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Weighing Student Criticism of Teachers

With students and parents increasingly seen as consumers, it's only natural to rethink how much weight should be given to their feedback. However, a report about a student in Duncanville High School in Texas who lambasted his history teacher in class for her use of worksheets raises concerns ("Duncanville student's classroom rant goes viral," WFAA.com, May 8).

The student was apparently angered by what he said was the teacher's failure to "stand up and interact with students, get involved, discuss, talk, question, and get deep into the subject." I have two reactions.

First, although I believe the student has a point, he goes about it in the wrong way. If he disagrees with his teacher's instructional strategy, he should have written an anonymous note outlining his concerns. Instead, he undermined his case by his approach. What he did was disrespectful. If his ostensible objective was to improve learning, attacking a teacher in front of other students calls his real motive into question.

Second, I think that worksheets have their place in instruction. I have no way of knowing how often the teacher used them, but worksheets by themselves are not taboo. When I was in high school, my American history teacher used them sparingly but effectively. They formed the basis for discussion. In their absence, I doubt that discussions would have been nearly as meaningful. At Penn, the knowledge I retained from the high school worksheets made me better prepared for an American history class than most of my classmates.

It's encouraging to note that Duncanville school officials have not jumped to conclusions. They have promised to look more deeply into the matter. I hope that both the student and the teacher will profit from what transpires. Not all teachers are right, but neither are all students.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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