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Student Teacher Contracts
A critical view
My Comments, Criticisms of the Sample Contract
One Teacher's Comments and My Reply
Note From Steve Hein, Author of This Page
This is a copy of a "contract" which was a handout at a presentation about teaching in Quito, Ecuador in March, 2004. The presentation was put on by a company called Richmond Publishing, which I am pretty sure is based in the USA. The speaker suggested the teacher use something like this in their classrooms in Ecuador. First you can see the contract, then you can read my comments about it.
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|My comments, criticisms of the
sample contract (S. Hein)
To me, these contracts could lead to a lot of time wasted in the interpretation and enforcement of the rules. It makes much more sense to me to create a flexible environment based on mutual respect.
teenager's comments on the above contract
from a blank "contract"
First -- "Do hereby agree" -- Do we really want to teach young people to talk like this?
Then later on this sample contract form they suggest these "hints" in making a contract. They suggest words like these:
To me, these are exactly the kinds of words I am strongly opposed to. They can, and will, be used in arbitrary, subjective ways. They represent a very power-based relationship, not a model of any kind of equallity or respect for individual needs and talents. They are also exactly the kinds of words which are typical of people who have a strong need to control others.
(This came from http://bogglesworld.com/files/RulesfortheClassroom.doc)
is a copy of an email I received
Here is my reply to Sharon
Thanks for your email. It came at a moment when I was questioning myself and what I was doing. Your mail reminded me I have to follow my own feelings, follow my own heart in whatever I do. I cried because... well, I can't describe it exactly right now. It is something like your mail gave me some reassurance I was on the right path, reassurance I never received from my own family perhaps.
Anyhow, I am going to assume that I can use your name and email on my site till you tell me otherwise. And I do have some comments for you.
First, I don't believe you need any kind of contract at all. Kids need understanding, love, respect, something to do and learn which is of interest to them. They need an inspired teacher. A teacher who loves children, but doesn't patronize them. They don't need contracts. I teach English here in South America and the students want to come to my classes, and I don't use any contracts. I also learned Spanish well-enough in highschool using an independent study book to now live here in Peru. And my Spanish teacher never had me sign a "contract." In fact, I never signed any of these stupid "contracts" at any point in my "education."
They are probably failing math because it is not interesting to them. It wasn't interesting to me either. I was hit with a board when I was around 11 years old because I didn't want to waste my time doing long division. Even at age 11 I knew it was a waste of time, though I never knew there would be calculators and computers just a few years after I was hit. Hitting me with a board was euphemistically called "paddling", by the way, but as my friend from Canada told me, paddling is what you do in a canoe.
It still hurts me when I think of what was done to me as a child and teenager. I am still suffering from the "educational" system in the United States. And I would say it has only gotten worse. Now at least in one state, Wisconsin, a teenager can be sent to jail for not going to school.
When I was in primary school my sister would have to literally drag me to go to school. And even then I would often turn around and go home. Then when I was a teenager I skipped as much school as I possibly could. I wish I would have skipped more. But I was never threatened with jail for not going. Yet now, in the land of the free, teenagers are being threatened with jail time for trying to stay out of a building they don't want to be in. At the same time, there are laws against involuntary confinement. So why is it legal to force someone to go to school and stay there till someone else decides you can leave?
The other day here in Peru I saw two family members yelling at and almost hitting a young boy because he didn't show enough interest or ability in adding fractions.
I started thinking about this and thought about how much needless pain is caused in homes around the world over math homework.
Please tell your students that there is a person who has traveled to over 30 countries, has written his own book, has the number one site on emotional intellgence in the world on google, who started his own business at age 27 and retired at the age of 35, and who now helps poor children in South America who are hit by their parents at home. And he has never once in his life outside of school had to add fractions or do long division. Nor have I ever had to solve for x, as we used to have to do in equations like this:
2x+6=10, and ones much more complicated.
I can only wonder what my life would have been like if they had taught me something really important, like how to listen to the females I needed and loved, how to show them respect, how to give children hugs when they are crying, how to forgive someone, how to like myself, how to walk away from people who were hurting me, as so many of my so called teachers did, how to identify my own needs, how to get to know myself, how to follow my own heart, how to love myself, how to know when people were invalidating me and how to stay away from them. These are all things I never learned in school and soon I will make a page on this since it hurts me so much to think of what was done to me and how badly I was "educated."
