Monday, December 24, 2007

Empower Your Troublemakers

So here's a quick classroom management/rapport building technique that I use pretty much all the time. Whenever I have an errand to run whether it's delivering a note, making copies, or going to the library, I always ask my more ornery students to do it. Now I don't do this as any sort of punishment. I usually say, "I think I need some copies made." By now my better behaved students are breaking their arms volunteering. Rather than choose one of them though, I'll pick the kid who was late to class and has a problem controlling the volume (and pitch) of his voice. Doing this provides an opportunity for this student to show that they can make productive contributions to the class and prove that they can be trusted. I suppose there may be a slight risk involved, but it's paid off pretty well.

This is just a small way that I can build some rapport with students. When they come back, they're usually better behaved and more attentive for the rest of the class period, which is kind of the point of sending them on the errand. Students learn best when they feel best. I'm not trying to say that this tactic fills them with euphoric joy, but I think it can serve to improve their perception of the class. Students enjoy being given responsibility, especially the ones who aren't given it very much. School isn't just about learning facts from a book. It's about becoming a responsible adult. Students are never going to become responsible adults if they're never given the chance to show that they can be or have the potential to be. I'm offering neither the carrot nor the stick to these students, merely personal choice.

In any case, being able to involve all students in the regular classroom serves as the greatest benefit. Teaching to the top 25% of the class whether that be the top 25% of grades, behavior, or likability is simply irresponsible education. I suppose that's one of my goals for the next semester, involving more of my students. Some of them deliberately make the task more difficult, but I solider on. It's a slow process that requires reflection, flexibility and daily adjustment, but every day is an improvement. By empowering my troublemakers with personal responsibility, I'm one step closer to teaching to the full 100% of my class.

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