Is your head spinning with ideas and changes for next year? I am seriously crazy over the idea of a student-led classroom and this week’s chapter was even more convincing than prior weeks. The topic of this week’s reading was responsibility. Before I dive in to talking about the actual reading, I would like to talk about responsibility as a whole.
As you probably know, I teach fifth grade and in our school, that means middle school the following year. My teaching partner and I do our best to really encourage responsibility and prepare them for sixth grade. We do our best to set expectations, tell them how we want said expectations completed, then hold them accountable for completing the expected behavior. However, this screams teacher-led. I am telling them what I expect. I am telling what to do throughout the entire process. And last but not least, I am delivering a consequence when they don’t meet these expectations. While this is necessary in some aspects, there are better methods to ensure that students don’t learn to follow rules but actually embrace and handle responsibility.
In this chapter, Paul shares many ways in which he shifts the responsibility from himself to his students. Classroom responsibility begins with classroom jobs and putting the students in charge of completing them. Paul says, “My expectation is that they identify what needs to be done, figure out the best way to do it, and then make it happen.” (Solarz, 107) Isn’t this what we strive for as citizens, teachers, and parents? We want to be surrounded by people who can see a need, find a way to address it, and most importantly DO IT! Paul assigns a few students specific jobs, such as taking attendance and a “recapper” who kicks off their end of day procedures. The remaining classroom tasks are explained to the class and the students pitch in to accomplish them. Then, the entire room is responsible for ensuring that the classroom tasks are completed. It isn’t the responsibility of one particular person. If someone who typically completes a job is absent or busy with something else, that’s ok. Someone else sees what needs to be done and steps in to help. This is a process that I believe will be easy to implement in my classroom because most of the time, my students jump at the opportunity to help. I think that the hardest adjustment will be MY frame of mind, not the kids! The control freak inside me has to let go and relax!!!
Another BIG change for me comes with the way the Paul handles transitions. Rather than telling the students when it’s time to transition, the kids are in charge of transitioning. In his room, he posts the daily schedule and the time in which they will transition. If it is 8:55 and you need to get to music at 9:00, the KIDS are the ones who announce the conclusion, clean up their area, and line up. I’ll admit, I really love this idea but I think I’ll have a hard time letting go. I really think that with proper training, my students will be able to handle it, especially in fifth grade. The issue is ME! Haha!
After all of this “training” in creating responsible students, Paul’s goal for his students is to have a Silent Day. When I first read this, I thought, “Wow. What a dream…a silent day!” But seriously, it is even better than it sounds. 🙂 On Silent Day, the TEACHER is the one who isn’t allowed to speak. Since we are striving for a classroom that is led by the students, give them a day to actually DO it! Paul says that he conveniently schedules Silent Days to occur on days where students are taking a math test so that math instruction isn’t necessarily needed. I really like this idea and I believe it gives the kids a goal to work towards. I also think that it would require more work and learning for me than for them!
In order to allow all of this to happen, I feel that you’ll need to spend a good chunk of time at the beginning of the year just training your students. Teach them, coach them, and give them the opportunities to lead. Always encourage them to take ownership of their own learning. Support them when they make mistakes and let them know that you appreciate their bravery and that they are willing to lead!
I hope after reading my post you can see that I’m willing to give up control but goodness, it’s going to be a transition for me! What do you think the most difficult aspect will be for you?