Monday, July 27, 2015

Self Running Classroom - Can You Do It?

Are you reading Unshakeable by Angela Watson? This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in an online book study on this book, and it has been enlightening, inspirational, and transformative. Each chapter has had some major "aha" moments and some "oh, I knew that" moments.  Many of the ideas and thoughts in the book are tucked away in my brain for use later this school year, but some I am really putting into use on the first day of school.  One of these is from Chapter 14 - Construct a Self Running Classroom That Frees You to Teach. Now I know that for some control freaks (you know who you are), this concept is unimaginable - a self running classroom? But, when you really think about it - it is absolutely possible. How do I know this?  Because, my class is partially run by my students and I know that if I give them a little more control - it's going to make my life much less stressful which is a good thing.

First, let me explain how my classroom is "partially run by students ". All students in my class have a job.  Everybody. The difference is that the job is held for 4 weeks, not 1 week as I had done in the past. Remembering to change jobs is easy - at the interim report day and the end of the 9 week grading period.  That means that my 3rd graders get really good at their job - take ownership and pride in doing that job - and I don't have to be constantly training them! The best part is - they train their replacements. 

At the beginning of the school year there's a lot of training. I show them what and how I need things done.  The first two rotations require alot of reminding, and then magically it happens. Suddenly, you notice that they know what to do. One of the keys to this is that on my job chart, I list the responsibilities for each job.  This is important, because you can't assume they know what to do and what you expect.  

I tell my students that classroom jobs are VERY important to how our days will go and that on real jobs, you can get fired if you don't take the responsibility seriously. Life lesson. This also gives the message that we NEED them to do their job. Great confidence and self esteem building going on here. 

** Disclaimer: I have only fired one student and he begged me to give him another chance.  Of course, I did and he was better than ever at his job after that! But it helped him and the rest of the class realize how important their jobs were.

So back to my statement that my class was partially run by students.  After reading Chapter 14, I realized that there were still responsibilities that I had not given over to my students. I was picking up the slack and consequently not saving my time for teaching. Definitely not what Angela is suggesting. So, this school year I am adding a few more: Math Manipulative Managers, ELA and Math Center Managers, and each student in Kagan collaborative groups will have a job. I may even add more as the school year begins. 

The message was to free me for teaching, not cleaning, collecting, enforcing, and wearing myself out. Message received. Whether you read Unshakeable or not, the message is a really good one.  Turn over the responsibilities to your students, so you can teach. Period.

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