Archive for the ‘Bullying’ Category

Fast and Garbled Oral Reading is Due to Social Pressure Among Students

February 21, 2015

Groups Mohamed, one of my tutoring students, was already in Grade 7 with a serious reading problem; his reading level was only about Grade 5.  In order to disguise this, whenever he was asked to read aloud, either in class, or in a small group, he would read twice as fast as he normally spoke, only pronounced the beginnings of words, slurred the rest, and mumbled as much as possible.  This way, students hear his voice reading quickly, even if what he says is not understood.

However, the surprising thing is that even excellent readers are in the habit of reading aloud in the same way.  When I investigated as to why this was so, I discovered that students judge each other, and even bully each other, based upon their reading speed in class!  The reason for reading so quickly, no matter that it sounds like, “”blethebletheblethebletheblethebletheblethe…” is to show off one’s quick reading ability to other students, to show that one can read at least as fast, if not faster than, other students.  This style of reading is equally common from elementary school through high school.

Reading Aloud

Mohamed was an intelligent boy who had lost all confidence in himself.  Mohamed attends an American School in an African country, and Mohamed was threatened with being expelled from school the following year if his grades did not improve (the policy of schools in this country if one has poor grades for two years in a row) .  Unfortunately, this is what it took before Mohamed’s parents took his problem seriously.

I worked with Mohamed for two years to bring both his reading and math up to grade level.  His reading is still far below what it should be, but it is greatly improved, and his oral reading is now excellent.  In order to start by breaking his bad habits, as well as not wanting him to get hung up on vocabulary he did not know, we went all the way down to a Kindergarten primer.  I keep the McGuffey Readers at home for students who need a graduated program that starts simply.  I insisted both on reading slowly enough to enunciate the ending of every word clearly, and on reading with great expression, as if we were putting on a play.  Sometimes we took turns reading sentences, or various dialog parts in a story.  We also read fairy tales with great expression.  We moved gradually through the books, and by the time we got halfway through the Grade 2 book, completely new reading habits had been established with easy material.  It was then easy to move on to harder material.

Now Mohamed is having to read more difficult books in school, books such as The Outsiders and Animal Farm, which on his own are still above his reading level.  Yet, Mohamed’s spoken English (not his native language) is excellent, better than most other students in the school.  He has the right pronunciation, rhythm, and inflection, all of which help him tremendously.  So with these more difficult books, I have taken another approach.  I read aloud with expression, while he follows along silently.  We stop frequently to discuss and clarify what’s happening, new vocabulary, discuss how we feel about what’s happening, what we think might happen next, whether we agree with the characters’ decisions, what we might do in the same situations, etc.  Then when Mohamed is asked to read in class in his small group, he has no trouble doing this and understanding what he is reading, following our sessions.

Surprisingly, even though he now reads aloud far better than others in his class, the others still try to bully him because his oral reading speed is slower than theirs, even though he is reading at a normal adult-speaking speed, and very clearly.  He has gone to several teachers at school and they all tell him that he is reading aloud better than the others now.  What this means is that dominant students want to pressure others into doing it “their way,” even if that way is not correct.

–Lynne Diligent

The New Math: Part II – Three Reasons Why It’s NOT Working in So Many Schools

September 5, 2013

My students come to me for math tutoring because they continue to flounder with the “new math” curriculum.  For a complete description of what is being taught and how it feels for students, see Part I of this series.  Part I – The New Math:  Why We Have It

If expert mathematicians have redesigned the curriculum, why aren’t the results better?

Expert mathemeticiansEinstein

I believe it’s because the experts aren’t taking into account the developmental stages of most students, and because they really aren’t aware of the problems most classroom teachers are faced with.

The new math teaching methods are mainly designed to create:

1.)  the ability to work in cross-disciplinary teams;

2.)  understanding (now viewed as even more important than being able to compute); and

3.)  innovative and divergent math thinkers–the three characteristics increasingly required of white-collar jobs in industry today.

Yet the new math curriculum is failing to achieve these goals.  Let’s take a look at WHY, by seeing how these things actually play out in most classrooms.

How These Three Goals Actually Work Out in Classrooms:

1. Creating an ability to work in cross-disciplinary teams. The idea is clearly that “putting students in groups to solve problems” will create this ability. However, there are TWO IMPORTANT REASONS why this is not happening in most classrooms. The first reason is BULLYING, and the second reason is STUDENT ATTITUDE and LACK OF MATURITY.

cross-disciplinary teams

Middle-school, when most students are first put into math-solution groups, is the age of the MOST EXTREME BULLYING (although bullying starts in Kindergarten). Students are usually left to sort themselves into groups, and usually, in-crowd friends choose each other, while the remaining students are randomly forced into groups with students who regularly bully them. This same situation continues in many high-school classes, and is sometimes worst of all in the smallest schools where there is only one math class per grade.

