Posts Tagged ‘tools’

They don’t tell you about this in grad school

May 17, 2011 2 comments

After 8 straight days of having to call the office to request a custodian with a plunger, plus several discussions about our class’s over-use of toilet paper, today I had to set aside my science lesson on plants and talk about…poop.  Our class had a somber conversation about new rules for flushing to make sure that our toilet doesn’t break, then I used the instructional strategy of having students list details across their fingers to have them repeat and remember the new rules.  They may not have taught us how to handle broken toilets in grad school, but it’s good to know the pedagogical strategies I learned work across topics!



June 11, 2010 Leave a comment

One of my classmates draws a distinction between classroom management and student management. Classroom management, he suggests, is what teachers do to create an environment in which students can learn, and it includes the routines, class work, relationships, etc. of the classroom. Student management, on the other hand, is the attempt to control each moment of each child’s behavior.

In thinking about the last several days, I realize that I’m doing what I never wanted to do – instead of setting up an environment in which the kids behave well, I’m working within broken structures and am essentially playing whack-a-mole with the kids all day. Essentially, I’m practicing student management instead of classroom management. I spend the day – especially the afternoons – telling kids to stop talking, stop wandering, stop tapping…stop, stop, stop! I hate it, it’s not effective, and I want it to change. The challenge is to figure out how to do that.

To start, I need to get over my reluctance to change the kids’ routines. The reality is that I do things differently than their old teacher and I have a different relationship with the class, so we’ve already changed the day in big ways. Given that, changing the desks around (for instance) to separate the kids who are driving each other crazy just isn’t a big deal.

Another part of the problem is that the academic work we’re doing isn’t that interesting. For the most part, it’s either review or boring requirement. I don’t know how much I can change about that, but I can at least keep it in mind when I respond to the kids. Bored ten year olds are misbehaving ten year olds. I’ll try to figure out how to make the remaining lessons more interesting, try to cut the kids some slack, and try to move things around so that the classroom works better for me and the kids.

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Trade offs in all things

May 4, 2010 Leave a comment

As noted earlier, I had my first meeting – ever – to discuss a project with a professor before I turn it in.  The good from the experience: she thinks I have a good project and we had a great conversation.  The bad: she made at least a half dozen suggestions for improvement “if [I] have time.”  Since I’ve scheduled the rest of my week already and I don’t have time, I’m not quite sure why I went in to talk with her.  Did I think she’d say it was perfect?  I think I went in because 1) I wanted an excuse to talk with her and 2) I started to get nervous holding onto the project but not turning it in yet.  I find it deeply unsettling to finish an assignment and still having it hanging around, unsubmitted, days later.  If I have more days to work, shouldn’t I keep working on it?  But taking that approach, why would one ever work ahead or try to get things done early?  It would just lead to a mad, unending, hamster wheel of work.

I need to avoid falling down the rabbit hole on this assignment, yet show that I didn’t completely waste her time or ignore her advice.  To strike this balance, my plan is to set aside two hours this weekend to make revisions – when time’s up, it gets turned in.  I use this rationed time approach frequently to manage my workload – projects get a certain amount of time, or a certain number of pages, or are limited in some other way that makes sense for that assignment.  I work within those boundaries, and when I reach them, I have to find a way to finish up.  It keeps my perfectionist tendencies in check, keeps my time commitments in line with my priorities, and ensures I have time for everything I need to get done.

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Match me if you can

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I am in an on- and off-again relationship with  I like that many people are on the site, that it allows initial communication beyond ridiculous multiple choice questions, and that it’s relatively cheap compared to eharmony.  I do not, however, like its automatic subscription renewal, its deceptive teaser emails once a subscription is cancelled, or its scraping of the bottom of the barrel after just 2-3 weeks of “Daily 5” suggested matches.

All that said, and I are “on” again.  They are celebrating their 15th anniversary and are passing the joy on to me through a 50% discount.  I weighed the pros and cons, considered our past relationship – both the joys and the disappointments – and decided that for $54 over six months, Match had made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  So instead of doing schoolwork (of which I have a lot right now) or updating this blog (which I’ve neglected), I spent yesterday afternoon updating my profile, uploading new photos, and searching for new matches.  Given our history, I can’t say for sure how this new phase of our relationship will turn out, but I am approaching it with optimism and energy.  If nothing else, it should provide a great way to procrastinate on my class work.

