Two things happened yesterday that had me reflecting on my classroom environment as a learning space.
First, I was in the midst of a low-stakes evaluation by my principal, who is very supportive of my work around technology and writing. We got to the point in our new rubric around classroom management and here is what I had running through my head: my students right at that moment, sitting all around the classroom, laptops in hand, writing their Make Your Own Adventure stories while chatting away, helping each other out. Some were no doubt fooling around. Others were intensive focused.
My room is often sort of chaotic, but in a good way (I think). My students are active learners in whatever we are doing — whether it is tech work, or making and performing puppet plays, or doing collaborative activities. It’s not the ELA class that I grew up in. We don’t sit still for very long. And while it may seem to outsiders that there is no method to the madness, there indeed is. I am always in tune to student dynamics, always encouraging students to help others when help is needed, always engaged in mini-lessons in small groups that then filter out to the whole, always pushing students to take risks beyond their comfort zones.
My principal looked at the evaluation rubric and acknowledged that my class is not the traditional class and that makes it difficult sometimes to find the right substitute teacher when I am out. I don’t give my students busywork at their desk for an hour. Even when I am not there, I expect creativity to be happening. Then, my principal said that he liked the engagement of the students, the energy level of the activities and he gave some praise to me in this area that I often consider a possible weakness in my teaching. That was nice to hear.
A few hours later (same scene: students, with laptops, writing around the room on a wiki), a family of potential School Choice students comes into my classroom on a tour of our school. Yeah, it’s a bit noisy and active, and the school’s administrative assistant who is acting as host explains that she wanted the family to see technology in the school on both ends of the spectrum (I think they were down in kindergarten first? Gail?). I can’t tell what the parents are thinking as I say hello — they seem to be trying to take in exactly what the heck is going on in this sixth grade classroom — but I could tell what the kids in tow were thinking: “We want to join in on the activity, whatever it is!”
So, yeah, my idea of classroom management is allowing for movement and voices and some chaos, and I still every day try to find the balance between students listening and learning, and students engaged and active. Some days, I am more successful at that balance than others. It doesn’t always work and it doesn’t always work for some students. I adapt as I go. Some days, I wish I were a traditional teacher with a traditional classroom. Then, there wouldn’t be so much noise. But I don’t think there would be as much creative exploration, either.
And I can’t imagine doing things any other way and getting the same results from my young writers and composers.
Peace (amidst the chaos),