I can tell from your mail your are a person full of energy and life. A person who really cares about kids. Please tell these kids that their grade in math doesn't matter at all. What matters is that they are happy with themselves. What matters is what kind of person they are. There are so many other things that matter more than what their math grades are. Please tell them that the adults in the United States who make the rules and who set the priorities are people with a lot of problems who don't know what is really important in life. Please tell them not to take it personally when people yell at them about their math scores. Please tell them that the people yelling at them and pressuring them are the ones with the problem. Please tell them I feel sorry that they are being forced to go to schools in the USA right now. Please tell them that I hope they will speak up and tell people who will listen that they don't want to study math and be made to feel bad about themselves when they don't have the grades that the adults want them to have.
Sharon, maybe you were trained to be a math teacher and you really believe that math is important. But I have lived 47 years now and I have met people from all around the world.and have had all kinds of experiences. And I can tell you that a young person's grade in math is one of the least important things in life. High scores on math tests will not solve the worlds problems. They won't even keep a person from getting one or more painful divorces. They won't help a person who feels suicidal.
The world needs children and teenagers who are doing what they want to do. Learning what they want to learn. These will be the happy adults. The adults who won't want to start wars, who won't want to use drugs and so do so many other unhealthy things.
You are struggling to do something which is impossible. I am afraid you will find yourself feeling frustrated and taking your frustration out on the children. Please don't do this, as so many teachers and parents do. You are forced to teach math because someone in some office who doesn't know you or the children involved have been misguided and now have written laws which don't serve the needs of the children and teens.
I was born in the USA but I have no plans to ever live there again. Too many people there think that math grades are important. Too many people think money is important and you have to go to school to get a job to make money so you will be happy. But I have learned life isn't really like that. I was lied to as I was growing up in the USA. At the very least, I was misled.
Please use your energy to do everything you can to change the educational system and protect your children from the people who think that math grades are important.
January 6, 2005
PS Please tell your students that they can always get a job teaching English in countries like Peru and Indonesia and Thailand. All they need to do is speak English. So they are already qualified. If your students can add 27 +45, can multiply 7*8 and know what 50 percent of 850 is, then I think they have all the math they will ever really need.
PPS Now since you can't change the system overnight, probably not in your lifetime even, here is something I can suggest to make the whole experience less painful for everyone.
Accept that the students don't want to learn math. Tell them that you understand it is boring to them. Tell them you don't agree with the laws. Tell them they can change the laws when they are older. Talk to the parents and tell them the same things. Tell them you feel bad for the kids. Tell the parents to speak up (although I doubt many would do that, especially the parents of the kids in your classes.
Get the kids to love you. To feel understood by you. Then try to get them to help you. Ask them if they will help you. Most students will help a teacher who they feel respected and cared about by. And the ones who are not helping will be kept under control by the others. At least this has been my experience most of the time.
Explain to them that you want to keep being their teacher. And if you don't follow the stupid rules then you will be fired and they won't have you as a teacher. This is the reality. It is ugly, but it is the reality.
I did something like this once when some students didn't want to learn English in a highschool class that was forced on them in Ecuador. They responded with much more cooperation. Some of the students who the teacher would call "troublemakers" even invited me to go out with them after classes.
By the way, how old are they? Are these "contracts" required by your school principal or school district?
As for your draft of a contract. It is still much too formal, contractual. It looks like something written by a large business to be signed by a small business owner who is not trusted by the large business. It is clear who has the power. The person or people writing the contract.
If I were to be forced to sign a contract like this I would feel forced and not at all inspired. There is nothing inspiring in the contract. And I would say inspiration will never come from a contract. It comes from the heart. Also, each student is unique. A contract tries to make them all interchangeable.
There is nothing I like about any contract between any teacher and any student. What I would like to see though, is a contract written entirely by students which would have the power of firing a teacher who breaks the contract. This would be an inspiring contract! But still, contracts are no way to manage human relationships. That is the bottom line. There is a relationship between students and teachers. And with each student it will be a different kind of relationship. This is one reason contracts are another bad idea coming from the dysfunctional American educational system.
My advice to the rest of the world, by the way, is very simple:
Don't follow the American system.
note from Steve Hein
When I wrote the page on teacher student contracts I never even thought that one day it would be ranked number one in google for searches on "teacher student contracts." But as of Jan 2005, that is exactly what has happened. I am not sure when it became number one. But in less than a year it has risen to number one. This tells me a lot of teachers in the world, probably especially in the USA, are reading this page and passing it along to other teachers. I feel encouraged by this and I encourage all teachers to fight against this new method of pressuring young humans into doing things they don't want to do willingly. (see also page on obedience vs cooperation)
march 2005 #1 for teacher student contracts, #12 for student teacher contracts (before adding new term student teacher)
Nov 2011 #1 for both searches