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This is behind the classroom door a series of discussions produced by WFIU Af-Am and the College of Education at Northern Illinois University and distributed by the diagonal educational radio network. Our topic for this program is the influence of a teacher on a child. Here is the moderator Dean Robert F. top. This is number nine in a series of conversations. The general series we call behind the classroom door Number nine being presented at this time a mission titled The influence of the teacher on a child. And I think we have to preface what we have to say here with the remark that. No group of American citizens probably is more seriously bolted to the welfare of young people or old people as far as that goes than the teachers of America. And yet it seems as though we
Americans spend most of our time being critical of the teachers I suppose it's because our children come home with stories some of which may be magnified a little bit and some of which we don't understand. I think we parents when we listen to these stories about teachers and perhaps judge them prematurely should realize that the children are carrying stories to school to about the parents and some of the things that are going on and so Little them as we have to have tolerance and understanding and realize that teachers are human they make mistakes but as a group there isn't probably no professional group that contributes as much to the welfare of American citizens. The remaining focal point I would say where all children have a contact with somebody other than their parents and get a somewhat standardized program that enables them to become uniquely American.
And so today we talk about the influence of a teacher on a child because we know now that this influence is tremendous. It's influence in the form of individual teachers and their contacts with the child. And then as a group teachers are tremendously important and significant in establishing attitudes and of course skills and knowledge in the minds of the children. And we have all kinds of illustrations I think everybody has one or more illustrations about teachers and the impact they've had sometimes we remember the negative ones but there are many many positive illustrations that we have Dr. Leonard who is head of the department of elementary education at Northern Illinois University. I have some illustrations I think Dr. Leonard. Can you start off with one or
more. Well I've often heard it said and I believe it too that a child learns what he lives so the child who lives in a classroom atmosphere that is secure and friendly and warm will develop I would say of his own personality accordingly that I want to change that description is from the old fashioned classroom where discipline was severe and the teacher had had arrived in a dunce cap and other types of disciplinary means. Yes but I think it can be said that much of what we know about teaching and learning today we've learned that say in the last 50 years. And so I think the description that you gave goes back to the school of a hundred years ago. Oh yes well it's been said that in this country somewhere teachers are still practicing some of those techniques unfortunately because education varies across the country.
We'd have to agree that those teachers weren't good teachers and the right kind of teachers that we want in our schools are the kind that provide a secure stable atmosphere for the child in the classroom. Again we hear frequently the comment that facilities are good. In other words facilities in the school are important. Good equipment good materials are important but the teacher is most and most important of all. And I think most people believe that and rightly so. Dr. Leonard I think it's generally accepted that the teachers impact on the elementary school child is probably greater than the impact of the teacher on the secondary school child. This comes up very often doesn't add not to loft long. You know there are still school districts where a secondary teacher with the same preparation experience gets paid more. And I think that repeatedly we have felt
and if there is to be any extra pay and greater skill it ought to be in those early grades where the impact of the teacher is greater. I have our research study here by David G Ryann's which I would like to describe briefly. Dr. Ryan studied two hundred seventy four elementary schools and one hundred three secondary schools to determine that the relationships between the behaviors of pupils and the behaviors of teachers in the schools. For the elementary school classes he found a high positive relationship between productive pupil behavior and approved patterns of teacher behavior productive people behavioral was characterized by alertness on the part of the pupils participation by the pupils
a sense of responsibility and self control by the children. Approved teacher behavior was described as an understanding teacher. A friendly teacher an organized teacher a teacher was businesslike and a teacher who was enthusiastic and stimulating. For the secondary school classes using the same pupil characteristics and teacher characteristics there was all little positive relationship between productive pupil behavior and teacher behavior. A little positive by that doctor Loughlin you mean there was a relationship but simply indicated that the teacher wasn't having quite as profound an impact at the secondary level. Yes there was a relationship but it was a much lower
