Category: classroom management

Total 39 Posts

Asilomar #6: Infrastructure Investments

Session Title

Students Take Charge Of Their Learning And Raise Test Scores

Better Title

Ensure That Homework Is Placed Just-So On The Front-Right Corner Of Every Student’s Desk Exactly Four Minutes Into The Period Every Day


Kate Reed, Professor, CSU East Bay


My companion was unhappy with this one. I was apathetic and caught up on my RSS reader, but I recognized, anyway, that two very different schools of thought competed for space in that small room that day.

Essentially, if your journey has a teacher has led you, as it has led me, to the idea that content and management are functionally the same (ie. engaging activities prevent most discipline problems) you are called to develop engaging activities.

If, on the other hand, you separate management and content, you may be led, as Kate Reed has been led, to develop them separately. Over an hour and a half, Reed never discussed content. She described, instead, her classroom’s opening procedures, every detail from how students would pass up papers, to how they would resolve homework questions, to the multiple-choice bubbles she copied onto student warm-ups, to how she grades those warm-ups.

I have no doubt this is an effective strategy for certain populations, especially those that experience meaningful routine only at school, but I would have to alter the course of my career at least 170° to even consider her approach.


Overhead transparencies.


A copy of her opener sheet, multiple-choice bubbles and all, for the teachers who couldn’t make one on their own.


  • None. Let’s move on. Consider the benefits and liabilities of both approaches, why don’t you?


This desk makes me question my convictions.

I have been convicted for some time that, to be a good teacher, you need not have experienced a bright light on the road, a deep voice summoning you to the job. To succeed here (at least in the short term) you need some combination of self-reflection, intelligence, and good humor. The rest can be taught.

But that desk testifies to certain attributes of good teaching that cannot be taught. That desk tells the story of a student who was so bored by her teacher’s instruction that she spent a not-insignificant fraction of her school year tunneling through an inch of wood. More importantly, it tells the story of a teacher whose tedious instruction was her lesser fault.

Her greater fault was oblivion. She had no idea what any of her students were doing at any given moment of class. She kept sacred that invisible curtain between student and teacher. She knew none of her students and knew nothing of what they did during the hours she thought they were paying attention to her.

I don’t know if anyone can untrain that kind of oblivion, to say nothing of training the kind of hyperattunement common to all good teachers, the kind of “court sense” that let Magic Johnson connect no-look passes, which manifests in the classroom as a certain omniscience, as “eyes in the back of your head,” as constant awareness of who is working, who needs refocusing, who is scheming, cheating, and plotting, at all times.

If that kind of oblivion can’t be cured (without great expense, anyway) we must direct ourselves, then, to identifying its precursors in our applicant teachers.

What Can You Do With This: Schrute Bucks

Download high quality here. See the pilot for instructions.

[I set off a hydrogen bomb on my blog with that last WCYDWT (since redacted, so if you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t sweat it). Everything from a lousy audio transcode to Vimeo shutting down my account for violating its TOS. Sorry for the confusion.]

BTW: Let’s give it to Dan:

I thought it really demonstrated a more common error of classroom management: rewards are determined by the receiver, not the giver. Some punishments will be rewards to certain students and vice versa.

Outdoing Piaget Himself

Dina Strasser, my blogroll’s token hippie, intent on outdoing Piaget himself, doesn’t merely let her students create rules for themselves, she asks them to create rules for her:

Among them were the hysterical (“Coffee breath. Could you people please chew some gum?”), the horrifying (“I hate it when teachers have long conversations on their cell phones in the middle of class”), the obvious (“I hate it when the teacher punishes the whole class for someone one person has done”), and this near unanimous statement: We hate it when the teacher deliberately embarrasses us in front of our peers.

Dina’s narrative of success and failure is well worth your time.

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What Color Are You Thinking Of?

“Okay, think of a color, any color,” I said. It was advisory and we were supposed to discuss Rachel’s Challenge, the recent all-school assembly.A program for which I have no end of conflicting opinions and unresolved questions, such as (i) is there something fundamentally cheap, exploitative, and contradictory in attaching explicit footage of the Columbine massacre to a feel-good message of being nice to people and Pay[ing] It Forward? (ii) is that message worth more, less, or the same amount of my time after the girl who wrote it up in a school essay was murdered? (iii) if a student hasn’t assimilated these basic elements of kindness by high school, can a school assembly scare her straight, so to speak? can the Rachel’s Challenge wristband? can the supplementary posters? does that kind of change last? (iv) what do the passages of the assembly celebrating Rachel herself (eg. Rachel was posthumously awarded a national kindness award, her father has met the last two Presidents, etc.) have to do with anything?. One moment later I called on Jen.

“Jen, what color are you thinking of?”

“Blue.” she said.

“Okay.” I pointed at Mara right next to her. “What color is Mara thinking of?”

Jen shrugged.

I’m not sure this moment did anything for my kids but it helped me understand why high schoolers find it so easy to tear the meat from each other’s bones so often.