The Teachers' Scrounge

News and comments from the world of public education. A middle school math teacher shared what he learned today.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Fresh Perspective

I was drawn to this book because my wife is an attorney. She is, of course, brilliant, and she earned her way into one of the great "first tier" law schools. I have always been fascinated with the rigor of law school: from the Socratic method in the classroom to the grueling bar exam.

One L is Scott Turow's biographical account of his first year at Harvard Law School. He certainly describes an atmosphere of high standards and fierce competition.

As a teacher, I found parts of the book fascinating (and enlightening!!!) as Turow describes his academic reactions to events in the classroom.

I began to think that this is the same experience many of my students have, but Turow is articulate enough to describe them.

Like some of my students, Turow and his classmates find themselves struggling with difficult material (often for the first time in their academic careers). Turow describes one instance where he made a logical comment, and the professor gently corrected his misconception. Turow says he was so humiliated he decided never to speak up in class again -- and he did remain silent for the next several weeks.

He also describes the reactions we know exist in our students when they encounter failure. After the first term grades arrived, students who did not do well decided that exams were unimportant anyway, and began treading water until graduation -- two-and-a-half years away!

I can't say the book gave me answers on how to motivate and nurture my struggling students, but it certainly gave me a valuable perspective.

My next book: Kathleen Flinn's account of spending a year at the French culinary academy, Le Cordon Bleu.

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