The long answer about nagging and reminding

Posted on February 26, 2013


It’s been a long time since this morning — so I’m not going to go back and try to find the re”tweet” I’m responding to here.

It was to the tune of “our students will come to need whatever reminders we give them.  Nagging and reminding don’t create independence.”

I replied that telling somebody that they needed to be  responsible didn’t teach them responsibility.

This was followed by “Asking learners to develop their own plan for remembering info is more likely to result in long-lasting learning.”

Well, that’s really, really nice … unless I’m a kiddo who really, honestly walks out of the classroom and doesn’t think of it again until I’m back in there.  Full disclosure: I was that kiddo in seventh grade, but I think I can still be balanced and objective here.

I *do*, absolutely, understand the problems created by a culture of extreme redundancy.   There are students who flunk out every semester here because gosh, the teacher was supposed to keep them informed that they were failing (because they were missing half a dozen assignments) and prod them and… yes, I’ve seen it carry over to graduate school.

That said, the attitude that “trying harder” will create a memory and organization skills is utterly and completely bogus.   If a student is accustomed to success, then when s/he’s not reminded and gets a failing grade, s/he asks “oh!  what do I have to do to succeed?”   and makes adjustments (tho’ depending on the circumstances, more of that might be out of his/her control than a teacher believes).

If the student, though, has already begun to “adapt” to challenges by covering up the fact that s/he really doesn’t know the strategies to rise to them (and an awful lot of what we confuse for “ability” is figuring out those strategies, and a lot of them are cultural/familial, not innate), then telling the student to “go make a plan” without any follow-through is likely to get more avoidance behavior.

Oh… and telling me I need to “make a plan” to get organized is like telling me I need to go explain, in Urdu, how I’m going to figure out how to speak Urdu fluently. It’s not likely to succeed.

It kind of boils down to whether you believe the student is actively seeking a path of less resistance.

You can do the reminder thing without it being nagging — okay, maybe *you* can’t, but try to find somebody who can.   Then *teach* the independence part. Do I need to learn to ask myself what my homework is when I walk in the door? Yea, that’s right, I dont’ do that automatically.   Believe it or not, some people *aren’t* “being that way on purpose:   NOBODY could be that disorganized.”   If you can’t believe that, find somebody who can to help those students. Please.

At The New Community School, a private school in Virginia, there is (I assume; I don’t think they’ve changed it) a thing called “after school study hall.” Okay, right off, many schools don’t have the logistics to implement this, but the principle behind is:   Find a path for the “forgetful” student that is more work for them, but gives a path to success.

So, if you don’t have your homework today, then … today, you’ll stick around school until it’s done (or a half an hour, whichever takes longer). We’ve got somebody on hand to help you with it because maybe you don’t have it because you didn’t understand it. Yes, your ride will ahve to wait … we’ll make the call, and your parent/guardian unit was aware of this policy when you applied for admission…  and if this happens a lot, perhaps we need to just have you plan to stick around after school — and do the homework for tomorrow, too.   It’s amazing what success can do.

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