Saturday, February 25, 2017

Responsive Classrooms

Two relatively innocent actions taken by Ms. Irving in her Biology class reminded me of something that it takes far too many educators to learn or act on. 
After her students set up the room for an interactive, movement and team-based Kahoot! Ms. Irving stopped, “This isn’t working quite right. I need to make a change…” Then she turned to the students, sought their opinions and put what to do next to a vote. 

In the matter of 30 seconds, she “violated” two old-school rules--rules that should never have been rules. 

Myth 1: Never admit mistakes in front of the students.

Myth 2: It’s your classroom.  

Reflecting back on my first year, I remember several veteran teachers, who shall remain nameless, challenging me to take more control. “It’s your classroom.” “Don’t listen to them [students].” Of course, this was also followed by, “Don’t smile until Thanksgiving (or for the real hardened teachers until Christmas).” 
Ironically, the year BEFORE I joined this school, teachers had studied the work of William Glasser. Anyway, back to Ms. Irving….

In the matter of 30 seconds, Ms. Irving modeled reflection and self-improvement (Let’s change this up to make it work better) and established a responsive, shared classroom approach (What should we do?)

Of course, she’s not alone in establishing a responsive classroom. Ceding control, whether it's in regards to classroom management, curriculum decisions or assessments, requires confidence and risk-taking, but the results speak for themselves. 

Responsive Classroom Practices
  1. Student choice, whether in how to learn, where to learn, or how to demonstrate learning.
  2. Working to get to know your students beyond your classroom through conversations with students, counselors, TDT or teaching colleagues, families, etc.
  3. Remaining positive and focusing on student strengths while embodying a growth mindset
  4. Modeling the behaviors we desire.
  5. Establishing logical rules, procedures/routines and consequences, so students know where they stand and feel safe.

What are some of your favorite responsive classroom practices?

Responsive Classroom Principles (from
  1. The social and emotional curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
  2. How children learn is as important as what they learn.
  3. Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  4. To be successful academically and socially, children need to learn a set of social and emotional skills: cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
  5. Knowing the children we teach—individually, culturally, and developmentally—is as important as knowing the content we teach.
  6. Knowing the families of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children we teach.
  7. How we, the adults at school, work together is as important as our individual competence: Lasting change begins with the adult community.

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