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Classroom Authority

Posted By: Thomas Murray on May 17, 2003
I've been doing some research that is in a round about way related to this topic. I am a PhD student as well as an Aleternative Education high school teacher. In extensive interviews with my most successful students I find that in Alternative Ed or Dropout Prevention discipline measures increase as quality academic endeavors decrease. In fact teachers make a hidden pack with the students, that is, "If you don't cause any trouble, stay quiet during class, I won't give you much work. When you complete the work you can watch TV, play on the computer etc."

My work is in Student Engagement. Sadly, Alt Ed kids need the teacher to use student centered techniques that engage students in the learning like Oral History, classroom guests, individual research and service learning. This is the opposite of what actually happens.

My student interviews actually indicate that teachers and their "Tough Guy" or authoritarian methods actually push them out of school. Most Dropoout Kids tell me that their teachers contribute to the choice not negate it.

From the authority standpoint, I believe the answers is respect. The question is not who has the authority or where it comes from. That doesn't point to the issue. The issue is how do we create an atmosphere of trust and respect that allows the classroom to turn into a learning environment devoid of power struggles where everyone is working together to succeed academically.

The classroom breaks down when students fight authority that isn't based on respect but some policy or preocedure that gives authority to someone who doesn't teach or educate.

Just my view of the issue.

My dissertation is Engaging At-Risk Students - Using Oral History as a Case Study.

Tom Murray
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 classroom authority in practice by David Gehle on April 9, 2003
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