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.

One Comment

  1. This reads very similarly to some of the soph classes I had last year. It’s a tricky age, and it’s a serious proving ground.

    That being said, Cheryl and I have discovered that most HS students, even the “best” of them, don’t really have the skills they need to be successful in this type of class. When they don’t understand and they feel inadequate, they’re going to immediately go to their Default School Response– which seems, in this class, to be “let’s piss the teacher off and do as little work as possible.”

    So we have discovered that the best way to handle these situations is assigned seats (ugh–but it works) and doing fun (ish) assignments on high-interest topics that explicitly and directly teach them the skills they need to be successful in a Ss-centered flipclass…things like how to take good notes, how to use those notes on assignments, how to pull evidence from texts, how to have a good class discussion, how to revise (i.e. “no assignment is ever done, just stopped”).

    Hope this helps. Let us know if you have any questions.


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