It takes an extremely effective teacher who can give groups precise tasks, direction, and rewards based on individual effort to get a group to make effective progress. Generally what happens is one of several things. The students don’t understand what they are doing at all and therefore have no idea (or motivation) even to try. They end up wasting time and talking about non-math-related matters. Or, at best, one or two students do understand and do the work, while the others loaf and do nothing, but coast on the group grade (if there is one), having not done the work, and not understanding the work that was done by the others. Or, those who are friends in the group use the hour as a social time, while the unwanted group members spend the time staring at their papers, feeling excluded, and just wasting the whole hour.

Requirements for effective group work are:  1.) being in a group with others you like or respect, and others who like or respect you; 2.) Having enough background in the subject, that when given A SPECIFIC TASK, all the individuals in the group can work on it;  3.) Being able to effectively subdivide tasks; and 4.) Having individual accountability for one’s contributions to the group. Most teachers do not have either sufficient time or experience to be effective in all these ways and rely on immature students who are not willing/able to these things themselves (as an adult work group would be able to do).

2.  Creating understanding of WHY methods work, rather than merely learning computational solutions.  This is an admirable goal, but it is not being correctly implemented at the proper ages, in the proper stages, or in the proper ways.

understanding the new math

Mental maturity, and ability to deal with abstract concepts arrives at different times for different students.  Abstract thinking arrives for a very few students in the lower elementary grades, for a few more students in the upper elementary grades, for about half of students by middle school, and for at best two-thirds of students by high school and early adulthood.  For some people, it never arrives at all.  Having taught a great variety of math topics over the years, some students grasp one topic at a young age, but don’t grasp another until many years later, if at all.  Since every student has a unique profile of what they grasp or don’t grasp, this is the origin of the “spiral curriculum,” where each year, many topics are introduced, and each year, the math texts cut slightly deeper into each topic (assuming the school is still using math texts).

Let us take telling time as an example.  A few students are able to grasp telling time well in kindergarten, while others, no matter HOW much time is spent in the classroom in grades two and three, just cannot grasp it until fifth grade.  Then suddenly, something “clicks.”  Their brain has arrived at the right level of mental maturity.

Unfortunately, today’s curriculum introduces so many topics that few are actually mastered.  Thus, many students move up through the grades NEITHER understanding, NOR being proficient in calculating.  Most students need and WANT to become proficient at calculating and getting the right answer in the elementary grades.  This builds their confidence.  They also want to know in what situations they might use those skills (which gives learners motivation, and is often an area neglected by teachers).  Those who do not become proficient at calculating lose confidence in themselves and are certainly even LESS likely to be open to any discussions of “understanding.”

A current controversial topic in the math field is whether students need a certain amount of proficiency before they can understand “why” things work.  After two decades of experience teaching math at the elementary and middle-school levels, I come down hard on the side that it IS necessary.  Young elementary students can appreciate that a correct answer can be found through several different methods, but it is a waste of precious class time AT THAT AGE to spend a lot of time on WHY (an abstract concept which despite the weeks spent on it does not actually increase their understanding) instead of on developing proficiency and thereby building students’ confidence and excitement about learning more.

It was not the intent of the math experts, I am sure, in revising math curriculum, to have students wind up being neither able to understand, NOR be able to calculate!  Their intent was to WIDEN the curriculum to INCLUDE more understanding.  But with only four-to-five hours a week (at best) of classroom time to teach math per week,  at least half of the available time is being taken up with “understanding” (which is not being understood by the majority of students), and not enough time for most students to become proficient at calculating.  Those who do become proficient are generally having additional support from parents and tutors.  Furthermore, homework has been greatly reduced from a decade ago (approximately cut in half) which means that more students than ever before are not mastering basic procedures.  When students get into middle school and one-third of them still cannot determine the answer to 3 x 8 without consulting their calculators, it is highly unlikely they will gain any “higher understanding.”

3.  Creating innovative and divergent math thinkers.  Criticisms of the past were that students were memorizing times tables and learning to calculate, but not understanding what those calculations meant; students were unable to take even a simple story problem and know which calculations to perform.

innovative and divergent thinkers

After two decades in the classroom, I can easily see this problem did not stem from memorizing or calculating.  This problem stemmed from teachers throughout school not teaching children how to TRANSLATE between English words, and math language.  In most cases, elementary teachers are not math majors.  In fact, most became elementary teachers because they are math-phobic!  They teach the calculations, and generally skip all the story problems (as did I when I first began to teach math).  Yes, it is partly a time problem, but the REAL problem is that most teachers are afraid they will not be able to explain to students how to do story problems, because they never learned themselves! Speaking as someone who did not learn this skill myself until I was an adult, I see that this is the number one area that students need the MOST help with.  I find myself wondering if students in India, China, and Japan are getting this sort of help from a young age, while students in the West are not?

