I wanted to write up a combined Week 3 and 4 blog post, instead of delving straight into 'what happened' in my classes during the last 2 weeks. I have been pondering as I often do about the structure and setup of my classroom.
I'll begin with asking you this question; when are you truly engaged in the process of learning? I'm talking about that period of time that all your inner focus, mental ability and desire is set to achieving a set academic task.
During my senior years at high school I strongly rebelled against the system that I saw was suffocating in its archaic approach to teaching. I openly sabotaged those two final years at high school to a point that rock bottom academically had been hit by the end of year 12. Mentally I knew that I was at the darkest blackest academic hole I feel anyone could place themselves.
From this hole I developed a system that took my learning to places that many of my teachers probably didn't see possible. By the end of '09 I had achieved my Masters at a GPA of just under 6 whilst working almost full time throughout the year. I have a strong conviction in getting it right for students, setting the right framework for deep, higher order thinking and answering the question; when are you truly engaged in the process of learning?
As Sir Ken Robinson discusses schools need to change. We've known what Robinson talks about for years, conferences constantly sprout the same message however we always end up with a sprinkle and not a flood of core change. So let me now begin by laying out my initial draftings of how I would love to see schools structure themselves - whilst keeping the Government at bay (because the last thing we want them doing is coming in and declaring 'BUT your not doing like we did in the 19th Century!' and sack everyone.
Condition 1 - Setting the mood
This traditionally occurs at the start of every year and term: a roll check, discussion into school expectations, a reminder about diaries and a handout of stationery...40 minutes later first lesson of you go!
Could the first lesson instead of English, Mathematics, Science etc be something different? Something that sets a more concrete mood for the day? Most students struggle with planning, the first step in my learning journey as I dug myself out that hole I previously mentioned. Ask the students to plan out a contact list of teachers they will have and how they will contact them when they run into issues in class. One of the first things I remember from my first year of university was sorting out my 'contact list' of lecturers - every lecturer mentioned how to get in touch with them. Now of course students will see us everyday but I still see this as an important part because it is triggering that sense of 'when I leave the classroom I am still able to connect and engage'. Many of our students come into class and are present 'in the moment' however sadly for many that moment disappears when they leave the room. The lesson may lead into a discussion of the teachers classroom blog or a twitter account, Facebook page etc and a general chat about what to do when the student feels their voice was not heard in the class. A lesson specifically on planning how to connect a teacher be it in person, or online I think is critical - many of my university friends did not have these skills!
There is much more that could be said about 'setting the mood' but I'll leave it at that for now.
Personally in my classroom I will run with my ideas and I have been looking to develop a 'staff card' for myself. I couldn't believe how proud the students were to receive their own ID cards and a similar one with 'teacher safe' contact details may be a first step in giving the students a sense of learning beyond the walls of school. We need to instill a sense of responsibility for students and their own learning - making it easy for them to contact us be through a teacher Facebook account may break walls they have had for years and never known how to get past.
Thank you for reading,