Monday, February 28, 2005

The Boston Globe's "Ask The Teacher"

The Boston Globe has a very nice feature in their Sunday edition. They call it, "Ask the Teacher." Simply put, readers send questions related to education to a classroom teacher who answers them in the paper. The column can be seen here, below this sample:

Question: My son has not been pulling his weight in the classroom. He receives grades in the "C" range, but I know he is capable of doing much better. I'm thinking of limiting or stopping his after-school activities, such as sports, until his grades improve. Do you think this approach will work?

Anonymous, Whitman (Massachusetts)

Answer: Talk to your son before putting the kibosh on his extracurricular activities. There's a chance that his lackluster performance in the classroom signals more than a lack of effort. Check in with his teachers; ask whether they've noticed changes in his character and work habits.

Often more stoic than expressive, many male adolescents struggle to articulate what's compromising their classroom performance. What looks like disregard for a subject can be misleading. For example, I've seen young men's grades drop as they silently wrestle with a friend's substance abuse problem, an imminent divorce, or undiagnosed attention deficit disorder or depression. I don't want to sound like an alarmist, but it's important to allow for such possibilities.

If your son's flagging effort with his studies has its roots in typical teenage ennui, curtailing his after-school activities could exacerbate the problem. Teenagers tend to need more, not less, structure in their days. A sports or dramatics schedule can provide a welcome and necessary break from the classroom and rejuvenate a student for that nightly return to the books. Of course, too many activities can lead to persistent weariness and sub-par work. The issue, alas, is balancing work and play, an ongoing challenge for students as well as parents and teachers.

As a classroom teacher with more years of experience than I care to disclose here, I can say that the answers seem to we considerate of parents and well-reasoned. According to The Globe, the feature is written by Ron Fletcher, who teaches English at Boston University High School. Questions may be submitted (anonymously if you wish) by following the directions at the bottom of the Globe's page.

An Invitation: Please consider contributing to The Carnival Of Education: Week 4. All submissions should be received by 10:00 PM (Pacific) next Tuesday, March 1. They may be sent to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. Get all the details here. To view the First Edition of The Carnival, click here. The Second, here, and the Third, there. The Carnival will open here at the 'Wonks Wednesday morning.

Any help that can be given by our fellow writers in the 'Sphere publicizing this carnival will be given Extra Credit by our faculty.

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