A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Friday, March 15, 2013

Two classrooms, widely different results

Rick Smith's Conscious Classroom Management dramatizes well-intentioned, but ineffective teachers with a character named Miss Meanswell. I forget the name that Smith uses to dramatize the effective teacher, but as a sub, I step into strong or weak classrooms every day. Thus, I see examples of Miss Meanswell and her antithesis every day. In a Miss Meanswell classroom, my signals for attention might consistently go unheeded, despite the almost their almost universal effectiveness everywhere else I work, K-8. The amount of time lost during transitions in a Miss Meanswell classroom can be staggering. When I enter a Miss Meanswell classroom, I am reminded of my first year in teaching, and how draining it was, which causes my blood to boil.

Based on my experience, I highly suspect that inefficient transitions are a common factor and root cause of the achievement gap. Inefficient transitions, which in the worst classrooms, I have seen can add up to three to five minutes per every transition, create friction, which causes instruction to lose momentum, students to become increasingly disengaged, and everyone involved to become increasingly frustrated. They create a vortex, so I combat the phenomenon whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Recently, a co-teacher supported my efforts to help students in a class how to be more efficient in their transitions. When I started timing an early transition, making it to 25 seconds before students responded to my signal to launch the morning meeting, which in this case was a chime, the co-teacher wrote down the amount of time wasted. We started tracking transition times and asked students if they thought they could get it to 10 seconds? They all thought they could settle within 10 seconds, but the goal was not achieved until about the 4th or 5th transition. That transition took about three seconds, or about how long most transitions should take. With crisp transitions, students were ready for learning. Having worked in a Ms. Meanswell class the day before, with a different co-teaching arrangement, it felt great to be on the same page with the co-teacher, and felt good to be appreciated for taking a leadership stance on the issue, despite my lowly place as "just a sub."