relationship than the one which Dr Ryan's found on the elementary school. This is what we would suspect. So as a result of this study by Ryans and by the way this was just one of many studies conducted by Dr rhymes it appears that in the secondary school pupil behavior is less closely related to teacher behavior than an instant case no lower grades in the elementary school. I wonder Dr. offline if that's Did he were repeated today or in the near future taking into consideration some of the problems we hear so much about today such as the problems of the inner city school and the behavior of the child in the ghetto school. I wonder if he might change some of his criteria for measuring some of these things I know not long ago I read an article where someone said that traditionally
colleges have been offering middle class training to middle class teachers for middle class pupils in middle class schools. And he was criticizing the fact that we're not training our teachers to work in let's say what we call the ghetto school or the inner city schools. So I wonder if there isn't a lot of research to be done to relations with the urbanization of our country as I said moving ahead. I think Head Start the federally sponsored Head Start program is one way of getting the children out of their homes. And that seems to be a terrible thing to say but it's true of a lot of children get them. Out of their homes into the hands of teachers where they can have the environment that is better for the development of attitudes and knowledge. Considering the conditions that we do have in the in the inner city and considering the fact that our cities are going to get larger and larger I wonder if one
idea expressed by a pro someone isn't a good one and that is that each college take over a ghetto school to make it an experimental center and where they could really get down to studying the development of attitudes and changes in the behavior of the children. You know schools since we have so many of them. And since we're going to have to do something if we're going to get rid of them well that's a good idea in any colleges doing exactly this with one of their one or more of the schools in Washington D.C. As you know Washington D.C. public schools are in pretty poor shape and Antioch has taken over there are going to be cooperating in staffing and providing instructional techniques that are appropriate for these children. But I would say that instead of the influence of the teacher becoming less in America it's becoming more. And the impact of the teacher on the child comes from the impoverished home. It's bound to be significant in
great. And so we do have to prepare teachers well for this. And it's not an easy task to take a middle or middle upper class individual who perhaps has never even visited a slum area and enable that teacher to understand children with their different social and psychological patterns. Well Dean top I would like to read how to register the opinion that no matter who the children are whether they're from the in inner city or out in a rural area there are basic patterns of behavior so far as learning is concerned that would hold true in me in any situation. Children need to be motivated. The motivation may come in the form of praise. Recognition for one's words encouragement and a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of the teacher or just attention respect as
an individual is something that many children are not used to. And I might add that for the teacher to do have the respect of the child the teacher must have these personal qualities or traits we talked about. She must have adequate knowledge to teach in her class to teach the particular subjects that she's interested in and teaching. And of course she must have the skills knowledge and skills for teaching otherwise there isn't going to be a good personal relationship between a child or a teacher because the child isn't going to respect a teacher. That's right Emma. I wonder if people should even enter teaching. We don't have a feeling of affection for people. I don't enjoy being with people who want to understand a teacher's situation. You ought to try to imagine yourself with 30 youngsters. These are strange to you at the beginning of the year. Of course the children go into this classroom as we all
remember that early day in September when we go into that new teacher and we've heard all kinds of rumors. And I hear she's a real rock for severe or demanding or he or she is a wonderful teenager ever on what children and enjoy this teacher and what a remarkable thing it is in a way that bunch of teachers throughout the lives of young Americans can take and make the contribution that they do. I know a few weeks ago we were talking about the influence or the impact that the parent had on the child's progress in school and I think today I can't recall all the things we said at that time but I think today we could just turn it around and and find that many of the same many of the same things are important in the relationship between the teacher and the child.
