It’s 8am, Monday.
“Okay, everyone, sit down and take out your books and go to page 37 and do the exercise B now. Why aren’t you listening? Richard, please sit down. You don’t have your book? Why are you late?”
And so on. And so on.
Why is it that we educators insist that our students tune into what we want our students to do at the exact time or moment that they need them to? How many of us can do that? How many of us switch between various tasks (and usually end up on email) when we just can’t do that thing at that specific time?
So, what are you saying? Just let students not pay attention to what you are doing?
Well, kind of. I know this is difficult to understand, but learning is becoming less and less about YOU. By the end of this blog, I think you’ll be thanking me, although it is still a scary thing to comprehend. From DuFour to Marzano, the research tells us over and over and over the importance of the learning climate and learner engagement.
I am a Principal who also teaches a class called digital literacy. No, the seniors don’t care that I am the Principal. They still come late, usually holding a coffee, at times out of uniform, and often texting while I am talking. Yes, I get annoyed and tell them to close their devices, but since the class is called DL, I have a love/hate relationship with allowing them to keep said devices.
So, I had a class meeting one day. Ever have one of those? They can be quite liberating. “I know this is hard for you,” I started. “But I need you to listen to me for a minute. This is what is not working for me today.” (And I listed a bunch of stuff). Then it was their turn. What came out of it was startling.
“You don’t trust us to do our work. You think we’re always slacking where you just need to tell us what to do and we will get it done. Maybe we just have something else we need to do at that time.”
“Why do we always have to do what you want at the exact moment? We will get to it, we just have so many other things we need to do right now, like a big project next class I am worried about.”
Now, I know where some of you will go with this, allowing a bunch of seniors to turn my class into a study hall where they can do what they want with no accountability. I couldn’t help but think of the reaction to Khan Academy when it first started.
Today we had our final projects. The girl with whom I have had quite a few challenges with texting during class, you tube videos, online shopping, and goodness knows what other distractions during class, had done exactly as I had asked. In fact, her digital portfolio was one of the best. She gave me a “told you so” smile at the end of her presentation. I was astonished.
I don’t know all of the implications for classroom management or control. What I do know is that we have to accept the humbling reality that the teacher cannot be the center of attention in the 21st century. Maybe you’re not the most important thing at that particular moment. And God forbid, maybe what you’re insisting is the most important thing at that particular time, just isn’t. When you are mixing dangerous chemicals, it is probably a good idea that you are the center of attention. Otherwise, start changing your skill set or you’re going to keep handing out a lot of detentions and completely missing a lot of learning opportunities.