Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

They Just Sat There

Our first few days of school are built around getting to know each other, and establishing some sort of routine. The first day I have students goes way too fast! We read First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, and I share that the first day of school is nerve-wracking for me, too.

The second day of school, I read to them part of The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. We discuss the "most important thing about an apple" before we read that page. At the beginning of chapter two in Shift This, I explain why I read this book to my scholars...


This year, I found myself going one step further. I went back to the page in the book where the author says that the "most important thing about snow is that it is white." WHITE?! I looked at my new seventh graders, and said, "You just sat there. You didn't say anything. Your faces didn't even give me any hint that you disagreed. You just SAT there. Is the most important thing about snow that it is white??" They immediately shook their heads and provided some of their own answers, which included wet, cold, falls from the sky, makes us have to shovel, great for sleds, for making snowballs, etc....

I nodded and repeated their ideas and then I felt myself getting agitated. I added something along the lines of, "Still. You just sat there. I think years of school have done this to you. Years of being asked to sit quietly and listen. To comply. For sure, I want you to hear my words - I feel as if I do have some wisdom to impart, but I also want you to ask questions - to share your opinions - politely, of course. When we are reading something you disagree with, I hope you ask us to stop for a moment and consider your thoughts and ideas, and we will, in turn, listen and respond to you."

I went on and on (rambling, ironically, as they sat there listening) until finally I said, "Thank you for listening and considering what this year could be like. I'll get off my soap box now."

As I reflected on it this weekend, it hit me - THIS is why my classroom management skills are lacking! THIS is why I have never gotten "distinguished" as a whole on the Danielson framework! I've been okay with it in the past - knowing I have tons still to work on, but now I know one giant reason why. I want my students to (eventually) run the class. It's messy!

I set the tone at the beginning of the year that I'm here to listen to students, and respond to their ideas. I'm here as a guide... a facilitator. I'll give them lots of time to practice, make mistakes, and practice again. I'm okay with the extra bit of noise or transition time if what we were working on was valuable to their learning or improving. Although I don't make working on my classroom management a priority, there's no doubt I'll continue to brush up on my classroom management skills year after year. However, that word "manage" may always strike a sore spot with me, due to personal reasons. I don't feel as if I need to earn "distinguished" in that realm. My students just sat there when I said the "most important thing about snow is that it is white." I don't want that. I want them to speak up when they think I'm wrong. I want them to stand up for something they believe in. I want to hear their ideas, and know that they're thinking - not just consuming.

I get many comments via Twitter. I'd LOVE to read your comments down below - keeping the comments all in one spot helps me when I revisit this idea. Please help me understand my position and help me grow by leaving me YOUR thoughts, ideas, and stories about this subject!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joy,
    Your post made me go back and rethink my first few days. First, was only twenty minutes per group so it doesn't really count. Second, they were quiet until they got to ask me anything they wanted. I think even though we feel they should be comfortable because we assume they obviously know something about us it's not enough. I feel they need the personal one-on-one interaction to feel comfortable. To be recognized by their name and you knowing something about them. At least that seems to work with my sixth graders.

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