Elementary School Teachers Do Rock

Quick break from the fun I’m having with Hamilton to vent some frustration. You may have seen this article, Why 3rd Grade Teachers Would Make the Best Debate Moderators. As a 3rd grade teacher and one who has been frustrated with presidential debates through multiple election cycles I was excited to read this. I was wildly disappointed.

It started off alright:

It’s time to do away with journalists moderating political debates and bring in the big guns: elementary school teachers.

I can be a big gun. That works for me.

It went on to describe the vice presidential debate. Then to explain why an elementary school teacher should be the moderator. That’s where it went so wrong for me.

If you interrupt or talk over the other person, your name will go up on a white board. Every following infraction will incur a check mark next to your name. Three or more, you’ll be removed from the stage.

Are there still elementary school teachers putting students’ names on the board? Still shaming students in that specific way? If so, that’s upsetting. I haven’t seen that in many, many years, probably not since I was in elementary school.

Then we move on to extrinsic motivation:

For every question they actually answer on the first try, they’ll get a sticker. If they get five stickers, they can go to the treasure box and pick out one of those cool pens with six different colored inks, or a “Make America Great Again” hat.

If teachers used this as frequently as is suggested here that’s all they’d have time to do. Thoughtful teachers move away from extrinsic motivation as quickly as possible. It’s far better for students to do things based on intrinsic motivation. That is something they’ll take with them when they finish that grade or leave that school. That’s what helps students become independent.

The final line is a good one:

Elementary school teachers know the importance of communication and words and how they’re conveyed, and should be our secret weapon in the fight against debates that don’t live up to their potential.

We elementary school teachers can be secret weapons in a lot of different ways. I feel confident that those will include affirming students and people rather than shaming them and supporting students and others in becoming better people for the long term rather than just for the moment.

3 replies on “Elementary School Teachers Do Rock”

  1. Tim Stahmer says:

    This is classroom management straight out of Harry Wong books and firmly rooted in the 1950’s. It goes to the idea that students must conform to an adult’s idea of what “appropriate” behavior should be. Unfortunately, all of it is still taught in new teacher mentor programs.

  2. Robyn Matus says:

    HI Jennifer,

    Thanks for sharing this really important post. It is hard to imagine the there are still institutions and teachers in the US who still shame kids because they don’t conform to their own archaic education standards.

    Elementary teachers have so much positive influence that can directly impacts this age group. Hoping more elementary teachers know they can be rockstars.


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