When we think of education, we think of a system that cultivates a foundation for new age learning, creative thinking, and most importantly, academic success. However, over the past few decades education has undergone a fundamental shift from student achievement to student test scores.
As much as we can praise high-test scores or quantified student gains, we cannot have that success come at a cost of what it means to be a teacher. In a New York Times article, At Success Academy Schools, a Stumble in Math and a Teacher’s Anger, we see the darker side of teaching where a kindergarten teacher. Here, Ms. Dial goes to the extremes to reprimand her student, replacing the passion and love that is usually found within teaching with something more punitive. While there are of course instances where an educator will lose their cool, we need to realize the negative impact teachers can have on our youth with this type of conduct.
In the video, we see a teacher use negative sarcastic comments and aggressive behavior to shame a child for not doing her work. The video itself is difficult to watch and, quite frankly, eye opening to the abusive culture that has been implemented within many teachers’ management systems across the nation. While test scores are great, the foundational groundwork for our students is absolutely more important. In the article, Joseph P. McDonald, a professor of teaching and learning at New York University’s School of Education, describes this negative management as ‘abusive teaching.’
Abusive teaching is defined as educational training that uses aggressive scare tactics as a motivational method for student achievement. No matter what the situation is, this type of abusive teaching should not be acceptable in the classroom. When an organization uses negative management and oppressive structures for student learning, we have to question the entire system. This type of structure will only persist if we continue to make excuses for the positivity it brings in the form of standardized test scores.
But for some teachers, they see other classroom management styles as a challenge when handling unruly or extreme situation. Many of them, even the parents, have come forward to question what are the long-lasting effects of this style of teaching can have on their children.
While students will eventually learn the material that they need to in order to avoid the consequences associated with this style of teaching, the immediate effects of shame and humiliation of a student create an educational environment that values submission and compliance. This negative style of teaching disempowers young learners, and often discourages creative thinking. This in turn celebrates the creation of high performing classrooms but kills creative culture.
Not only that, but also this system forces our students to fear failure and simply accept what authority figures tell them.
Many educators and social justice leaders have immediately reprimanded this style of learning, especially after the New York Times article and video. Teachers and educators are changers, movers, and motivators within an unjust system. The only way we can bridge that gap of inequality is to develop a foundation for students to be academically successful, critically conscious, and forces of change within their communities.