Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Terms I Hate: Classroom Management

One of my recent reads, thanks to the recommendations of several people, was Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. Just a quick aside, I ended up abandoning the book even though I was intrigued by it because I found it impossible not to question everything I read based on the author having fabricated quotes. Not knowing what was truthful and what was not made it too hard for me to get anything from the book. I'm sorry I didn't read it when it first came out, before learning all this. Had I done so, I would have had to rethink some things when the truth was revealed but I wouldn't likely have dismissed it all out of hand as I seemed to do when I read it.

Anyway, my point in mentioning the book had nothing to do with the above ramblings, although it does involve a quote from a source so take it as you will. There is quite a bit in the book about 3M, the company that makes post-it notes as well as a plethora of other products.
"It's a little amusing that people think Google invented this idea," Wendling says. "We've been doing it here forever. At first, people thought we were crazy. They said employees need to be managed. They said the scientists would just waste their free time, that we'd be squandering all our R and D money. But here's the thing about the fifteen percent rule; it works." (p. 30)
While I love the idea of the 15% rule, or 20%, or whatever, that's not what struck me. "They said employees need to be managed."

I struggle so much with the term 'classroom management' because it seems to suggest a level of control over other people that I have no interest in having. I use the term, hesitantly, when I talk about choices I make in the classroom to improve flow in our space and our time as well as ways I try to help students make positive choices and grow in their independence. But I don't like it. The connotations in education today simply give me the heebie-jeebies.

I appreciate the fact that this company believed in their employees and trusted them. Show people that you have faith in them, be they students or employees, and the majority of the time they will live up to that faith.

I think I may be back to the idea of treating students like people. Of course, if we feel a need to manage adults it's possible we aren't treating them like people either.

My nine-year-old loves to remind me that I am always lecturing her about the Golden Rule. She brings it up when someone else is treating her badly as her reasoning for doing the same. It never holds water with me but it's an interesting argument. Regardless of her take on it (although I am still working on that one) the Golden Rule is always there for me. If I would not want to be treated in a certain way then I should not be treating my students, my daughters, my coworkers, anyone else in that way. It's not a standard I live up to by any means, but it is a worthy goal.


Luann Lee said...

As a pre-service teacher some 25 years ago first introduced to the term, I assumed it meant management of the classroom itself, not the people in the classroom. I thought it meant lab equipment, chemicals, furniture, supplies, resources... This was the only way I could bring myself to use the term.

I still don't entertain any other meaning.

Laura Komos said...

I struggle with this, too. In a time when PBIS dictates how we need to use a stoplight in our classrooms (which I don't) and pay kids for being good by giving them pretend money (which I don't,) I struggle with this. In life, don't we just need to learn to get along with others and have strategies to use when we don't get along with others? And who am I to manage someone else's behavior (when sometimes I can't manage my own?!)

Things don't always go according to the plan in my head. That's life. It's a learning opportunity, not a management opportunity. :)

Polish translator said...

Tit for tat - that's the consequence of violating of the Golden Rule

Jenny said...

Luann, you were wise as a pre-service teacher. I didn't question the term until a decade beyond my student teaching. I find that a bit painful to admit.

Laura, oh so well said! Both of your questions resonate strongly with me. Thank you for giving me language for arguing this in the future!

AmyS said...

Thank you for this post. As a teacher-in-training, this is a very "hot topic" of discussion in our university classrooms and student teaching classrooms and one which I have spent a lot of time reflecting on recently. I posted a reflection on my blog this week ( in which I thought about the importance of our attitude toward our students (and quoted you -- hope you don't mind!). The attitude of leadership (as opposed to management) is a much more humane and positive approach.