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Categories: Hobbies, Relationships Tags: ,

Another daycare lesson

April 13, 2010 1 comment

We talked in class today about why so many teachers are scared of giving up whole group instruction and implementing small group routines.  I said at one point that having groups all over the classroom, each doing their own thing feels safe, not chaotic.  My professor laughed and said that this feeling “probably makes you an odd duck in the universe of teachers.”   Clearly my reaction to independently operating small groups isn’t normal, so why do I have it?  I think the answer lies, once again, in daycare.  Here’s another lesson to add to my earlier list:

6) Large groups of children lead to biting.
One lesson I learned by spending months in the same room as 12 one-year-olds is that 2, 3, or maybe even 4 one-year-olds can find a way to play side by side without hurting each other (as long as there are enough toys to go around).  Bring more than that together , or, god forbid, bring all 12 to the same spot, doing the same activity, and somebody is guaranteed to end up in tears.  That many toddlers simply cannot share the same small space without one (or more) of them getting annoyed and either trying to take a chomp out of another or using whatever toy is at hand to wallop somebody else over the head.  It’s a law of nature.  After my daycare experience I don’t really even think about it in the classroom – I instinctively break kids up into smaller groups and get them working in different parts of the room.  It just feels safer to me.  Even though six-year-olds don’t usually bite.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Children, jobs…and border collies

April 1, 2010 1 comment

After my post on the impact of voice and movement on classroom management, my sister Leigh and I talked for awhile about her experiences working with kids.  One of the things we talked about was telling kids what to do before you need them to do it.  For instance, she shared how she brought a group of second graders back to their classroom last week and told them before they went inside, “I want everyone to sit quietly at their desks and finish the books they started this morning, and your teacher will be really impressed when she comes back” – and they sat down and read quietly.

What so many people do in that situation is to let the kids tumble into the room, talking and moving and finding their own things to do, then try to get the kids’ attention to tell them to stop talking and read a book.  This usually results in the kids getting yelled at for not listening, even though it’s not really their fault since they didn’t know what they should have been doing.

Giving kids a job before they enter a new situation is a lot like the advice given to new border collie owners.  Border collies need jobs and if they aren’t given one they’ll make one up.  To live together happily you need to give the dog a job you enjoy, too, because you probably won’t like the one they come up with.

Like border collies, kids need jobs.  They need to be doing something all the time and if they’re not given directions on what to do they’ll find something to do on their own.  That’s great during playtime, but it can be a disaster in the classroom.  Clear, upfront directions create sane, livable classrooms.

Categories: Choices Tags: ,

Voice and movement coaches in lieu of behavior management courses

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment

The more I talk to teachers – new teachers, old teachers, student teachers – the more I hear that behavior management (aka the ability to get kids quiet and still long enough to teach them) is one of the greatest challenges in classrooms.  I hear that across school districts and populations – it’s not an urban problem or a suburban problem, a rich problem or a poor problem, as far as I can tell.  It seems that teachers everywhere have trouble getting their kids to listen.

In my own life, one of my friends is struggling with classroom management in his student teaching placement, trying to figure out how kids who are reasonably well-behaved with their regular teacher can be so hard to control when he has them on his own.  In pondering this problem with him I thought of two very different sources of inspiration: dog training and acting.

I think of dog training because, like Cesar of the Dog Whisperer, I believe that a significant amount of a dog’s response to us is based on the energy we project.  Our posture, voice, and attitude tell the dog either “I’m leading here.  You can trust me and should follow me,” or “I’m lost.  This is scary.  You’re on your own here.”  I believe the same thing happens in a classroom.  Children’s health and happiness often depends on their ability to read the emotions and attitudes of the adults around them, so they tend to get good at it.  When an adult’s posture or tone communicates “I have no idea what I’m doing here and I’m not sure if you should be listening to me,” students, like dogs, will take control, dominating the teacher.  Also like dogs, however, this isn’t really what they want.  It’s chaotic, unpredictable, and unbalanced.  Most students, certainly at the elementary school level, want to know that someone is in charge, has a plan, and will take care of them.

I think of acting classes because of Penelope Trunk’s post about taking an acting class to improve her leadership skills.  The premise of the class is that “acting and leading are both about establishing a relationship with an audience and making them believe in you.”  That applies just as well to teaching.  I believe that at heart, all great teachers are great performers.  They’re not all stand-up comedians, but they all know how to use their voice and body to get and keep the attention of a roomful of students.  It doesn’t matter how wonderful your lesson is – if you can’t get the kids’ attention they will never learn what you have to teach them.

Given how important our posture, voice, and energy are in controlling the attention in a classroom, perhaps it makes more sense for teachers to ditch the college courses on behavior management and instead work with vocal, acting, or movement coaches to tune the body’s vital tools.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,
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