Monday, November 24, 2014

A flat classroom

I want my classroom to be flat.

Not flat as in boring or bland, but flat in terms of hierarchy and structure. I want to treat my students as young adults, as equals, as human beings. We're on the same level. I am their coach, not their master.

Seth Godin talks about a big corporation where plant workers were forbidden from using the same bathroom the executives used. This sort of hierarchical caste structure kills motivation and misses out on the benefits of collaboration and the synergy that can result when everyone contributes as equals. What's true for corporations is true for any organization, even a classroom or school.

In recent years, I've been starting my courses in September by telling my students, "Please do not ask to go to the bathroom--just go." I think it's dehumanizing for young adults to have to ask permission to relieve themselves. I forgot to tell them that this year. We'll fix that this week.

I'm aiming to do less talking at them and more talking with them, more sitting by them and less presiding over them, more getting to know them and less getting them to do what I want.

This year, my goal is to stop trying to motivate my students with threats of consequences, or even with grades, and instead provide autonomy, mastery, and purpose. In other words, motivate them the way I would try to motivate adults-- the way I would like to be motivated.

A flat organization can't rely on threats and punishments. Those things are for  hierarchies, and they are destroyers of real, intrinsic motivation (and happiness).

A flat classroom is my goal because what works in life should work in school.

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