Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Going Against My Pedagogical Grain

Independence, passion for learning, curiosity about our world, and creating/respecting community are things I pride myself on for providing a foundation for in our classroom home. I try everything to get students to work well as a community even if it means changing how I love to teach. Ask my now 19-year-old 3rd graders. They will tell you all about how we went back to log cabin school! We sat in rows. I took everything I personally bought away from them. I remember the tears one student had over how hard using the crank pencil sharpener was. The common cliché still rings true: You do not realize what you have until it was gone. They had to work together to earn things back, debating over what privilege they wanted to be returned. These students learned to appreciate what they have, the importance of prioritizing, and valuable debate skills. I often still wonder if I did the right thing, but in my heart I know I did. We all became better people because of that.

On Monday I had to make a change. We went into rows and got assigned spots in line. I did not take away every privilege (and I hope I do not get to that point). The students recognized immediately something serious was going on. My comments all year of how this day would come if they could not learn to work together and be respectful to our school community no longer seemed empty. However, I felt strongly that enough instances had occurred where I had to do this. Sometimes as teachers we are left with no choice but to go against every pedagogical grain in our body to do what is best for kids (even if deep down I abhor teaching to students in rows). The room was the quietest voice volume it had been all year and fewer students were given consequences. I did have to point out that there was a clipboard put back (thanks to the agent who noticed it and returned it) covered in footprints. So we discussed what this meant. Several people walked right on it! The look on some students’ faces was priceless while others shrunk in their seats. Then a classmate found a deck of cards hidden under a keyboard. Someone decided this was the proper place rather then put them in the box and back in the cabinet. I also found several books on the floor and just stuffed on top of books in the reading corner. These clear examples showed students some of the things I was doing every day after school- cleaning and putting things away. They had no idea I did all this. Don’t get me wrong the change is not just because of these few things but rather a culmination of many things that have been happening since September, of which I have worked hard to discuss, model, reflect, and practice with students. And for those of you thinking of brain breaks, those epically failed because it took longer to regroup back to the lesson after one. At least I tried.

I sent an email to my parents, administration, and specialists so everyone knew what had happened. I did get some parent questions about returning individual privileges back, and I had to stress this was not about the individual. I have 23 amazing individuals who are still learning how to function as a unit. You can be an amazing individual at your place of employment but unless you are self-employed you still need to work together with diverse personalities. The real work starts now! Students are now tasked with creating a plan of how to earn things back. We will all have to agree on that plan. Involving students in the process of problem-solving and having them build the foundation makes them accountable for the learning. Instead of me telling them things need to change they are now saying here is what we have to do to change. Setting goals, reflecting, and then working together is the first step. It is up to them to carry the torch and decide for themselves what kind of group they want to be.

Students had time to reflect and think of ideas we could do to earn our classroom back to the way it was. Then they met in small task forces to determine which ideas were better. They combined ideas and modified them based on our needs. In order to pick the best plan, we needed to come up with a list of class tasks to work on. From there the plan was created. See all our thinking here! All students had a voice in this. I hope including them in the solution will help them take the onus of the problems and strengthen our community that we have worked so hard to build.

If you would like to see the chart we created click here! This will be updated in real time. Students need to earn 25 colored in cells for 5 days (not in a row) to earn something back. They will debate over what to get back each time. Great life skills going on! I cannot wait to see how this evolves! We reflected on the process, and I encourage parents to ask their child about it! 

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