Hello, my name is Elonia Lamontagne, a nominated candidate for the school committee at large seat. People seem to be impressed by the fact that I have a Master’s degree in Education. This has been a shock me, however, because all of your teachers have a Master’s degree in education, or are working towards it. It is required by the state for professional licensure. Why is it that I have only felt that my Master’s degree was impressive until now that I entered politics?
Teachers are modest creatures, they are stressed, and they are particularly stressed when they are rule followers. Sure, there are plenty of teachers that choose their battles, but there are teachers that are hired believing every rule needs to be enforced 100%. The other teachers in this room know that it’s impossible. But I didn’t my first couple years teaching. No one told me the unwritten rules, that we have all these rules, but they are there for particular circumstances, that you will get in trouble for not enforcing some, but not others. As a rule-following science person, this was very confusing to me and put me in a bad place. Sure, my students generally followed the rules, but they were not happy about it and did not like me as a teacher because in their next period class, they can take off their ID and pull out their cell phone and text their friend, “isn’t Miss L crazy?” Then they would praise their cool teacher who let those things slide and be happy to learn from them.
A vote for me is a vote for someone who has worked in education very recently since it has drastically changed, even just in the past ten years, even since I attended Chicopee High School myself. It is majorly due to technology which, believe it or not, isn’t a bad thing. It’s incredible and it’s made everyone’s lives easier than ever. Students are smarter than ever because of it, and what do we still tell them? No electronic devices.
Instead, students need to learn how to focus their attention on their work while having the cell phone on their desk, or in their pocket, or in their bag. They’re living in a world where their friends and even their parents expect a timely response, even while they’re in class. Teachers can teach this skill to students. I have. Having eventually realized I was one of the few rule followers, I took advantage of a study I heard about one year. The study showed that students behave better, work independently better, and focus better when they can listen to music while they work. And the study was right. Just changing that one rule took such a load of stress off of me, I looked away if a student was just changing the song or checking the time, and they had such a positive attitude because of the trust that I put in them. They understood that they couldn’t use it for tests and we agreed on our own classroom rules that year. It was such a difference in the culture of my classroom and the key word was Trust. Trust in our students and Trust in our teachers.
Having no cell phones allowed isn’t helping students develop their focus skills. It only makes them feel less trusted. For many students, school feels like a prison and naturally, they resist. They are expected to wear ID’s around their neck like they’re only visitors and refusal and strict enforcement causes large amounts of stress for all involved first thing in the morning. Every day. For the rule followers out there, let’s rethink some of the old rules for the sake of the sanity of our teachers and the feelings of our students.
There is another study I’d like to tell you about. A friend of mine with a Ph.D in behavioral sciences and neuroscience told me that she begins her courses by telling her undergrads about the Rosenthal effect. This was a study in which a large group of students all took the same standardized test. 10% of the average-scoring students were taken aside and placed in a class together. Their teacher was told on the down low, “hey, just so you know, these students tested very well.” What happened was this actually-average group of students lived up to the way that they were then treated by their teacher, as trusted, smart, high performing students and they then actually Became Higher performers than the control group. And those skills transferred throughout their school careers.
So again, trust in our students and also, trust in our teachers.
Thank you for your consideration,