I am currently studying classroom management at the moment and reading Classroom Management: Creating a Successful K-12 Learning Community by Paul Burden. (Burden, 2013) I have a lot of thoughts about this book, some good, some, well, not so good. Overall I think Paul does a good job laying out what, in my opinion, should be obvious. He includes a ton of strategies that might prove useful, but for the most part, many of the strategies are based on common sense.

Burden considers the cognitive work of Howard Gardner and other cognitive psychologists when offering suggestions for the selection of instruction. Personally, I think it makes an interesting statement about our education system that some of these “ideas” and development work are fairly recent in coming and have to be taught. There have been great teachers over time that understand all of this at an intuitive level and most of the parents of the world could and would tell you these things. It really makes me wonder a couple of things. First, what were we teaching before? And, you have to wonder do any of these folks have children? If they do, are they the ones raising them?

These are Burden’s suggestions:

  1. Expect students to be different.
    This one really gets me! Did we, as parents or educators, ever think they weren’t. Anyone with more than one child knows how different each child is, even when wrung from the same genetic material. How did we come to a point where we have to teach our teachers that each student is a different person with different needs, fears, backgrounds, worldviews, likes, dislikes, learning styles? At what point in American society were they all the same?
  2. Spend the time and effort to look for potential.
    What were we looking for before?
  3. Realize that student needs are not only in deficit areas. Development of potential is a need too. 
    Isn’t that the point of school – to develop a student’s potential? That should be the common core, the mission of education.
  4. Be familiar with past records of achievement.
    Why?
  5. Be aware of previous experiences that have shaped a student’s way of thinking.
    I think this has the potential to cause trouble.  Does it really matter what happened in the past? Perhaps if we just want to continue to feel sorry for a child or to continue to pass on a bad record or a label, expecting the child to keep living up to his/her past. What matters is right now. What are they feeling now and how can we help them move beyond that?Most good horse trainers that get nightmare problem horses don’t want to hear or guess about the possibilities that the horse acts badly because of abuse and bad handling. They see the problem as it is now and they address that behavior. The past means nothing, it’s done. Frankly, I’ve seen far worse behavior issues from the kids whose parent’s just can’t say “no.”
  6. Challenge students with varied assignments and note the results
    I just don’t know what to say about this one. If you aren’t already doing this, your students probably think you are the worst teacher ever. And they are probably right.
  7. Use a variety of way of grading and evaluating.
    Again? Since we know, intuitively, that we have students with diverse learning styles, should it not go without saying that not everyone tests well using the same methods? SOL tests are a perfect example of this. Some kids test wonderfully. Others, well they have to work really, really hard because they don’t memorize well and test well in this manner, but it’s up to them to make their teacher and their school look good so the school can continue to get funding. What a stupid burden to put on a child.
  8. Keep changing the conditions for learning to bring out hidden potential.
    Okay, this is a good idea and backs up No. 6 above. Change it up, keep it interesting…
  9. Challenge students occasionally beyond what is expected.
    If you are not challenging them, they are not learning. Nor, are they being motivated to learn.
  10. Look for something unique that each student can do.
    This is a great tip and not something a lot of folks intuitively do…

I think the really good teachers out there know that kids are different and instinctively follow most of these recommendations. The teachers that aren’t so successful, well they just don’t get it. You have to wonder if putting it in books and teaching it in teacher education helps it sink in for those folks. From what I have seen, I’m not so sure…

Reference:

Burden, P. (2013). Classroom management: creating a successful K-12 learning community (5th ed.). Hobokin, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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