Crane School Blog: Focus on Learning

Featuring articles written by Crane Staffulty

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Mr Downey
Richard Downey

In 1959, I entered my first classroom. Sixty years later, my experiences as a student are still affecting the way I teach my own classes. These are a few of my thoughts.

In asking questions of students, I often allow those in moments of uncertainty to say “pass” rather than be put on the spot. If a student passes too often, I investigate and address the situation privately; embarrassing a student in front of the class...

In 1959, I entered my first classroom. Sixty years later, my experiences as a student are still affecting the way I teach my own classes. These are a few of my thoughts.

In asking questions of students, I often allow those in moments of uncertainty to say “pass” rather than be put on the spot. If a student passes too often, I investigate and address the situation privately; embarrassing a student in front of the class is an effective way to ensure that he or she will never again volunteer a comment or ask a question.

I believe that students who have developed proficiency in basic arithmetic are more likely to find Algebra 1 an engaging, meaningful course. More generally, students should enroll in advanced math courses because they are well prepared, not because of a belief that great challenge brings out their best efforts or because it is admirable to be on an accelerated track.

I would rather tell a student, “I will review this with you in study hall” than “You should have learned this already.” I would rather say, “Let me show you a few other ways to think about this” than “You have a brain, so think harder.”

In high school, if a student arrived late to class, my teacher would snarl, “Why are you late? Coming in late disrupts the class!” The irony was that without the teacher creating a scene, we scarcely would have noticed. Better to train students to be punctual and, if late, how to enter discreetly.

In my elementary schools, misbehaving children would explain, “But everyone else was doing it!” A teacher would mockingly reply, “And if other children were jumping off a cliff, would you do the same?” Until, of course, my classmate had the wrong assignment on his desk. The teacher would then say, “Why didn’t you look around the room to see what all the other children were doing?”

Teachers should address children with unambiguous respect, clarity, and support.  I am honored to be a part of Crane, whose faculty and staff do this so exquisitely.

Richard Downey
Upper School Math Teacher

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