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Busted for Doodling...

by Allison

Here is a note I wrote to D, my son's homeroom teacher, a guy who really, really "gets" Angel. But I am sooo tired of these conversations, year after year. 

My son was brought in for questioning on charges of deliberate and persistent doodling in social studies class.


Good evening. A little more insight on the social studies situation. And please know my message to Angel has been "Deal with her. Be polite."

According to Angel, the social studies teacher essentially offers a "condescending monologue."  He finds her class simplistic, and the upcoming project - make a paper collage with pictures of food cut out from newspapers and magazines - bogus. (What is the intended educational outcome of this project, by the way?)

She was lecturing them the other day about how McDonalds is "bad bad bad for you" and showed them a picture of a Raleigh family. (My husband and I married and lived in Raleigh, and Angel has a keen sense of the socioeconomics of that region.) According to Angel, several students went "Ewwww."

Angel was upset. He asked "But they might be poor and a lot of times poor people can only afford fast food."  She said "Good comment" and kept up her preexisting monologue, never acknowledging or willing to start a conversation about how socioeconomics play a role in food and nutrition choices here in the U.S.

Angel doesn't like the way, in his view, she assumes the students don't know anything, like what anorexia is, for instance "She talks to us like we are three years old."

Angel is irked because the curriculum is close-ended - the learning goals were determined months/weeks ago and have nothing to do with what happens in the classroom among learners. The teacher is the "expert" dispensing canned lessons. Angel feels condescended to.

Angel has what my husband and I call "a rage to learn." He needs materials and assignments that are complex, make him think, offer multiple perspectives on issues and an opportunity for TRUE dialogue. This class isn't offering him any of the above, as far as I can see.

His polite solution? Doodling. (Angel also reads in these situations.  These are great adaptations to an untenable situations)

My questions are:

  1. Instead of outlawing doodling, what can the social studies teacher do to meet the learning needs of all the students in her class?
  2. How can she make her classes a place of dialogue, exchange of thoughts and perspectives - actual learning for all, including the teacher?
  3. What is her experience and philosophy of working with extremely (not just moderately) gifted learners and thinkers - of whom Angel is just one in that classroom?




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