In case you are expecting to read of John Calvin’s opinions on eating other peoples flesh I should tell you it is the far more important Calvin star of Calvin and Hobbes whose name is being cited in the title of this post.
I try to think about good ways to teach – I have a simple passion that my students should not only pass the course but they should do well and enjoy it, leaving with a feeling of wanting to go further and learn more. I hate people to fail a course I teach. I love Calvin because he doesn’t conform – though at times I would be a very frustrated teacher with him in my class
John Samson tells this story on his blog,
Steve Brown tells a story about a time his daughter Robin found herself in a very difficult English Literature course that she desperately wanted to get out of.
She sat there on her first day and thought, “If I don’t transfer out of this class, I’m going to fail. The other people in this class are much smarter than me. I can’t do this.” She came home and with tears in her eyes begged her dad to help her get out of the class so she could take a regular English course. Steve said, “Of course.”
So the next day he took her down to the school and went to the head of the English department, who was a Jewish woman and a great teacher. Steve remembers the event in these words:
She (the head of the English department) looked up and saw me standing there by my daughter and could tell that Robin was about to cry. There were some students standing around and, because the teacher didn’t want Robin to be embarrassed, she dismissed the students saying, “I want to talk to these people alone.” As soon as the students left and the door was closed, Robin began to cry. I said, “I’m here to get my daughter out of that English class. It’s too difficult for her. The problem with my daughter is that she’s too conscientious. So, can you put her into a regular English class?” The teacher said, “Mr. Brown, I understand.” Then she looked at Robin and said, “Can I talk to Robin for a minute?” I said, “Sure.” She said, “Robin, I know how you feel. What if I promised you and A no matter what you did in the class? If I gave you an A before you even started, would you be willing to take the class?” My daughter is not dumb! She started sniffling and said, “Well, I think I could do that.” The teacher said, “I’m going to give you and A in the class. You already have an A, so you can go to class.”
Later the teacher explained to Steve what she had done. She explained how she took away the threat of a bad grade so that Robin could learn English. Robin ended up making straight A‘s on her own in that class.
What a radical way to teach – imagine the risk the teacher takes in making the offer in the first place, the confidence they have not only in their teaching but also in their student. I love that idea, take away the threats and motivate students to learn in a different way.
(By the way John makes a different point from the story so make sure you read his post.)