk her lessons.
Her classroom is her castle. Her desk and her prep tables and her kettle and her clutter take up a third of the classroom space. And of course the students’ desks are placed in tight, straight rows.
Mrs Browne arranges her students according to their results in the last test they wrote. (Her students write a test a week.) The ‘dummies’ (mostly boys) sit in the front so that they can focus better. The smarties sit at the back.
Mrs Browne loves the smarties. She’s not so keen on the dummies. Some kids are just not cut out for her subject, she tells anyone who will listen. Someone once told her that this was tantamount to child abuse. She laughed.
Fear is a great motivator, according to Mrs Browne. If kids are scared of her, she gets more out of them. They’re afraid of being late, of not doing their homework and of asking questions in class. (Why would they need to ask questions? – She’s taught the work hasn’t she?)
Every day, her students have plenty of homework to do. Mrs Browne’s believes in ‘rigor’. Uniforms have to be neat and tidy because that shows respect.
Students are required to leave bags outside so that they don’t get in her way as she patrols. And the air is always a little too cold in her class.
Mrs Browne calls her students names and demeans them because she thinks it’s funny.
At professional development sessions, Mrs Browne is a tyrant. She sees no reason why kids need to be taught to think, much less how to think about their thinking.
And don’t even get her started about this newfangled technology stuff. Brain-based learning and collaborative structures? Not for Mrs Browne thank you. It isn’t relevant to her subject.
Decades’ worth of young minds have endured Mrs Browne’s class. But most of them have made it through school anyway, and have made a go of life – despite the psychological scars she left in them.
Fortunately, she will be retiring soon, and education can move forward.
(With apologies for the thinly disguised rant. Hopefully, you, dear reader, will read this as it was intended: a metaphor for outdated modes of teaching – rather than an attack on any real person.)