Rather than wasting precious elementary time on esoteric math subjects, and making “arrays” for WEEKS in order to “understand” multiplication, students would be much better served learning to calculate, and having DAILY GUIDED PRACTICE on particular types of story problems, both in order to recognize types of problems, and to be able to readily understand how to translate the English language into MATH language.

What the math “experts” who design curriculum are not realizing is that showing students all the different possible ways to solve every type of math problem does NOT create the “divergent” innovative thinkers they are looking for.
As for math majors, sometimes (not always), those who were brilliant in math are unable to explain it clearly to those who are having trouble, because the teachers never experienced those same troubles themselves.  Sometimes (not always) teachers who were not good math students are able to master math, and are far better at figuring out where and why students are “stuck.”  Lucky children with difficulties have those teachers!  The very first requirement for becoming a divergent thinker is self-confidence in one’s own abilities.  This comes from being sure that one knows at least ONE way to get the right answer every time, even if one knows that other ways do exist.  The main thing is to MASTER at least one method.

Beyond competence, creating divergent thinkers is more of a personality-trait question.  This question has more to do with motivation and stimulating interest, and comes from the sort of child who always asks, “Why?”  Most children don’t ask why, and most don’t care about why.  To create more innovative, divergent thinkers, every teacher in every classroom, in every subject, needs to challenge ideas and get students excited about learning.  And yes, teachers need to be “entertaining,” too! Innovative thinkers aren’t usually innovative in just one area (such as math).  Most innovative thinkers draw their ideas from multiple sources and synthesis of ideas from multiple disciplines.  Students need help becoming competent, and beyond that, to be inspired enough to pursue their own interests in a self-directed way.  Curriculum which forces students to calculate by many different methods fatigues many students and actually de-motivates them from further self-directed learning.

It is difficult for a new or average teacher to overcome these difficulties.  Hopefully with time and experience, Western society will adjust to the new math curriculum, but I am afraid it will be later, rather than sooner.

–Lynne Diligent

The NEW Math:  Part I – WHY We Have It

Do Cat Thieves Give Clues to the Origins of Criminality in Humans?

November 12, 2012

Here in  North Africa, I watch the neighborhood animals, who belong to no one, and make their rounds in the same places daily.  We have a lot of street animals, and cats often jump in to our house through the windows (other people’s houses, too), in search of food. Some of them can get quite aggressive, especially with our own cats.  Our cats feel they have to go outside and “defend the yard” every time they see a cat jump in over the garden wall.  Of course they go absolutely wild if a neighborhood cat jumps into our house.

I began to think about these intruders as thieves, because that’s what they would be considered, if they were humans. It’s easier for them to steal food than it is for them to hunt for it themselves in an urban environment.

It’s also easier (than working) for human thieves to do the same–either because they are lazy, or their environment didn’t give them other reasonable options, or because they are more greedy than others (white collar criminals?). I wonder how much of this laziness/greediness could be genetically determined, or if it is somewhat genetically programmed into all of us.  In fact, scientists are now finding evidence of this (see HERE and HERE).

My observation of cats in the neighborhood has lead me wonder whether ALL cats would be thieves if they weren’t fed by their owners.

Therefore, what keeps ALL humans from becoming thieves? Rather than asking the question who is likely to become a criminal (in human society), perhaps we should seek to understand this question  by asking instead, what KEEPS people from taking the easy route of becoming a thief/criminal? Instead of asking who cheats and why, maybe we should be asking, “Why doesn’t EVERYONE cheating/lying/stealing? What keeps those of us who are law-abiding citizens, so?”

I wonder if the answer lies in the environment.  Instead of saying that the environment causes criminality, perhaps the reverse is actually closer to the truth.  Perhaps we would all be criminals, except for if we have a positive environment which, as we are raised, gives us POSITIVE REWARDS (such as RESPECT or ADMIRATION) for becoming law-abiding citizens.  Those who grow up in impoverished environments (or cultural environments) where they never experience these rewards, are unlikely to become honest and law-abiding.

What do others think?

WHY Parents and Teachers Need to Watch the Same Television Shows as Students Do

February 17, 2012

As a parent or teacher (even outside of America, and regardless of your religion or lifestyle), have you tried to instill proper values and behavior in your own children or students, yet watched while the following values and behavior appeared instead?  Have you wondered where this has been coming from?

