Lift off into the wind

Yesterday, my PLN came through.

I have been struggling with students who seem more interested in tripping the flight attendant as she tries to serve drinks than in learning to fly. Wondering how bad it can get? Check out my post “Structure in a Flip Classroom.” I wondered if I would have to sacrifice the flip and turn on the “fasten seatbelts sign” to please my principal.

But I asked my PLN, and they came through. Here’s what one peer said:

Next, the moderators of #flipclass, my favorite (and only, honestly) twitter chat which takes place 8 pm EST, passed out the barf bags and warned we were entering a patch of turbulence. The topic? Student motivation.

So even the moderators of the #flipclass chat struggle now and again.  It gave me hope.

Today in class, I laid down the law. I gave the speech, about everyone having the right to a good education.  I explained that any attempt to disrupt or to avoid the task would mean instant removal, with a classroom detention with me to finish the flight.

And they responded. Excitement, on task behavior, and great work.

  1. Essential Question: Why is Egypt in turmoil?
  2. Assignment: Create a product that answers the above question

Note that we have read or interacted with the entire Egypt text set linked to the above Essential Question.

Student Engagement Success

Class by kentonridge
It does work, on occasion. With a lot of planning on my part to guide it along, they can share a learning experience. I can step back, a little, and watch the magic happen. Inquiry questions crop up all around us, naturally.
What time is curfew in Egypt?
What’s happening to Morsi, right now?
Do they have WIFI?
Is social media still blocked there?
I want to know how it all comes out.
Here we are, in a successful 2nd day of a cooperative learning jigsaw. We’ve been working with a text set about the 2011 and 2013 Egyptian Revolution.  Political cartoons, infographics, articles, we’ve run the gamut. Next week, we’ll look at some videos.  Some of our information is as current as last week.  
Success made that walk into the principal’s office that much easier. As an experienced teacher who wants to experiment with a new technique, I was apprehensive. What would he say to me?
Well, we agreed that some students lack the maturity to work well without direct supervision. To reach all my students, I need to teach some basic skills and to motivate them to want to learn those skills. Although teacher led activities work well for some students, they do not work well for all. A good balance is required.
Now, how to achieve that balance?
Class, a photo by kentonridge on Flickr.

Structure in a Student Centered Classroom

“We need to talk about the sophomores. They need more structure–things are happening that you are missing.” My principal

I face an uphill battle. For years, some of my students have played the game–is mom looking? They wait for that moment, when the teacher isn’t watching, to misbehave. If my classroom were teacher centered, it would be less of a problem. But here I am, asking them to work independently while I work with small groups or individual students. They are in circles throughout the room. Often, my back is to the mischief makers. And so, books are knocked off desks. Parts of erasers are thrown across the room. Sometimes, even desks are knocked over. Do I suspect certain students? Of course I do. They want me to.

The teacher/student relationship has been adversarial for them most of their lives. To them, I am the enemy; my goal is to bore them and make their lives difficult, and they are getting their own back. I hate it.

So few of my students care about grades. Grades do nothing for them; they are the reward that students who care receive. My mischief makers don’t care about punishment, either. If I catch them, they deny it and distract more students than ever. If I ignore it, they escalate till I must do something about it.

But do I give up? Give them worksheets and sit them in rows? Punish them all due to the misbehavior of a small number? How do I get the buy in? I care about my students. I want them all to succeed (yes, even the one who routinely questions what we do every day). I want them to realize that school can be about real life, not just a game that we play against each other.