Classroom management is a cute little phrase that teachers have come to know as a pseudonym for discipline, and too often, dispcipline is just a set of tools used to do things to kids in order to make them behave.
This is a real shame, because a student's misbehavior should rarely be seen as something that should just be discontinued. Misbehavior is not the real problem - it is the symptom of a larger one - and if we silence misbehavior without first investigating the real problem, we risk doing a real diservice to the students.
Classroom management techniques tend to turn teachers into a kind of misbehavior fireman - where the teacher simply identifies the misbehavior and immediately puts it out. I would like to see us do less of the fireman work and more of the crime scene investigator (CSI) work. That is to say, I would like to see us investigate more into why the fire took place in the first place. And the best way to do that is to ask the student why they are misbehaving?
Imagine the student who charges into class late and tosses his binder across his desk in obvious frustration and plops himself into his desk, making all kinds of dispruptive noise that interrupts our beautifully planned anticipatory set. The teacher then orders the student to leave the classroom and enter properly. The student does so.
The problem is solved.
Or is it?
What if the student had just showed up late because his alcoholic mother had just finished dropping him off at school while still drunk, and the student knew exactly what was going on and was furious at how his mother could be so irresponsible?
Knowing the details behind why the student acted the way he did seems to change everything, making this kind of information an invaluable necessity. How can a teacher properly work with students to help them become good people if we don't take the time to ask why?
This kind of inquiry does take time and effort, but it is well worth it. Remember, we rarely remember what teachers teach us - we typically remember how they make us feel - and taking the time to ask why may be one of the best ways to show that we care.
more to come,