The New Distraction
Okay, fifty comments on a weekend post kinda settles the question, “Is there a market for classroom management tutorial?” I’m distracted now by a new question, raised several times throughout the comments, “Is classroom management too individualized, too tightly bound up in context, to teach?”
The Trouble Teaching Classroom Management
Yesterday I wrote an over-long since-edited post which positioned classroom management as an inverted pyramid, describing how, at the base level, you’re dealing with people who deserve specific, highly prescribed treatment, simple attitudes like, “treat others like you want to be treated,” which you could spend several lifetimes realizing.
But as you climb up into your role as a) teacher of a class, b) teacher of students, and c) teacher of very difficult students, the number of prescriptions splinter exponentially across vectors of personality and context.
For instance, when I talk to a hurt or angry student outside, I’ll approach from the side. I’ll make some non sequitur about the weather or something to take the initial edge off. We’ll talk side-by-side, both of us facing the same direction because, subconsciously, I know this posture suggests we’re on the same team, both of us working towards a goal we’ll negotiate shortly. At their best, these resolutions ennoble teachers, students, and classes all at once.
But maybe you find the same results face-to-face, with direct eye contact and a commanding, caring presence. These tiny, crucial decisions are too tied up in context, background, and temperament to address comprehensively in a management course populated by sixty different preservice educators.
What Isn’t The Solution
Which is why I’m tempted less than ever towards authorship, towards a book of bromides and recommendations like those written above, so easily dismissed by the reader as “not me, not my class, not my kids.” Even if I could stock it with great stuff like TMAO’s, “We agreed to see in our kids their best, and demand it from them, daily,” a phrase which has been banging on my head like a kettle drum lately, your hit/miss ratio is gonna hover near one.
The Solution Then
I convinced myself recently that a) the solutions to classroom management conflicts vastly outnumber the conflicts themselves (ie. there are hundreds of solutions to a small set of archetypal conflicts) and b) you learn classroom management best by solving messy management problems of your own making.
Ideally you’d have a mentor ready to observe and post-mortem a terrible day with you, helping you find and own your solutions. But, lacking that kind of superior ed school experience, what if you had the ability to put yourself in the middle of someone else’s classroom management conflict at will?
To watch someone else flop and fail from arm’s length, in third person, after the fact. To then brainstorm solutions with a small professional group, maybe some mentors, maybe a small corps of new teachers observing the same train wreck and talking it out together, maybe on your own.
What if the simulated experience was portable, transferable, digital? What if your buddy called you from across the country, struggling with kids off-task
I realize I’m being obnoxiously coy here, but feel free to give me forty words on:
- How would this kind of inductive approach – starting from failure, working backward to success – work for you?
- What deficiencies do you see in this approach?
Or anything else.