  • Requesting a bulldog
  • Popularity of sushi
  • Proliferation of fake ID’s and even younger high school students attempting to use them
  • Underage drinking, even at home parties, where parents leave and let children party alone
  • Obsession with champagne
  • A sudden interest in learning Burlesque dancing
  • Requesting or attempting underage driving
  • Obsession with Ivy League colleges
  • Teenage obsession with wearing only “designer” dresses
  • Thinking it’s not normal for parents to make a “curfew” time
  • The idea that even young teenagers “go where they want, and do what they want,” and that “their parents give them the freedom to do so just like adults;”  they TELL their parents what they are doing, rather than ASK them.
  • Girls (even young girls) acting in a sexually aggressive manner toward boys (girls insisting that they both take off clothes)
  • Girls thinking that it’s normal to date older men secretly without their parents knowing about it
  • Thinking that normal parents just go to bed, and “don’t wait up for their high school children who come home late.”
  • Sassy, angry attitude toward any parents who question any of the above assumptions!
  • The idea that “success” in life equates ONLY to how much money you have, and how “glamorous” you appear to others!
  • Honesty, dependability, responsibility, and/or service to humanity are unfashionable, boring, stupid, and undesirable
  • Kindness to others is “out;” while “one-upsmanship” and rude “put-downs” at the expense of others are “in”
  • An expectation that life is supposed to be one continuous “party”

Any parent or teacher who is having trouble understanding teenage values and behavior today should IMMEDIATELY watch the three television series Beverly Hills 90210 ; Gossip Girl; and 90210 (a different show than Beverly Hills 90210).   Even watching a couple of episodes of each show will give you an idea of where this culture is coming from.  (Click on these titles for direct links to the series which should work worldwide.  Make sure to start with Season 1, Episode 1.)    These new values are coming directly from television.

Unfortunately, teenagers are now watching these shows WORLDWIDE.  Some are watching on the internet, in English (especially with the global rise in study of English, it is now accessible).  But in most countries, these shows are now dubbed in local languages, and right on the television.  Not only is American culture changing, but world culture is assuming that these TV shows represent traditional American values (which they most assuredly do NOT).

The people who made these shows recognized that they are FANTASIES of how teenagers WISH their lives were.  That’s what makes them fun to watch.  However, unfortunately, the children who grew up watching these (without any input from their parents) grew up assuming that this is what they WOULD be able to do as teenagers, and now, the upper middle classes ARE DOING it. Some of the middle class parents don’t know that their children are behaving this way.  Among more conservative families, parents should BEWARE if their child asks to spend the night with another family, because they are often going out, or even sneaking out to nightclubs.  It doesn’t help that the full age of majority in many countries is 18, rather than 21.

I live in the Middle East, and throughout our region, this is exactly how most teenagers are behaving.  The emphasis in our region is all on appearances to create the impression with others that you are rich (even if you are not).  Most of those who are rich turn their children (even girls) loose with plenty of money and the family chauffeur (usually driving an expensive, black, four-wheel-drive vehicle) for the weekend.  They certainly don’t wait up for their children to come home at night.  Most of the kids have fake ID’s and go to night clubs (which don’t even open until 11).  Their age is clear, but they just slip $20 to the doorman, who lets them in.

Father Knows Best

In the past couple of years, I’ve read a number of articles where generations following the baby boomers are now criticizing the work ethic of baby-boomers (born 1946-1960) and wondering where this work ethic came from.  It’s very clear to me now.  It came directly from TELEVISION (as well as from our parents, and from society in general).

Shows during the 1950s and 1960s (and even into the 1970s) showed children working hard, being kind, taking responsibility, and most importantly, GETTING RESPECT FROM OTHERS FOR DOING SO.  Some of these shows were Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, The Rifleman, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie.   In contrast, teenagers who behave this way today don’t get any respect from others.  Instead, they get “USED BY OTHERS” (in the words of a teenager I tutor).  Today, it’s showing-off and acting in accordance with the list above that gets a teenager respect from other teenagers.

–Lynne Diligent

Anti-Theft Lunch Bag: A Solution to the Stolen Lunch Problem

February 5, 2012

Anti-theft lunch bag

Among students who bring their lunches to school, there is nothing worse than opening up your lunch only to find it stolen.  This is a big problem in elementary schools where students don’t have lockers and are required to leave their lunch in a commonly-accessible place .  I came across this humorous picture, but thought it would provide a great solution for kids having this problem regularly.  It could be done with a permanent magic marker on the outside of the bag.  It would also help deter lunch bullies.

–Lynne Diligent

Cyberbaiting of Teachers, A New and Dangerous Trend

January 5, 2012

Well-behaved middle school students

A well-behaved middle-school student I tutor expressed her frustration to me with some of her formerly well-behaved classmates who now talk back to teachers and act up in the classroom.

