Tuesday, March 4, 2008

class, thankfully non-existent

Hey, do you remember that class you took in college?

The one that taught classroom management by having students teach lessons while classmates role-played possible student behaviors?

One week, I was the kid with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I'd curse with alacrity. All passive aggressive and slouch-y. Call on me. There's no way you'd ever connect with me. Talk to me in front of the class. Use humor. Keep me after the bell. Your own personal triumvirate of management failure.

Another week, I'd emulate the Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I'd talk out of turn. I'd lose focus. I'd tap something incessantly. Is it real? Am I bored? Maybe you'd give me the first three minutes of class. The middle three. The last three. Unpack your euphemisms at IEP meetings: Energetic, easily distracted, difficulty focusing on tasks, needs frequent breaks. I'm all about pushing your patience and expanding your spin campaign.

The last week, I dug deep and uncovered a part I hadn't played in years: the latch-key son of a divorced family. I'd do my work. I'd raise my hand. I'd listen, but would never look directly at you. I'd fear attention. I'd temporize and sweat when called on to participate. I'd say 'please', 'thank you', and I'd think 'help me', 'who's looking at me?', 'I want out'. You'd wish you had more kids like me.

So, do you remember that class?

Psst...no such class existed.

If you want to play a part, play your part - the part that affords you the opportunity to manage your square space with efficiency. You'll have to try on some different roles. You'll find yourself soliloquizing and monologuing and carping on separate and different occasions.

But if you think asking for answers about classroom management leads to results, think back to that non-existent class from college.

Maybe, just maybe, our education programs do know something.


Kate said...

Are you referring to a recent, much-commented on post about classroom management? Hmmm. Anyway, just have to let you know that at a recent new-teacher meeting in my district we actually DID do this role play. We had to take turns doing the behaviors that most annoyed us in our students. No lie. It happened. Anyway, it wasn't very effective and we all just stood around talking and being bad teacher-students. I'm a newer teacher and subbed in the past - in my opinion substitute teaching is one of the best ways to get experience with every single possible classroom management issue :-) Didn't make me an expert by ANY means, but it sure was an eye-opener!

Ken Rodoff said...

@ kate (who else, right?) You now win the fastest to comment after uploading a post. You go!

I would love to have a meeting like the one you describe. I would most assuredly curse with alacrity!

And to what other, recent post might you be referring? Gosh... wink-nod...

I think the minute a college student declares education as a major, they should have to student-teach right away. Community over content any day of the week, right? If true, then mastering content is the least of a new teacher's worries.

What a frustrating and rewarding profession, eh?

Damian said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I learned more in my first month of student teaching than I did in the two years of education courses I took leading up to it. I really pitied my fellow student teachers who didn't realize until SENIOR YEAR that teaching wasn't going to be for them - a bit late to change majors then.

I don't know what exactly that says about me, or my training program, but there you go.

Ken Rodoff said...

@damian: I remember the course on objectives. You know, how to write clear and explicit objectives. I think we spent two months on the words 'reliability' and 'validity'.

Records indicate that six minutes in to my student-teaching experience I took those words, wrote them on a roll of toilet paper, and well, the rest is septic tank history.

Dan Meyer said...

Ken, let's remake Misery. You play Kathy Bates.

... only wish I could keep up with my TAs.

James and Tom said...

Were it up to me, I'd restructure things more like an apprenticeship. Day one of an ed major you'd be assigned to a teacher in a real classroom. Sure you wouldn't do much for a while but observation is key.

Then I'd make sure students worked with lots of teachers and weren't stuck with only one or two. I'd want different schools, different economic levels etc.

Logistical nightmare. I know.

I bet it'd change things though.

I went into teaching with no ed classes. I got my license as I taught my first year at an alternative school. I learned a lot but never got to observe and never was observed that first year. Rough way to start. I did learn quite a bit but I could have just as easily quit.

Ken Rodoff said...

@james and tom: the type of teacher one gets paired up w/ can make all the difference in the world.

If my training had included an immediate apprenticeship, and had I been paired with a teacher like my high school social studies teacher, I'd have definitely listened to my father and gone straight to med school.

But keeping placements varied is essential. At Temple University, I had to do three 'practicum', one at a suburban elementary, one at an urban school, and one 'free choice'.

At both high schools, the teachers kept me, for the most part, sequestered in the corner. At the elementary school, the teacher had me teach a math lesson. Joyous!

Way to go after an east coast guy after he's gone to bed.

I'll presume a couple things by your Misery suggestion:
1. You believe that I'm "your biggest fan".
2. You enjoy role-playing
3. You are indicting me as a content copy-cat with inferior skills.

Now, I have been to known to read way too much into way too little, but your one sentence seemed particularly weighty.

So, to address my presumptions:
1. I am a fan of your writing, your lesson ideas, your use and knowledge of media. I'm not your biggest fan.
2. I think if I take the part of Kathy Bates, then it seems that you would be James Caan. This troubles me. I've never been one for dressing up in women's clothing, trapping accident-prone authors, and bludgeoning their ankles. And are you possibly suggesting that your writing is on par with Stephen King? And that I could've performed in Failure to Launch?
3. Surely your blog has inspired me to some of my posts. I don't think I'm the only one who has found inspiration from your posts. I'd apologize for taking exception to the topic of classroom management, but after my 13 years of gainful employment, there is NO way to teach a management system that is universal and equally effective.

Everyone has to find their own way. And sometimes, that 'way' is to exit.

Teachers are born, not made.

Dan Meyer said...

"... there is NO way to teach a management system that is universal and equally effective."

Neither is there any way to teach a drivers ed system that is universally and equally effective.

But that doesn't mean we just throw everyone into cars and assume the survivors were born to drive and everyone else just found their way out.

Ken Rodoff said...

@dan: I'm legally blind in my left eye. I failed the eye exam. Pa. didn't know what to do w/ me, so I have a license requirement that states that any car I drive must be equipped w/ an outside mirror.


Dan Meyer said...

Sexual tension aside, I find it difficult to engage your comments (here or on my blog) because they veer so quickly into offhanded quips and verbal non sequiturs like that right there.

Probably makes you a gas at parties, in class, at home, etc, but, well, I'm trying to figure this management thing out.

A. Mercer said...

"But if you think asking for answers about classroom management leads to results, think back to that non-existent class from college."

I don't know if asking for answers will lead to answers, BUT if you don't ASK for help, you aren't likely to get it.

I'm an agnostic on this unified principal of classroom management thing, but I think it's worth discussing, just because I don't like to shut any topic down. Any topic can be a waste of time, or fantastic. It's all in what we do with it.

I did the role playing gig in my program. Since I was the only person in that class with urban classroom experience (1+ year subbing in Oakland, CA) at the time, I was the cold wave of reality splashing in the face for my peers. Whether that did anything for them, I don't know.
I think it does help with perspective taking for me, but whether it works that way for all adults doing it, I don't know. I'm doing a lot of work currently with my son on this, and that CAN be a powerful teaching tool.