Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bringing order from chaos in the classroom

"Leadership is about bringing order to chaos, fighting ambiguity and staying true to your company’s—and your own—principles." -Ray Hennessey, Entrepreneur Magazine

Chaos. It's not hard to find in a high school classroom.

I spotted this article this morning, and I've spotted chaos in my classroom a couple of times this past week. It didn't look like anarchy or total disarray. In fact, it might have been hard for an outsider to spot.

Last week in bio, it revealed itself in the feedback my students gave me on some survey questions I embedded in their last test. The class is mastery-based, and I have different students in the class working on different assignments at any given time. Lately I had started writing a list of all the assignments on the board at the beginning of each class to remind them (some typically need to go back and revise a previous assignment). Two students mentioned this in their feedback, writing, "there are too many assignments at once" and "since we are doing more than one assignment at once it is overwhelming." And I started noticing the ways in which the students were confused and overwhelmed by what seemed to them to be a constant barrage of things to keep track of. Now I've stopped listing all the assignments on the board, but I'm still working on how I can streamline the system better to reduce the number of things the students have to keep track of.

Then it happened this week in chemistry. having a student teacher necessarily introduces a bit of confusion, but we made it worse when we rushed them through the first section of thermochemistry. They hadn't had time to finish their first problem set on the first day before we introduced a lab activity and a second problem set on the second day. To make matters even worse, I gave them another problem set to replace the first, which hadn't been sufficiently complex for this honors level class. The result was three problem sets and a lab on their desks, confusion, struggles with the concepts and calculations, and more off-task behavior than normal.

Take home message: Any time there is lack of clarity, any time you introduce confusion into the situation, you're breeding chaos.

Time to step back, regroup, and take time to bring more clarity and order to the situation.

No comments:

Post a Comment