In the spirit and namesake of an awesome Fortune Magazine feature story, I’m starting a series of posts that’ll run indefinitely. These are the tools that make my teaching easier, more effective, and more fun.
Okay, okay, so coffee shops are probably the least essential element of this series but the principle they represent rivals graphic design (HIW feature forthcoming) for importance.
I’m a huge fan of Michael Grinder’s class management system, specifically, his principle of “decontamination.” It’s mostly a riff on classical conditioning, but a cannily effective one.
In short, I don’t plan lessons, grade papers, or call parents anywhere near my bed. I spend a few dollars several days a week at Coffee Cat for a comfortable chair, free wireless, and a double white chocolate mocha extra hot light syrup in a to-go cup. (I know … I’m kind of a loser like that.)
The point: it’s far from anywhere I call home. That way, when I leave the coffee shop at nine-ish, lessons planned up, papers graded up, parents phone-called up, I can crash into bed and think happy bed-time thoughts. Like whether John Krasinski is as cool as Jim Halpert. Or which one of us is funnier, me or my girlfriend. Or if I had to go back and relive high school would it be emptier or more satisfying or zzzzzzzz ….
Thoughts like that. But nothing nothing nothing related to my job.
I wouldn’t be so hot on coffee shops and this decontamination idea if it weren’t for a nasty bout of contamination I endured my student-teaching year. Y’know, that year when you taught for three hours a day, studied for five, received more homework than you assigned, and went home to plan lessons for the next day? I’d finish planning at 23h00 and flop backwards from my computer desk to my bed.
Exhausted and all, I’d fall asleep quickly, but it was the worst sleep of my life. I’d have the most vivid waking dreams. I was awake. I was in my bedroom but my first period Algebra class was there also, ready for their lessons. I’d mumble and mumble and look for my whiteboard marker in my covers, sometimes for a half hour, before I thought to flick a light on and assure myself that my class wasn’t really there. I shudder to type all that. It was terrible.
So … coffee shops. Yeah. That’s how I work.