Valuing creative maladjustment

Teuku Zulfikar Akarim ,  Melbourne   |  Thu, 11/13/2008 10:33 AM  |  Opinion

The title of this article may lead to a degree of confusion for some readers. “I won’t learn from you” is taken from a book by Herbert Kohl entitled “I won’t learn from you: And other thoughts on creative maladjustment”. The book is thought provoking and identifies factors that lead to students’ developing resistant behaviors against their school authorities.

High school students are teenagers in the process of constructing their identity. Students come to class bringing with them various problems, which often hinder their schooling process. Some do not have sufficient money, others feel discouraged by teachers’ attitudes and some lack appropriate love and care from their parents at home.

These varied dilemmas in the end lead to students’ not wanting to learn. These “hidden” dilemmas are often overlooked by teachers as well as parents.

In the United States, these rebellious students are known in some parts as the “lads”. They come from working class Anglo-American families and study in working class schools, and break from conventional rule systems. They strive to oppose school authority, break dress codes, show off to exert power and mock school regulations.

In the United States, and Indonesia where a similar scenario is unfolding, school personnel should be sensitive when responding to students’ misbehaving in school.

To fully understand students’ misconduct, I offer a solution, which I call “teaching smart people to learn”. Intelligent people have proven they are capable of independent learning. Yet, to my knowledge, they are not impervious to becoing trapped in situations they themselves cannot resolve.

So, how can we teach smart people to learn? Smart people can be taught by infusing new ideas they haven’t yet learnt, or by reminding them about good ideas they may have forgotten. The next question is who is in fact smart? For this discussion, smart people are parents, school leaders and teachers. For schools to effectively handle the problem of the “lads” in Indonesia, they must adopt a “top down” approach. Parents, school leaders and teachers should be empowered with strategies to handle bad attitudes displayed by students.

Parents are educational stakeholders and have the right to question schools and keep track of their children’s academic achievements. Parents should express criticism toward schooling processes. Many parents in Indonesia do not understand that their commitment is not only to send their kids to schools but to let schools take full responsibility for their children’s academic success.

Parents are obliged to assist their children and schools. Parents’ should also be held responsible for their children’s misconduct and academic achievement. Only by doing so can schools educate students. Teachers, in reciprocity, are responsible for their students and should call parents if their students are performing poorly, or not attending school.

In addition teachers should be taught compassion and humility so they can deal with ill-disciplined students. School leaders are expected to see beyond the immediate goals. These leaders need to accommodate students’ voices and work cooperatively with school personnel to help them improve their learning.

In solving school problems such as those involving the “lads”, schools need to use democratic methods. They should cooperate fully with students and regard them not as subordinates, but as colleagues. This approach could make significant gains in Indonesia’s education system.

The writer is Ph.D. Student at Faculty of Education, Monash University.

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