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From the department of educational trends the world probably doesn't need (see the teacher who banned saying "Bless You" in class and the preschool that outlawed calling kids "Him" or "Her") comes news that a British school doesn't want kids to raise their hands in class. Instead, students should let the teacher know they have something to say by cupping one hand in the other and giving a thumbs up.
Over 300 kids, ages 7 to 11, at the British school have been told to use the new method in the hopes that it will promote a "calmer, more inclusive" classroom environment, according to The Daily Mail. "Some children are always keen to raise their hand and others are more reticent," says a teacher quoted in the article. "Hands up can sometimes be more of a distraction for young children. It can put them off because they have to put their ideas forward in a forceful way."
Now maybe if they got to put up two thumbs up, Fonzie-style, as the article implies, I'd say it might be a cool and positive alternative worth trying out. But this arms down, one thumb up is a passive and timid way of communicating, and I hope it doesn’t catch on in the States. Here’s why:
Raising your hand high is a way to show confidence. Why are we looking for ways to stifle a child’s excitement over education? If a kid is actually interested and engaged and eager to share an example of an animal habitat, why are we telling him to calm down? I get that some kids are shy, and this will put everyone on an even playing field, but that’s not how life works. I was a shy kid -- I should know! Kids have to learn that they need to assert themselves to be heard, and raising their hand proudly is their first lesson.
There are far worse distractions than an arm waver. I’m not a teacher, but I’m related to quite a few of them, and none of them have ever sat around the dinner table complaining about those annoying kids who have the nerve to pay attention and show interest by asking or answering questions. Sure, there might be that one kid who’s a little too eager (you know the one…he practically falls out of his desk begging to be picked). But he’s still easier to deal with than the spit-ballers, note-passers, call-outers and desk-kickers.
The potential for accidents just went up. So if a kid has to use the bathroom, or the loo, as they say in England, she has to sit there and hope the teacher will notice her little thumb sticking up. That’s not a chance I’d be willing to take if I had to go.
Listen, I’m all about teachers doing whatever it takes to keep kids engaged and make the classroom environment as pleasant and conducive to learning as possible. But let’s stop focusing on goofy things like this, and give our own educators the salaries, supplies, and support they need to get the job done -- and then we'll all have reason to give the thumbs up.