Logical Fallacies and Magical Thinking in Classroom Culture Building and Management

If I were able to brainscan a teacher in the midst of a lesson I am certain the dozens of simultaneous, complex human interactions would make the brain image resemble a Las Vegas casino.  A veteran’s teacher’s brain  filters the data into a series of incredibly intentional decisions about everything from how to explain a concept to where to stand and which hand goes on the student’s shoulder.  A newer teacher’s brain confronted by all this information tends to skip the intentional decision making and treat the classroom like a giant game of…

There are several stellar resources for developing PD and coaching new teachers in the art of classroom decision making. Lemov’s Teach like a Champion and Canter’s Assertive Discipline, the Attention and Expectations chapters of the Skillful Teacher all come to mind.

I do have a strong sense that the following strategies are traps. They may be progress traps (short term positive effect that inhibits long term progress) or they may just be traps, deep dark holes that keep our classes from seeing the daylight.

In full disclosure I discovered the fallacy of all the statements below through personal experience, saying these things and realizing their perverse negative impact.

Appeal to KIPPness (or whatever the name of your high flying school is): You are KIPPsters. At KIPP you know how to stand in a line silently, SLANT, whatever it is. Kids know that they know how do these things and they also know that the person appealing to their kippness doesn’t yet know how to make them do it. This a particularly dangerous line for a new teacher since the students often know the school’s culture and systems more thoroughly than the teacher

Appeal to age: As eighth graders you should know how to enter a room silently.  Your sixth graders I shouldn’t have to tell you things twice. This is the equivalent of saying you are older, do the right thing.  Maturity and responsibility do not develop in a straight upward line and we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that being promoted to the next grade endows children with magical self control and evil intent.

Appeal to trust: I can’t trust you to stop talking while my back is turned.  We say this in hopes of appealing to character but I believe (others I respect disagree with this) that this appeal to trust sends the wrong message.  We talk in class because we’re bored by the class, madly excited by something, or possibly annoyed by what the person in the front of the room.  These are not trust issues.

Any other common fallacies you see new teachers falling into?

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