Being human and classroom management

We are just about coming to the end of the classroom management section of my summer course (Teaching French as a 2nd Language). The more I learn about classroom management the more I realize that most of it is about being human and doing the right thing.

Strategies that arose in relation to managing a 2nd language classroom in a way that stimulates learning weren’t much different than strategies for any class:

The one thing I’d say is different has to do with the nature of the emotional climate in the room – learning a 2nd language can be scary and stressful. It’s very much about performance in front of our peers and worries about being laughed at and ridiculed will take precedence over learning.

“We now understand that higher-level thinking is more likely to occur in the brain of a student who is emotionally secure than in the brain of a student who is scared, upset, anxious, or stressed.” (p. 461)
Mawhinney, T., & Sagan, L. (2007) The Power of Personal
Relationships. Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 88, No. 06, 460-464.

I’d say, however, that each subject probably has its own emotional climate to deal with. There are times as teachers that we act as containers for the emotion in the room, in the sense that we manage and contain student emotion so that they can continue with their learning. No wonder we are often so tired at the end of the day!

Do you think that classroom management is about being human and can transcend subject matter? Or do you think it is about something completely different? Does your subject have a specific nature that calls for specific management strategies?

Cite, I say, Cite! Student engagement & improved learning

I was asked to find some sources to support this statement I made:

Student engagement is primary. Of course it guarantees learning.

Here are a few. I’m hoping you can add some more :)

Engagement Theories

Strategies and how-to’s

And, really, I can go on. Some of you know how much I love to do research! But I’m hoping for you to help out here. What proof do you have that engagement improves learning? What do you base that proof on?


Lessons that never end

and really they don’t. Just when I think all is in order I get thrown on my ass again.

Last week’s day in a sentence (hosted by Illya‘s EVO Blogfolio) was actually a year in a sentence and it called for reflective sentences on the year that is about to end.

I left the call for sentences post open in my browser for a day or so. I’d stare at it, go away, stare at it again, go away again, until finally I typed:

Learning about what is important to me – lessons that never end!

Beaver Lodge

Beavers don't build a lodge and they are done. It's constant - always building, adding and taking away - and necessary for survival. This picture and the lodge making story was found on Mon@rch's Nature Blog. Click image for source.

It always seems to be this time of year when I lose my focus. It’s run run run all the time with teaching. teaching. teaching. This year in particular – my days are long. very long. I leave my house at around 6am and sometimes don’t return until 13 or so hours later. My dogs are loving this schedule (not) as am I (again, not). At this time of year that means that my down time is all in darkness. Yuck. (And I am getting tired of telling this story over again year after year.)

For the past few weeks I have been an elastic ball of exhaustion, ready to snap apart at any noise, annoyance, divergence from plans. Not a good quality to have when a) I work with teenagers, b) I have 2 dogs and a cat who need more attention than I am giving them, and c) I am experiencing my first winter in my 100 year old home in the country. (stove pipe fell out of the wall last week, filling my home with smoke, on the same evening that my furnace ran out of oil, so I had to sleep with the windows open on a night with no heat in the house. Yesterday my pipes froze – apparently that can happen when you heat primarily with the (now-fixed) wood stove on really cold days. Really, this could be a funny movie if it were being filmed.) Oh, and d) I apparently have some health issues that my doctor wants me to check out in more detail over the holiday break.

I met with my principal just before leaving for the break on Friday and he pointed out that he was worried about me, that I need to know I can speak to him before I completely burn out. That I need to remember to take care of myself. On Sunday morning my boyfriend held me in his arms during a bit of a …moment… after I had put the dogs into the veranda because they were driving me crazy running around the house and soon after noticed they had torn up a garbage bag I had forgotten to bring outside and decorated said veranda with its contents.

So, what the heck have I learned this time that is important to me? Well, for one that it’s a continuous process this focusing on what is important shtick. That’s what they call keeping balance in some parts. One thing I sure learned in the past few days is that keeping people in the picture rather than on the sidelines helps everything else fall into place. When I was in my boyfriend’s arms he didn’t say anything but just let me blubber for a while until I found the words I needed to say. I get so frustrated with myself when I set myself up to fail, when I make choices that make my life harder than it needs to be –> Working and living so far apart. Putting the garbage bag in the veranda instead of directly out to the garbage bin. Not learning about the ins and outs of heating an old house in the winter. Not approaching people for help before I get overwhelmed.

I may be a little bit hard on myself as well. Maybe. A little. The little upsets and failures are being measured by my out-of-whack yard stick for success. I was teased this weekend about being slightly ticked off that I received an overall mark of 97 in the course I took this semester.

Time to reevaluate choices, create some of that hope for the future I’m always talking about. But guess what? I’m thinking of actually letting other people help me out with that. Novel idea, I know.

On de-rubricizing

I almost forgot about my favourite line from yesterday’s QPAT convention keynote speaker, Alfie Kohn.

He said it as I was leaving the room so it didn’t end up in my not-live blog post but I just found the page where I scribbled it as I was making my way to my car:

The whole can not be reduced to the sum of its rubricized parts!

For a long time now I have been sceptical of the whole rubric frenzy. Must have a rubric, must have a rubric. Why? Why should we tell kids exactly what our expectations are and in such minute detail? I call that a creativity killer. Give them some parameters. If you are expecting the result to be some kind of multimedia presentation let them know that, give them the guiding question, maybe a few resources to get them going, to raise the velcro in their brains, but then let them experiment!

Let them show me what they can do without spelling it out for them. Rubrics lower the bar for our students. It is telling them that we do not trust they can do anything worthwhile without our providing them with all of the pieces. Kids will rise to the bar we set for them whether it be high or low.I like to push the limits of height.

A line that I find myself quoting on a regular basis is

Why do anything unless it is going to be great. (Peter Block)

I try to instill this in my students. They ask – why do I have to use proper letter-writing style elements in history when I write a letter to the King of France as a character from New France in 1665 offering ideas for how to stimulate population growth in the new colony? This is history, not English! I answer, why do anything unless it is going to be great?

I insist on learning with this philosophical slant. That being said, I better get to my readings. I have a paer due next week on an aspect of education for Native kids in Canada. I need to do some more reading so I can write a great paper.

Rubric, Shmubric.

Pearls need discomfort, right?

“Those that have survived such perils of the sea as typhoons, suffocating red tides, and attacks from predators are brought ashore and opened. if everything has gone well, the result is a lovely, lustrous and very valuable pearl.” Click image for source.

Yesterday after work I was typing up a commitment contract with our head teacher, Lynn, for one of our students. We had had a day. I remarked that it’s like that in Alternative – each day is ‘a day’ – and that is what makes our jobs more interesting – every day is different and exciting.

We joked about that for a while and then I said but seriously, even though they can be trying in the moment, it’s responding to the varied situations and the behaviours/needs of our kids that makes me a better teacher. It’s on the job professional development. I feel I learn so much each day about relationship, caring, learning. Lynn responded – better teacher? It makes me a better person.

Thought that pearl was worth showing in the light.