And we may have deprecated or at least forgotten momentarily the impact of the junior high school teacher or the high school teacher on the child. And yet I'm sure that they may not be having the overall attitudinal employers but I'm sure they have significant things to contribute and do right. And it seems as if new techniques of teaching change as we have new media for teaching and so forth. I don't think we ever need to worry about any of these things replacing the personal relationship between the teacher and the pupil because because they become even more important I feel we have the most experience important experiences that a child can have in school is that success. And in a case of some children I know it's a terrific challenge to the teacher to try to. To build a lesson in which some of these children will experience success peaks some of them are just not
talented in the academic sense. I think Pauline's Sears studies of the level of aspiration might be appropriate to consider at this time. According to Dr. Sears the level of aspiration is the level of performance. And they all know your task which an individual tries for or thinks he cannot accomplish on on the next performance. Dr. Sears studied fourth fifth and sixth grade children who had been either successful or unsuccessful in school to find out how they set goals. She gave them simple words such as finding synonyms for easy words and after each trial she told the child the time and seconds that it took him to arrive at the correct answer. She used this method of scoring because a child was not familiar with this and
could not determine on its own the correctness or the poorness of his response. Then Dr. Sears asked him what school he was going to try for on the next trial. She especially wanted to determine whether pupils would set reasonable goals nearer or slightly better goals than their actual performance on the first trial. She also followed the same procedure with an Easy Ed. test. Now the results of the study showed that children who had been successful in past school work set realistic goals for themselves and pupils who had done badly were highly erratic in their school setting. Some said goes very cautiously but it is below that which they had accomplished previously. They were inclined to lack
confidence in Dr. Sears thought that in some cases if no at all pressure had been applied and many of them would have given up entirely on the task. Others were the records of past failure set overly optimistic goals so far beyond their reach that their actual accomplishment was far beyond any thing that they could hope to accomplish. Did they get discouraged. Back in love they became very discouraged. Not this and others studies confirm that they conclusion that the fact of success is is fairly certain. I think we can be sure and saying that the success or the experiencing of successes is one of the basic ingredients of a good teacher that is planning success for for children. I think that what you're demonstrating here Dr. Laughlin is that we have
tended to over simplify the teaching act in the room of the teacher the teach teacher just does not expose children to not only age and the children absorb this in another pair of researchers in California by the name of De Haan and behind a husband and wife team. I have worked up a very thorough study that demonstrates quite clearly that the relationship between the teacher and the child has much to do with the child's self confidence or self concept or the confidence as you mentioned and for example in his day to day relationship just the way the teacher responds to a to a child's contribution or contribution or the way the teacher looks in and relates to the child can have an impact. Now we see children coming to school some of whom have high ability but lack confidence they won't try anything. And the teacher then senses
this and tries to bring them out and give them the feeling of success that you describe. Well I think we can be sure that success leads to interest in the subject and to more effort on the part of the teacher but as a reaction to failure that's hard to predict. I think that children as well as adults like to do things if they expect to succeed but not too easily. You know you do have to have failure occasionally when I think this raises a question too. Should a teacher should a child always experience success in school or should there be a time when this child should deliberately experience. Success as a result of planning by the teacher. Don't you think it depends a little bit on the child I could imagine a child who came to school feeling that he couldn't do anything well or successfully and for quite a period of time the teacher would try to make certain that this child did appreciate to have
success and was appreciated. Which I suppose is as significant as the success and even the right for a period of time this is not official life with a lot of successes and few failures. This might be a good diet to prescribe to this child whose self-esteem has injured for some reason or other at the time the teacher encounters him was threatening the child's ability to to. Except let's say failure has it's tied up with his emotional instability emotional stability and his whole his whole personality. Certainly the child who is well-adjusted let's say can't take failure much better than a child who is already frustrated let's say. Oh sure Dr. Leonard would you go so far as to say this is a child who has never experienced failure in school should be taught to accept
failure to experience failure. Yes I would say so another words we have to everybody has let's say has failures at times. And even though the studies you talk about a minute ago on success were important studies and they certainly confirm my observations through the years in schools. Nevertheless we have the problem the problem today preparing children to live successfully in a world that's beyond our conception at this time because we don't know what the world is going to be 20 years from now or 15 years from now. But you know the doctor will know they're going to have some failures. Dr. a lot but I wouldn't I wouldn't want to create failure situations on purpose for children in my room. Is that right the very life they live daily in school.
