Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Out of Control

I've been thinking a lot about control in my classroom. What do I want to control? Where do I want to let go of control?

Over 12 years of teaching my views on control have changed quite a bit. To an outsider I think it would look as though I control very little (for better or for worse). My first graders do not have assigned seats. In fact, our tables are at different heights so that they can sit on the floor, in chairs, or stand while they work. Clipboards are available to them anytime they want to use them as are various other surfaces (student desk that was planned as a 'thinking spot', a teacher desk that was planned for my fabulous co-teachers, small table our amazing librarian passed on to me knowing of the various options in my room). The students have taken over the physical space in the room. They work where they want and with whomever they want.

I retain control over some obvious aspects. I move kids when they aren't able to work because they are bugging another or unable to stop chatting about karate class during a read aloud. I move kids in line if needed so that we can walk respectfully past other classes. I'm totally in charge of our schedule (well, more than the kids are anyway - I don't have total control here either).

The most important thing I control now is in the shadows. I work hard to offer my students experiences that will scaffold learning for them. I think hard about exactly how to present something or which experience needs to follow which in order to build schema in a way that will set them up for the future. I control this in the hopes of maximizing the time we have together. I don't want to waste a minute.

I think a lot more about this area than I do where kids sit or who they work with in a group. I couldn't do that ten years ago. I'm grateful for the experience that has allowed me to focus on what I think is truly important.

Image from planegeezer on flickr:


Betty said...

This sounds like an atmosphere that my first grade students would excel in. In my school, administrators pop in to see that you have the correct math lesson showing on your wall or board and if your students are engaged in the correct literacy workstations.

Sneaker Teacher said...

Ah first graders! I taught first grade for three years and I am now a K-12 support services teacher in an international school.

I think your classroom sounds like a great place to learn! As a newer teacher, I would always worry that things were too hectic or that if someone walked by they would think I had lost control, but you are so right that certain aspects of "control" really don't enhance learning for the kids.


Jennifer said...

When I first started teaching, I needed to have complete order in my classroom. I maintained a strict schedule, and everyone had assigned seats. That made me feel more competent. Now that I've taught for 14 years, I know that order doesn't necessarily equal control. To an outsider, your classroom might seem out of control, but I think a classroom where children are allowed more freedoms requires the teacher to have more control. Conrol just doesn't look like what we thought it would when we first started teaching!

Marie Freisen said...

I think that this is an excellent idea for a classroom enviornment that is comfortable and promotes creativity and individuality. As a new teacher I would love to implement an idea like this one into my classroom someday.

Rachel L. said...

What a great learning environment! Love the clipboards, and the chance to stand, sit on the floor, move around. So much better for all kids - all people, really, but especially wiggly first graders. I've always been stunned at how kids are supposed to go from kindergarten where they (hopefully) spend most of their day at centers, on the floor, moving etc, to first grade where in most classes they are stuck in a desk most of the day. Your approach is so much better!

S said...

You sound like a phenomenal teacher.