The Curse of Classroom Management

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She is a kindred spirit. Her ideas mesh well with my own. She is passionate about education and teaching the children entrusted to her care. She's energetic. And she has decades of teaching experience.

I think that's the problem.

A student sits, staring off into space. "You're supposed to be writing!" she snaps at the girl.

"I'm thinking!" comes the indignant reply.

The teacher moves on to a boy slowly typing. "You should add a space between those lines." It is not a suggestion. "No. Not like that. Add a space there."

I've been invited to teach a class on how to make movies. I don't have much experience in the classroom, but Brittany and I do teach Sunday School. For me, the creative process takes time. I'm accustomed to a bit of chaos and movement. I don't mind 10-year-olds snickering and talking with each other. And if a child needs more time to figure something out, that doesn't bother me. I give them the space.

Classroom-Chaos
Classroom Management

For my educational compatriot, she acts in the opposite fashion. There is no time for thought. There is no space for socialization. There is no room for goofing off. "Remember," she threatens. "This is for a grade."

And suddenly, the other things that feel disrespectful and stifling are pushed aside. The curse of the classroom has descended. When all else has failed, grades are the final offense. The goals of the classroom are order and compliance: I told them to write a story; they should be writing.

I don't have a good term for this yet, but "classroom cynicism" is what I'm using for now. This teacher, who loves kids, believes her job is to hound and prod and cajole and put students in their place.

I stand off to the side, watching her try to wring success from her charges' heads. And, to me, it's painfully obvious that she's doing it wrong. Her years of teaching have taught her that kids must be controlled and directed. My years of homeschooling have instilled in me the opposite: Kids need to be freed and helped to fly.

Here's the thing: I think she'd agree with me. But all these years of trying to keep a classroom under control and pushing her students to "succeed" have created a bad habit in her. Managing the class has overshadowed imparting the love of learning. "Teaching" has been reduced to keeping kids on task.

And that is so unfortunate.

As homeschoolers, our curriculum is a tool, not a taskmaster. We have flexibility and freedom. And we are not hindered by the chains of classroom management. Instead, we can enjoy a life-time of learning. And as we homeschool our children, we can experience the way we wish we'd been taught if our teachers had fallen prey to the curse of classroom management.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad
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3 Responses to The Curse of Classroom Management

  1. Cindy says:

    And here I've been wondering if I should be instilling a little bit more classroom-style discipline in my little wiggle worms. I guess not, after all. :-)

  2. JJ Ross says:

    Happy New Year, Luke! Long time, no education play between us. ;) So glad you still think and talk about such things. The "curriculum is a tool" remark caught my attention today, and I wanted to add that it's not a tool to use ON your student/s to hammer or shave or rout some specified shape. It is at best a tool for use BY your student/s, in their own crafting of their own education . . . JJ

  3. Luke says:

    Cindy, sounds good to me [smile]. Have you read "Why Gender Matters"? I found it insightful, in this case how boys and girls tend to prefer different learning environments: http://www.sonlight.com/RR59.html

    JJ, it has been a long time! Hope all is well with you. And, on my yes: tools are best used by people, not on them. ...unless it's a tool designed to help people, like a medical device or something--such as my glasses that enable me to see better [smile]. In this case, I was thinking that curriculum is best used by the parent--since that felt more typical of homeschool usage--but there are certainly tools to be used by the student as well. Good reminder!

    ~Luke

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