When my student asked these friends why they now behave this way, they say it’s all about fitting in and being accepted by the “cool” group.

Anyone not accepted by this group is a target for their bullying.  My student has a mature attitude and refuses to behave this way; as a consequence, she has to stand up to various forms of insults and bullying constantly.

At one point, our school debated putting in cameras to film student behavior in every corridor and classroom, and then decided not to.

It may have been both about cost, and about invasion of privacy, as well as our school being a high-level college prep school in a Middle Eastern country.

However, lack of cameras is no longer a protection for privacy for anyone, as every student is now capable of filming anything and everything and posting it anonymously and publicly on-line.  As this article explains, many students are now purposely provoking a teacher to the breaking point with the advance intention of filming it and posting it on-line.  This form of bullying is both demeaning to teachers, and can cost many teachers their jobs.

All teachers need to remember that now, the eyes of the world are watching every second.  This applies not just to teachers, but to everyone.  Teachers, however, are more vulnerable because students with evil intentions are purposely setting out to put them in a compromised situation.

–Lynne Diligent

When a Former Student Turns Out Bad……

January 3, 2012

Teachers are human beings, and as human beings, we have human feelings.

Every year when I got a new class, being human, there were students I felt I liked and disliked.  But I always did my best to never let that affect me, and to get to know each student as an individual.  Almost always, after getting to know each student personally, I was able to find something to like about every single student.

Students behaving badly

Students who behave badly and cause a lot of trouble in class for the teacher and other students are most definitely not the same as those who have severe character flaws or personality disorders.  I could see right through the behavior of some of the worst-behaved students to see that in spite of their behavior, that they DID care about their friends, and have feelings for other people.  Provided they could stay out of delinquent behavior during their teenage years, I had every confidence that these students would grow up to be responsible adults and parents, and contributing members of society.

American rapist and serial killer Ted Bundy, as a child

However, in many years of teaching, there were only two students where I was not able to find anything to like.  These two students, even at mid-elementary school, scared me.   In both cases, I felt that there was something seriously wrong with these them.  Knowing the students’ parents somewhat, I did not see anything wrong in the parents’ character.  But the students had a very, very serious character flaw.  Midway through elementary school, they had not developed any conscience, and they both had no feelings whatsoever for other people, or other living things.

At one point during his school year, one of these children threatened me with he “was going to send viruses to destroy my computer” if I didn’t do what he wished” (I no longer remember what he wanted me to do do).  I talked to him many times throughout the year and he told me over and over that he didn’t care about anyone else besides himself.  And it was really true.  This boy was a reasonably good student and extremely intelligent.  While I hope for change in this boy, as he left my class, I felt that I would not be surprised to hear he had become a white-collar criminal in future years.

As the years have gone on, he is thankfully out of my class and out of my life, he is still around, but my assessment of him has so far not changed.  However, in his case, we still have the future to see what happens.

For the other boy, his future has already arrived.

When the second boy was in my class, he was already a hard-core pornography addict.  At this time, our Middle Eastern country was receiving triple-x pornography (the type where in America you would have to go to a particular part of town, show ID that you were at least 21 to even enter the store, and watch the movie in a “private” cubicle) right on the television, broadcast from Europe, over the satellite dishes.  Many parents were unaware that their children had discovered these TV channels.

Many students told me that they just flip the telecommand every time they hear their parents coming, and then just change it right back afterward.  I wondered at the time how this would influence the boys (and girls, too) who were exposed to this at such a young age, particularly as to how this would influence their future dating behavior and how they would treat or view the opposite sex when they got into their teenage and young adulthood years.

Knowing some of those children well at the time, and seven-to-twelve years having now passed, I see that those who were decent children in mid-elementary school have mostly continued to be decent young adults, and from what I hear from other teenagers, are going to be okay.  On the other hand, those who had problems, I’m sure those problems already had those character disorders accelerated and developed at a younger age than before.  In some cases, girls and boys have come to view behaviors as normal that are really not normal between loving adults.

From reading articles on the subject, pornography is most damaging to young boys when it is coupled with violence.

American rapist and serial killer Richard Ramirez, in high school

American rapist and serial killer Richard Ramirez, in high school. Ramirez was present at the age of 12 when his cousin Mike, a Vietnam Veteran, killed his own wife, the blood splattering on Ramirez. Previously, Mike had shown photos of himself in sex acts with Vietnamese women, and subsequent photos of the beheaded bodies of the same women, who he bragged to Ramirez about torturing to death.

