Sunday, 27 September 2015

The organizational theory of my classroom

It is ironic that my first course of my post-graduate is Constructions of Organizations not just because I remember a course much like it when I was taking my Bachelor of Commerce but because I always joke with my students that I would get an S in organization. I'm very inefficient when it comes to paper, and there is no paper filing system at home or at school that I'm able to keep up with, hence my need to turn to technology to help me in those inefficiencies. As I'm preparing to present a seminar tomorrow on the birth of scientific management, I always look to other sources to help me understand and I found this video.

I started questioning some of the inefficiencies in my classroom and which strategies I use to increase the productivity of myself and my students, such as

  • Ensuring students follow entry and entrance procedures, silent entry gives me more time for my lessons
  • Having a morning routine for students such as "bellwork," so I can collect the paperwork and check agendas
  • Organizing my classroom - it's a Science lab so if ever anyone needs to find anything, everything is labelled
  • Putting students in rows so there is minimal disruptions and distractions during my lessons and independent work
  • Establishing clear rules, procedures, expectations and consequences for when they are not followed...

But wait...I'm not a production manager manufacturing widgets, I'm a teacher.

If my goal is this:


Then why would my classroom look like this? Why would I try to make everything one size fits all?

Images labelled for non-commercial reuse

Equal isn't fair and fair isn't equal, there may be a student who is not able to follow the same rule or procedure as another, and the consequence will not be the same. I won't photocopy and assign a class set of Math problems because there may be a student who feels stress and anxiety when seeing that many multiplication/factoring/square root problems. Or they are not working at grade level yet and will not feel successful with that work. Or I know that I need to do some pre-teaching for that expectation before they can meet or exceed the success criteria. Or there may be a student who has mastered multiplication/factoring/square roots, for a few years now, and that worksheet will just make them feel less engaged in my classroom. We no longer read whole class novel studies perhaps due to not all students being at the same reading level, or perhaps they won't have the same level of engagement towards that book. There is choice during Language, where I conference with students and together we come up with a personalized goal for writing, reading, and word study. I no longer give a percentage, I give descriptive feedback which on average takes me twice as long to write than marking it wrong or right and putting a fraction/percentage/level at the top.

Sorry I can't remember the original source...

In order for me to personalize the learning of every student in my room, then I need let go of some of the strategies that have worked for me in the past that increase our productivity. But yet I'm a mother, a student, a commuter, I need to make my time at school as efficient as possible as there is no other place where I can meet my productivity goals. Perhaps I shouldn't do extra-curriculars? Maybe I need to work through lunch and recess or not spend that extra five minutes at the end of the day chatting with my grade partners. This in turn will bring down my morale which will in turn decrease my productivity and I will not meet the widget quota for the week...or maybe I will but my quality of life will decrease. I'm not sure, I think I know enough about my mental health to prevent myself from going down that path.

The bottom line is, as much as we try to organize classrooms, schools and the education system, students are not a production line. 

I was very blessed last year, I had 20 bodies in my grade 7 homeroom, it wasn't perfect (always room for improvement!) but I was able to do as much as I could for every single one of those kids. This year I have 24 but it's a 6/7 split. That in itself would make me less efficient as it's double the curriculum. I don't doubt I will have a good year, I'm experimenting with spiralling Math, and personalizing learning goals for them, I'm confident I will be the best teacher for them and I'm up for the challenge. I've taught both grades before, which also decreases the extra time I would spend "teaching" myself the curriculum. But I'm already finding myself going to some of the tried and true strategies, such as giving them notes and practice problems, which I didn't do as much of last year.

If four more bodies and the added Grade 6 curriculum already has me going back to my scientific management roots, how do other teachers out there survive with 30+ kids in their room? I recently read this post by @zbpipe and I can't even imagine what 42 bodies would be like. My biggest class size is 32 this year for Religion, and it is currently being very teacher directed but I do hope to open up the floor to more student centered activities.

I joke about going into the business of education and I wouldn't be doing anything else. I just hope this year is as productive and efficient as the rest.

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