Learn or I Will Hurt You

This threat of learning “or else” is a ridiculous notion. Yet I wonder if that’s what schools do to kids every day. I’ve been guilty of this punishment dance myself (do your homework or I will make you stay into your break) and I do it because it works. But does it really?

When kids can’t wait to get out of school, when they dump their work in the recycle bin without looking back, when they huff and puff about this adult or that one…we may be winning the battle but I think we just may be losing the war.

These questions come to me as I’ve just finished a chapter review on school culture. When we have a culture of “Learn or I will hurt you” (Barth, 2007), then I think school might become little more than an exercise in quiet agitation and discontent (Lusiani Elliott, 2011).

Barth says we need to change the culture of schools to say instead, “Learn or you will hurt yourself.” I agree, and I use this angle too. Trouble is, they don’t always believe me.

What’s a teacher to do?

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