The typical program for "classroom management" focuses either on discipline (how to be assertive and fair) or procedures (how to plan ahead to avoid p...moreThe typical program for "classroom management" focuses either on discipline (how to be assertive and fair) or procedures (how to plan ahead to avoid problems). These are both useful tools, but there is a subtext to these discussions: the ideal classroom is free of conflict, and if there is conflict, it is either the fault of the teacher or the student. But, as any real teacher will tell you, a classroom free of conflict is a fantasy.
Students and teachers can't help but bring their clashing values, hopes, fears, struggles at home and with their friends and innumerable other issues into the classroom. And these issues are bound to cause conflict. Teachers are typically presented with two options: be strict, or be permissive; either the teacher uses his/her power to quell the students regardless of their needs, or students use their power to get what they want, regardless of how the teacher and the class suffer, and the teacher lets it slide hoping to get back to teaching. There has to be a better way!
In T.E.T., Thomas Gordon applies the highly successful and popular method developed for families in P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training) to the classroom. Very schematically, T.E.T. involves 3 steps. First, identify who is really having the problem. If a students are talking too loudly for the teacher to be heard, the teacher is having a problem and needs to communicate that to the students as a first step. If a student is daydreaming instead of working, the student is having a problem and the teacher needs to be able to listen dispassionately to find out what is wrong. Second, use "I Messages" and "Active Listening" to get to the heart of the problem (both these techniques are described in detail). Third, if a solution doesn't present itself immediately, T.E.T. describes a conflict resolution method that can help both teacher and student get their needs met without using power plays. Gordon suggests (I think rightly) that it is the use of power to solve problems that engenders the defensiveness and resentment so common to student-teacher relationships.
T.E.T. won't solve everything. Good procedures are still needed to reduce the number of situations that lead to conflict. And power based discipline is still needed in extreme cases (e.g. weapons in the classroom). But, by using the methods described in T.E.T., teachers can establish more honest and respectful relationships with their students and reduce the time wasted on power plays and petty games, leaving more time for real teaching.
Three final notes. Teachers may run into kids who have had such bad relationships with the adults in their lives that they can't help seeing teachers as enemies, to be pushed and attacked whenever possible. T.E.T. may not work right away with these kids, making classic discipline necessary. People who don't like T.E.T. on the first read usually see it as simply another version of anything-goes permissiveness. But Gordon tries to make clear that anything that is a problem for the teacher 'is' out of bounds and 'needs to be fixed'. Its just a question of fixing the problem through dialogue instead of force. Finally, I was basically raised on P.E.T. by my parents and I have rarely met anyone who has a more open, honest, and mutually respectful relationship with their parents than I have with mine. It really can work!!(less)
The Adventures of Augie March is Bellow’s youthful attempt at the Great American Novel, perhaps even an Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the 20th Ce...moreThe Adventures of Augie March is Bellow’s youthful attempt at the Great American Novel, perhaps even an Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the 20th Century. [Beyond the parallel title I thought I caught a few subtle allusions to Huck Finn in the text.:] However, Bellow had also clearly read the great modernists of the early 1900s. Augie March is something of a hybrid of tales of Americana and an intellectual study of the human condition. This combination is first visible in the language, a unique mélange of Chicago street slang and high literary erudition. The novel’s opening is rather diffuse as Augie tells the story of his childhood as a poor Jewish boy in 1920s Chicago. However, the narrative is drawn into sharper focus by the advent of the great depression and the various reactions of the principle characters to this . Then follows a series of peregrinations which bring Augie into contact with all levels of American society. He is among other things: fiancé of an heiress (twice), a union organizer, a coal merchant and a book thief. A trip to Mexico with Thea Fenchel (the second heiress) to train an eagle to catch giant iguana inaugurates the second, more introspective part of the novel. Two themes in particular caught my attention. First, the way in which people interpret their experiences in the world to match and support their pre-existing ideas. Many of the secondary character in the novel (especially Augie’s various love interests and his brother Simon) have a strong world-view, and everything that happens only seems to confirm them in their beliefs. Part of Augie’s internal crisis is his feeling that he lacks such a strong internal compass and is rather easily lead around by others. Toward the end of the novel, especially through Simon, we are lead to question the depth of this apparently strong front. The other strong theme is in some ways the flip side of the last, the way in which the modern world organizes people into pre-existing social roles and that success is measured by the ability to meet the needs of society in these pre-defined positions. The other side of Augie’s self-doubt is his romantic attachment to some grander idea of personal achievement, which causes him to resist any permanent direction. I found it significant that when WWII arrived, Augie’s hostility to Nazism was driven by his image of the Nazi state as the ultimate regimented bureaucracy. This concern with the submersion of the individual in mass society is in many ways less a description of the reality of the 1930s in which the novel is set, than an augury of the world of the 1950s (think The Organization Man or The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit) In the end, beyond these intellectual concerns, I was engaged by the book because I could identify with Augie (to the point of jealousy for his interminable string of good breaks) and because the writing created scenes and images which stay with me. This, to me, is the true mark of a great novel.(less)
Probably the best single volume survey of the history of slavery and the living conditions of enslaved Africans in the boundaries of the continental U...moreProbably the best single volume survey of the history of slavery and the living conditions of enslaved Africans in the boundaries of the continental United States. Berlin is a longtime expert and researcher in the field and clearly has a strong grasp of the ever-expanding secondary literature. The book is divided into five chapters emphasizing the changing condition of slavery over time. He begins with the introduction of slavery and slaves in the early colonies and their ties to the wider Atlantic community. Chapter Two charts the changing conditions of slavery with the coming of the tobacco and rice plantations. Chapter Three covers the effects of the Revolutionary Era including the slow process of gradual emancipation in the North. Chapter five examines the rise of the "Cotton Kingdom" and with it the internal slave trade. And finally he ends with the coming of freedom in the Civil War. Berlin is excellent in focusing on the ways in which slave resistance, both active and passive, shaped the institution and eventually helped to spur on its demise.
The book has the typical problems associated with surveys, in this case exacerbated by its relative brevity (It covers a longer period in fewer pages than his prior much-acclaimed survey "Many Thousands Gone"). Many important issue are given only passing attention and it is hard to know whether a new student of slavery could take in so many concepts without a bit more illustration. One omission of note is slavery in the Caribbean. Although outside the boundaries of the United States, the Caribbean islands were an integral (in fact, leading) part of the development of the slave system in the British Empire.
I also worry that Berlin follows the current trends in the literature in spending much of his time on slavery and slaves who fell outside the traditional plantation model. It is important to recognize that slavery was not a monolithic institution, but I think new students would profit from a greater emphasis on the conditions under which most slaves lived most of the time.
I would be interested to here the impressions of students who read this book for undergrad survey courses.(less)