In light of yesterday's article, here's one that takes the opposite tack. This guy was rough on his students but they appreciated it in hindsight (older, tougher culture than the one we presently live in). Some of the advice includes "praise makes you weak**," "strict is better than nice," "a little pain is good for you," and "stress makes you strong."
This isn't my modus operandi, but I think tough can work. Growing up, we had one of the better band instructors in the area, and he was unafraid to yell at his students. I admired him as an instructor, but I wasn't committed to his band goals (swimming and academics were more my speed).
Particularly, one reading teacher I had in grade school yelled at me during recess. Normally one of the stronger students, I let my grades fall because the material got harder and I wasn't willing to put in more effort. My perspective then was probably simpler: I can put in more effort than I'm putting in now? Memory suggests I was getting closer to failing with each passing test.
During recess, I was probably cleaning my desk--Mother gave the homeroom teacher permission to keep me in from recess if ever my desk was messy (every other recess I was kept behind)--and the reading teacher spied me and seized the opportunity to yell at me. While I wasn't pleased to get yelled at, he said two things that made the difference: 1) He thought I could do it, and 2) he cared**. Why else would he be in there? I tried harder, and my reading grades went up.
Years down the line, this guy who cared--even though he yelled--lost his job. They promoted another guy who didn't care. Ah, education.
Are we weakening education because we're trying too hard to be nice? I don't have answers, but I do find it curious that we tossed an education style (again, not mine) that had once been successful. Is all progress good? Since I am part of the new and the old culture, I find useful bits in both. But perhaps it's time for America to reevaluate education from multiple angles.
- * About the linked article's author: "Ms. Lipman is co-author, with Melanie Kupchynsky, of "Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations," to be published by Hyperion on Oct. 1. She is a former deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and former editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Portfolio."
- ** Note these two items may conflict, depending on your perception. It worked for me. Your mileage may differ.