So, this second boy in one of my classes, even although a hard-pornography addict in early elementary school, probably did not have his problems caused by the porn, but merely exacerbated by the porn.  He was a good-looking boy, but extremely lazy, always out of his chair, not interested in learning anything (although I did try quite hard to have some success with him).   He did some mean, nasty,  and even evil things to others even at that age.  (I’m sorry I cannot go into specifics; I wish I could, but I cannot.)  He did more mean and evil things as he aged, and continued to be a very bad student who was always in trouble.  The boy’s  father, who did care about his son,  died while his son was still in elementary school, and therefore he did not have a father’s influence during those important years.   Later on, he had a girlfriend for several years toward whom he was extremely abusive.  His behavior in many areas eventually got him expelled from high school.

He remains a dangerous person in a small town.  He is extremely rich, drives an expensive car, and is from a powerful family.  In societies like ours, this means that he has “carte blanche.”  He does horrible things which seem to escalate each year and which are becoming well-known, particularly among people of his own age group, and everyone feels that they cannot do anything because of the powerful family he is from.

Dominique Strauss Kahn

This is the same reason that Dominque Strauss-Khan was able to get away with his behavior for so long, was that he essentially has the same “carte blanche” in French society.  It is the reason why corruption continues in all societies where WHO you are is of primary importance.  When there is an evil person with “carte blanche,” neither the police, nor the judges, nor anyone will help.

So what people do, unfortunately, is to behave in an extremely servile manner toward that person, and “pretend” to be his or her “friend” just so that they will not fall on the bad side of that person.  “Carte blanche” means essentially that a person, or particular group of persons, is “above the law.”  The law does not apply to them, and no one in the society will DARE challenge them.  Anyone who tries will be hurt severely, or have their family hurt severely, and no policeman, court, or judge will lift a finger to help them.  This is another reason why there is such emphasis on WHO you know in these sorts of societies.  Often, your only protection is knowing someone MORE powerful than those who might be against you, who have the power to control this person, or protect you from other persons in that group who have “carte blanche.”

So, back to my student.  I really, really thought something was seriously wrong with this student even in early elementary school.  It’s clear that I was right.  The really dangerous thing, in my opinion, is a child who develops no feelings for others; it is what creates a sociopath.  And not every sociopath was abused as a child.  I wonder if Ted Bundy’s (American serial killer in the 1970s and 80s) or Jeffrey Dahmer’s (American serial killer of the 1980s) teachers saw something wrong with them as a children.  They probably did.

American Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer as a child

I think having only two students like this in twenty years of thinking is not bad.  Maybe I had two or three others over the years who were borderline, but for whom I still have hope, even after several years have gone by.  I feel horribly depressed about this one student, hearing regularly from others about the things he does that are so bad, but which I cannot even safely mention, and about which no one feels they can do anything.

–Lynne Diligent

What Do Teachers Make?

October 4, 2011

Taylor Mali was at a dinner party.

Another dinner guest said, “The problem with teachers is, ‘What’s a kid going to learn in life from someone who decides his best option in life is to become a teacher?  Those who CAN, DO; and those who CAN’T, TEACH.”

I bite my tongue, instead of his, and resist the urge to remind the other dinner guest that it’s also true what they say about lawyers….because, we’re eating, after all, and this is polite conversation.

“I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor.  Be honest….what do you make?”

I wish he hadn’t done that.  You see, I have a policy about honesty, which is if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.

“You want to know what I make???  I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could!  I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor, and I can make an A- feel like a slap in the face!  How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best!  You want to know what I MAKE???  I make kids sit through 40 minutes of Study Hall in ABSOLUTE SILENCE.  ‘You cannot work in groups.  No, you can’t ask a question.  So put your hand down.  Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?  Because you’re BORED, and you don’t really have to go!’  You want to know what I MAKE???  I make parents tremble in FEAR when I call home at around dinner time, ‘This is Mr. Mali….I hope I haven’t called at a bad time….I just wanted to talk to you about something that your son did today…He said (to another kid), ‘Leave the kid alone!   I still cry sometimes, don’t you?’  I said (to the parent), ‘It was the noblest act of courage that I have ever seen!’  I make parents see their children for who they ARE, and who they CAN BE!  You want to know what I MAKE???  I make kids QUESTION; I make them CRITICIZE; I make them APOLOGIZE and MEAN it; I make them write, write, write; and then I make them READ; I make them SPELL–‘definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful’–over and over again, until they will NEVER misspell either one of those words again!  I make them SHOW all their work in math, and then hide it (all their rewrites) in their final drafts in English.  I make them realize that if you’ve got THIS (a brain), then you follow THIS (your heart), and that if somebody tries to judge you based on what you make, then you give them THIS (obscene gesture)!  Let me ‘break it down’ for you.  Let me break it down for you so you know what I say is TRUE.  I make a G* ***m difference!  Now what about YOU?