They want to experience some failure. And of course we know how a child who has a learning success should come his way very easily reaction this failure situation he libels say I won't do it I won't try. I won't play. And he backed off from it. Well I think a feeling of success is important in school but not to the exclusion of all failure. I really should be some opportunity for failure. But I don't think that the child you can see a child always has success even the most successful child. Did your in your classroom for example give me a period that he's having success at every turn. But you don't know how many failures he's having within himself. Well I would accept that but let's move in the other direction. Would you admit that there are children in school who've experienced continue know they have their repeated failure and never experience any success. Oh yes and that's one of the saddest things you've ever observed as a child who
perhaps doesn't have the intellectual ability to compete. He doesn't have. Home situation that encourages him and helps in every day he recognizes that he just doesn't do it as well as the others know this is where physical education and music and art and some of these skills that are outside of the area of just abstract reasoning and of course abstract reasoning has involved all these. But at least you may hear something that this child does well and this is where extracurricular activities contribute to. I'll take issue with that. I don't think that any child can have all failures in a good classroom. You know their words. How do you mean in a classroom where there's a good teacher right. OK good have a good classroom and still experience failure but a good teacher want to allow a child to have caught some failure in my opinion. All right but let's take an illustration let's say that we have a child with an
IQ that is pretty low. This means it is abstract is mathematical ability is likely to be low. He goes in. James junior high school with theirs and he has a teacher of mathematics or science. Now this teacher may be a good teacher and the teacher may recognize right at the beginning that this little boy just cannot do the work. So the teacher provides him with the easier material or tries to get him doing something within the limits of his capacity. But the teacher is not fooling the child. He knows that he's not really succeeding here. But maybe that child have some other abilities. Maybe he was into mechanical drawing where it takes a sense of perspective and neatness and accuracy and measurement and ability that he might have. And here is where he gets his behavior. Well I think there are some classes that some children are required to
engage in where they know they are failing from beginning to end and I think it's disastrous if that's their only diet. There's one thing here I'd like to mention and that is that so many times at the elementary school level you'll find a teacher who is willing to adjust the curriculum let's say to the child to a child in one in one area such as maybe reading. But then when you turn to a different area you know even a related one such as spelling then and then she doesn't he doesn't want to adjust the crick into this child and intern and I want to make one other point and that is that so many times you hear people say but but this little second grader must compete with all the other second graders you know all of the areas because those are the facts of life. Well my point is simply this that when that little fellow gets that you're talking about when he gets into adult life he's not going to be competing with the brightest children in that class or the most academically talented children and I can't find he's new here
so I know your niche in adult life which isn't in competition with the young fellow who wants to be and I like to go engineer or a medical doctor or some other doctor Loughlin his point that it's disastrous to force a child into areas that are beyond his capacity to achieve. We would hate to have that that happen to us at the adult level and I suspect that many times this is happening in schools. Well I'm quite sure that that is one of the causes of high school dropouts these days. Take for example a youngster who upon entering kindergarten or first grade experiences many many failures in these grades and through the remaining elementary school grades. By the time he gets into high school if this pattern continues no Dani's can just wait waiting till he reaches the age age 16 so he can drop out of school. Well I think don't you Dr. Laughlin and Dr. Leonard that the
increased concern about our country's competitive ness has caused some teachers do you ever emphasize achievement. In other words they have tried to force children ahead of themselves. We hear now about teaching children to read before they go to kindergarten teach the mathematics early. Now this might be possible for some children some bright very bright children but very little is to be gained in my opinion by forcing them ahead particularly a third grade fourth grade fifth grade teacher who has a group of children 30 children whose abilities range from perhaps first grade level in reading to a high school level in reading. The idea that all of these children can be forced to learn at the same rate. And I think there was some damage done by over emphasized it over emphasis on achievement and loss of concern for individual differences. I think one subject we should just touch on before we leave and that is that the fact that the
teacher to date needs to be skilled in human relations. Oh I think so. I think yours fundamentally a specialist in human relationships. And we have to keep this in mind we just have to go beyond what seems to be the simple task of providing the teacher would not only of subject matter this teacher somehow or other must communicate in our region of subject matter and the skills and do it in such a way that of the child himself will become a learner and I hope that in this little discussion we've had here we have at least motivated to thinking you know parents and other citizens with regard to the AIM back to the teacher has upon the child and I hope that parents and teachers can work together because this is by far the most efficient way to make certain that the learning of the children in our schools moves along the fissioning behind the classroom door produced by WFIU Af-Am in cooperation with the College of Education at Northern Illinois
Behind the Classroom Door
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
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Chicago: “Behind the Classroom Door; 9,” 1969-02-10, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 18, 2022,
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APA: Behind the Classroom Door; 9. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from