Sunday, September 23, 2012

Stay on the Paths

Friday afternoon I was talking with a colleague whom I greatly respect and like. My youngest was wandering around the classroom during our conversation. She's only five and I didn't think she was paying any attention to us.

However, at one point she ran over, quite excitedly, to say, "Mommy, mommy! That sounds like in the Mysterious Benedict Society, when they went to that place, where they had the crazy rules. Remember? Like 'You can go anywhere you want, as long as you stay on the paths.'"

My colleague and I looked at each other in great surprise. How astute. That is exactly how we are feeling. You can go anywhere you want, as long as you stay on the paths.

At a staff meeting earlier this year what is tight or loose about our PLC process was addressed. Tight? We must have two language arts team meetings and two math team meetings each month. Loose? We can have more team meetings if we want. You can go anywhere you want, as long as you stay on the paths.

Tight? We must have a common assessment in math and a common assessment in language arts each quarter. Loose? We can have more common assessments and in other subjects if we want. You can go anywhere you want, as long as you stay on the paths.

We are a Responsive Classroom school. We have an RC committee and we were reminded of our RC status a week ago regarding teachers taking recess away from kids for not doing homework or for behavior problems. Yet, as a school we have 'red zones' in our hallways where there is no talking and 'yellow zones' in the bathrooms and cafeteria where there is quiet talking and a red strobe light in the cafeteria for when it gets too loud. (Adults still talk in the halls.) You can go anywhere you want, as long as you stay on the paths.

Questions, concerns, any kind of pushback are met with, "You can go anywhere you want, as long as you stay on the paths." (Not in those words, of course. Only the five-year-old is that wise.)

I firmly believe in the RC model and the idea that teachers should not take recess away for homework or behavior problems. It is shortsighted and developmentally inappropriate. So is a strobe light in the cafeteria.
On a lighter note, if you haven't read The Mysterious Benedict Society you are missing out on a great series of books.


Summers School said...

What do you do if you have students not completing in class assignments? Not because they are too hard, but because they choose to socialize instead?

Last year they lost morning recess (15 minutes) if they had missing assignments/behavior problems.

This year, because we've lost morning recess, I'm having to take away lunch. Not because I want to, but because I feel powerless to do otherwise.

organized chaos said...

I'm not there so I don't really know how it was introduced or what is going on but I don't see how the zones in the school are anti-responsive classroom. RC is about making sure the rules in school are taught, practiced, modeled, and constantly positively reinforced but it isn't anti-rule. As long as the quiet zones are introduced and retaught/modeled/reinforced I think the zones can work with the RC philosophy.
Knowing when to be quiet and when to whisper is a life skill and so teaching the school rules is a way that helps kids understand that sometimes we have to follow the rules is something they will take with them forever.

Jenny said...

Summers School, when I taught 4th/5th grades I had a time, once a week, for completing assignments. If students were completely finished with everything they could play or read or whatever. In first grade it is much less of an issue. It's just a different world.

OC, my issues stem from two different things. First, it was completely a top-down implementation. There was no conversation about it, including about how to implement it resulting in people doing very different things that actually conflicted. One of the tenets of RC is creating things together. I get that with 700 kids it is tough (although not impossible)to create rules together, it isn't impossible to do so with the staff. Secondly, it is inconsistent with the cups in the cafeteria. Kids are being told red means one thing there and something else everywhere else in the building. I'd rather see two different sets of colors.