Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Understanding Point of View – a teacher’s point of view

One of the most commonly assessed reading competencies is Point of View.  Point of View is often used interchangeably with Perspective, which requires the consideration of both a value system and a belief system.  Point of View is especially hard for some teenagers to grasp because for the 13 – 18 years they have only ever considered one point of view – their own!  As a teacher, I am not a strict disciplinarian.  Because I am not over-the-top when it comes to rules and discipline, I often find myself at a loss when students react –overreact – when I do call them on the carpet for certain behaviors.  I am even more flabbergasted when parents question my decisions and actions over what I consider “common courtesy” in the classroom – and life in general.  Recently, it dawned on me that students (and parents) often react to things I do and say because they lack an understanding of a teacher’s point of view.  More specifically, they fail to apply an educational value system to what educators are trying to achieve in the classroom.  In short, they lack an understanding of both Point of View and Perspective.

I am sure every profession has its own examples or stories of how customers, clients, coworkers, managers, subordinates, etc. fail to consider point of view in various situations. Because everyone has had a “school experience”, and most people look at teachers and what they do with a modicum of contempt, I believe there is an even greater lack of perspective and understanding of point of view in our profession.  Therefore, in order to illustrate why some teachers react the way they do to parents and student behaviors, I’ve devised this little lesson on Point of View and Perspective.  Highlighted are three scenarios – two student and one parent. After each, I’ve provided the teacher’s point of view and perspective in the form of some common analogies.  Enjoy!

Scenario #1:  A student is sitting in a classroom and is given an assignment to work on.  Rather than doing that class work, he/she is doing work for another class or doing something non-academic, such as drawing or, in today’s technologically advance world, texting or surfing the internet.  The student doesn't understand “what the big deal” is when he/she is asked to stop what they are doing and do the work that was assigned for this class.

Point of View:  This is comparable to sitting in a restaurant after a long wait to be seated.  Another table, who came in after you, sits down well after you.  The waiter walks by your table two or three times without acknowledging you are there.  He then goes over to the other table greets them warmly and takes their drink order.  After returning to the other table with their drinks, and takes their order. He finally comes to your table and says, “Do you all need more time?”

How this is analogous (perspective):  In both situations, the message is “I see that you’re there, but I don’t have time for you.  What you want/need is not worth my time or effort.  What I am doing right now is more important to ME, and I will get to you and do what you want when I can or when it is convenient for me.”

Scenario #2:  A parent calls the school and demands a parent-teacher conference right away.  The teacher re-schedules outside appointments and comes to work early (or stays at work late) to accommodate the parent’s schedule.  The parent does not arrive for the conference and does not call or email.  When contacted by the teacher, they are put off by the conversation and/or respond with something like, “Well, I had something I had to do that day.  Can I come in tomorrow?”

Point of View:  This is comparable to when the cable or internet service goes out in your house.  After navigating through voice mail, you finally get a ‘live person” who sets up an appointment to have your service checked.  You are given a 12:00 – 3:00 appointment window.  You take off work and stay close to the phone only to have the cable company call you at 3:30 to tell you that they “got tied up with another job” and won’t be able to fix your cable/internet.  When you tell them that you have been without the service for days and really need it back, they reply, “I can be there two days from now between 12:00 and 3:00.”

How this is analogous:  In both situations, the message is “My job and what I am doing is more important.  I don’t care that you are inconvenienced.  You can work around my schedule.  My time is more important than yours.”

Scenario #3:  A teacher creates a detail-rich assignment/handout.  The assignment has an outline with due dates.  It has step-by-step procedures for completing the work.  It has a rubric describing how the assignment will be graded.  It has a sample project or completed paper to serve as a model/exemplar.  You post the assignment on your web page and/or district web site.  The teacher posts the assignment on the front board in the classroom where it stays for the duration of the assignment.  On the day it is due, multiple students don’t complete it or it is done wrong.  When the teacher questions them about it, they reply, “I didn’t know it was due…You never told us you wanted…I wasn’t sure how to do it…I thought you wanted me to…”

Point of View:  This is comparable to going to a fast-food drive-thru window.  You state your order one item at a time – clearly and slowly.  After each item, the fast food employee says, “Is that it?”  You reply, “No” each time and calmly go through each item in the order.  As your order is entered into the computer/register, it shows up on the screen in front of your car.  When you finish, the employee reads your order back to you and again says, “Does that complete your order?’  You say, “Yes” and proceed to the check out.  When you get home and open your bag, there is a missing item, another item has mustard on it (which you loathe) and a grilled chicken is replaced with a fried chicken.

How this is analogous:  In both situations, the message is, “I was listening, but I really wasn’t listening.  While you were telling me what I needed to do or know, I was too busy listening to someone (who I value far more than you) tell me something meaningless and unimportant but still of greater interest compared to what you were saying.  I don’t really care that I got the instructions wrong or that the final product isn’t right.  It’s no big deal.  I can always fix it.”

Parents deal with their children for about 8 hours per day, and they drive them nuts.  Kids can’t deal with their own siblings for more than 5 minutes without arguing or disagreeing.  Here is the final lesson on Point of View:  think about dealing with over 100 kids for 8 hours a day – every day – and maybe give the teacher the benefit of the doubt every once and a while.  

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