Taylor Mali is a vocal advocate of teachers and the nobility of teaching, having himself spent nine years in the classroom teaching everything from English and history to math and S.A.T. test preparation. He has performed and lectured for teachers all over the world.

–Posted by (but not written by)  Lynne Diligent

How Teachers Should Respond to Being Bullied By Students

August 2, 2011

Earlier this week I read a question on an education blog asking what aspect of your teacher training was most overlooked.  In my case, I’d say it was any instruction on dealing with classroom discipline issues.  I did get some of that from my student teaching, as my supervising teacher was a master teacher with 30 years of teaching under her belt.  But an actual class in classroom discipline techniques is sadly lacking in education schools.  I’ve never even heard of such a class being offered.

I laughed aloud watching this great video demonstration for teachers.  The first role-play demonstrates how things might typically go in a high-school classroom with a teacher being cursed-out by a student.  It does not end successfully for either the teacher or the student.  The second role-play shows an entirely different approach taken by the teacher, in reaction to the students’ behavior.  It ends successfully for both the teacher and student.

I only wish I had had this type of instruction when I was in ed school.

–Lynne Diligent

An Explanation for the Horrific Abuse Many Christian Missionary Children Suffered at Mamou and Other Overseas Boarding Schools

May 29, 2011

This film clip (one minute trailer above) details the emotional, sexual, physical and spiritual abuse of Christian missionary children at Mamou Alliance Academy Boarding School in Guinea, West Africa, from the late 1940s through the 1970s.  Mamou was the first Christian Boarding School to be investigated for child abuse.

All God's Children Documentary

Christian Children studying in Mamou School

According to Missionary Kids Safety Net, 21 other Christian denominations have reported child abuse occurring at countless missionary boarding schools.”  The Presbyterian Church and the United Methodist Church have both launched investigations.  (If you are a reader currently dealing with a similar issue, visit the Missionary Kids Safety Net website to find support and assistance.)

Keith and Howie Beardslee tell their story about Mamou

Here are just a few examples of the types of abuse that children at Mamou suffered.  The first-grade teacher terrorized the children daily by shrieking at them, and regularly turning over whole desks (with the child in it) when she was displeased.  Both adult women and adult men sexually abused children.   The school was a perfect set-up for pedophiles, according to the now-adult survivors of this abuse.  Children caught whispering in bed after lights were out were beaten until they were bloody.

Children at Mamou Boarding School in Guinea

This abuse of the children was shown in the later investigation to have not just been a few individuals, but a complete systemic problem of abuse of children for four decades.  Parents were kept in the dark because all letters home were severely censored and controlled as to include only positive content.  Many more precise details of the abuse at Mamou can be read about HERE.

Christian Missionary Children at Mamou Boarding School in Guinea

After watching this film, as a teacher, it’s now very clear to me how this abuse could have happened.

The explanation lies in the fact that child care and education of the children was completely devalued.   According to the official Grace Report ( p. 10),  “the children were viewed as a hindrance to the work of God.“In addition, the adults placed in charge of the children in the school were the  adults in the missionary community who were not good at learning languages, or in other ways not suited to “missionary” work.  They were put into child care of the other missionaries’ children BY DEFAULT.  In other words, it was thought that, “those who cannot DO, will TEACH, or care for the children.”

Christian Children who attended the Mamou boarding school

By definition, it’s clear that caring for the children was also a very low-status job within the missionary community.  Not only did these people have no love for their work, but that many of them really did not want to be there (most wanted to be out doing missionary work themselves, not child care).  Their work with the children was not valued by the missionary community.   In addition, those in child care were isolated with the children 24-hours-a-day and had no respite  from their undoubted frustrations,  nor outside supervision (or help) in dealing with their frustrations.  It appears to me that many of these adults also had multiple psychological problems of their own which were never addressed.

The plain fact is, no one should be actively involved in child care unless they themselves like children.  Unfortunately, because children are an economic drain when they are young, often the least competent people are put in charge of caring for children.  This seems to be what happened here.

The Christian & Missionary Alliance, founder of the Mamou school, is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Christian & Missionary Alliance, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been sending missionaries to Africa since 1884.  All missionary parents of the time (early 60’s) were expected to send their children to boarding school the minute they were of school age (at six years old).  It was not a choice.  The missionary culture impressed upon parents that they were following in the footsteps of God in doing His work, that they were willing to sacrifice their sons and daughters to boarding school so that they would be free and have the time to do “God’s work.”

Missionary Children arriving at the Mamou Boarding School

Furthermore, the school was usually between 500-1000 miles away from where most parents were living, and it was a horrendous journey of several days in each direction in wild country without roads or bridges.  The children were taken there at the beginning of the school year and picked up nine months later.  The schools encouraged parents to have minimal, or no contact with their children in the meantime.  (Although partings were terribly difficult for both parents and children, the parents did NOT know their children were being abused.  They thought they were leaving their children with adult friends of theirs in the community.)

This 70-minute documentary is posted on YouTube in several parts.  (Each part is between six and eight minutes.)  Below are links and short resumés of each part, in case readers want to see only a short part of the documentary.

Part I–Missionary life involves suffering and hardship “in the work of following Christ.”  Sacrifice is considered to be an element of this, and this involves “sacrificing” one’s own children to boarding school from the age of 6, for the sake of the “lost.”

Part II–The trip to school was 500-1000 miles with no paved roads, and necessity to cross rivers by ferryboat, or just trying to drive through. Once the children are there, they are there for nine months, and you never saw your parents once.  Parents were encouraged not to go there.  There was a lot of pressure, “Good parents don’t cry when their kids leave.”

Part III–“Dorothy Adam, the school nurse, ‘ran down to Mexico to get some dental training’ and she was horrific!”   She almost always drilled into the gums, and when the children cried, she would scream, “You’re such a baby for crying!”  Some children had to have their arms tied down into the dental chair, and an African would have to hold their head while she drilled away without novocaine, not because it wasn’t available, but she chose not to use it “out of being sadistic.”

Part IV – The missionary culture, what children were told, and why they did not report the abuse as young children.

Part V–“While you’re a kid there, you put up with it, and you figure ‘this is the way the world works.’ ”  Survivors of Mamou talk about how the experiences have impacted them as adults.

Part VI–Adults who were molested as children began to contact each other on the advice of therapists.  They became concerned that some of these individuals involved in the abuse were still out there with children.  However, church authorities wanted nothing to do with investigating the allegations, and did their best to ignore the issues and dissuade those who were molested from bringing the charges to light.

One of the adult survivors of Mamou tells his story

Part VII–The only way this issue finally got any attention is when the survivors went to the media and shamed the Christian & Missionary Alliance into paying attention to what had happened at Mamou School over several decades.  Finally a group of five investigators was put together.  In the end, the report showed it wasn’t just a few bad individuals.  It was a “consistent, systemic problem from the late 40’s through the 70’s.”  At this point, a retreat was held for Mamou victims.  80 alumni, 50 parents, and 20 spouses attended.

Adult Survivors of Mamou Missionary Boarding School

Part VIII–The organization asked for forgiveness at the retreat (after stonewalling all the way up to the retreat).  The survivors felt they were just trying to get off the hook by asking for forgiveness.  Some of the survivors explain how they are now moving forward  with their lives, and getting past the abuses of Mamou.

Part IX–Eight staff, over who the church still had jurisdiction, were now accused of  sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, psychological abuse, or physical abuse.  Church discipline hearings took place for three, and two had their  licenses and credentials removed.  Many others were unfortunately no longer under church jurisdiction.

Dorothy Wormley, the first and second grade teacher who had turned over desks with the children sitting in them, was accused of physical, psychological, and spiritual abuse.  She denied all charges and refused to cooperate.  Dorothy Adam was charged with physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse.  She denied all charges and was formally reprimanded.  Grace and Larry Wright were charged with physical and psychological abuse.  Larry was under the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, and they refused to cooperate.  No action was taken against them.

"Children of God" Documentary

Marilyn tells her story about repeated sexual abuse at Mamou

The pedophile who raped Marilyn many times was not formally accused because she was the only person to testify against him, and there was no other evidence.  He is still employed by the Christian Missionary Alliance.  Others claim privately to have been abused by him, but the others are not willing to come forward publicly.  No legal charges were brought against any of the staff members.   “All the perpetrators got ‘slaps on the wrist,’ but no one was hauled away and put into handcuffs.”

Part X–When the report came out, many people started to contact them.  They have now formed an organization called Missionary Kids Safety Net, which includes a website and forum.  Most people who come onto the forum say, “Oh, I thought I was totally alone!  I thought I was the only one out there!”  They also offer assistance in terms of advice for who to go to, and people to contact.

The group met with church leaders to suggest changes, but the leaders insisted that it be in a closed meeting.  They have never released the recommendations, and none of the recommendations have been implemented.

I know what my own recommendations would be.  No one should be in teaching or child care unless they feel they are doing the VERY important work of “creating the next generation.”  Their work needs to be valued by the entire community, and the people doing it need to prefer that work to being out doing missionary activities.

–Lynne Diligent