Students don’t need to be quiet all the time. They need to be engaged. They don’t need to be corralled into one school of thought, they need to be encouraged to learn how to think independently. They need to be able to have a voice in the community you invite them to. There is a trend in education that is troubling. It’s a trend towards increased compliance over student buy in. I believe in a classroom that runs smoothly for the benefit of all the students. I don’t advocate chaos. The idea that every student has to move in lock step with my every prescribed behavior and then immediately rewarded with a ‘clip up’, a ping on a program, a cheer, or some other form of reward sounds more reminiscent of Pavlov’s dog experiments than what should be going on in a classroom. With the rise of PBIS models in schools, there’s more and more demand for things to implement that show teachers in ‘control’ of their students every move. It’s a sad trend, and I’m doubtful that this was the original intent of the program.
It looks even worse, in my opinion, when that is all done in the name of ‘controlling’ a certain type of student, or a certain student population. Conditioning is not the precursor to deeper knowledge. With the drive toward compliance in a lot of schools, I am wondering how much attention is being given to the engagement of diverse student populations.
It is important to distinguish between engagement and compliance. Just because a student is compliant…does not mean that they are engaged. Just because they are quiet, doesn’t mean they are listening, internalizing and taking their next step as you are talking. Engagement means that they are facilitating their own learning through questioning, response, active listening and collaboration. This is what we should aspire to as often as possible!
Sometimes, what happens is…there is an organic moment of that…and we miss it, because we are focused on compliance. Sometimes, students are having a side bar conversation, and it’s not about something off task, they are cross checking their understanding with a peer. We discipline them for the talking without inquiring as to what they were talking about. We could go a step further to allow them to engage others in that discussion to see if they were alone in that thinking. When we don’t I believe we do them a disservice.
When the student becomes the teacher…
In my classroom, when students are done with their morning work, they are allowed to read. Usually I tell them to read to themselves. This week, I while I was working on the field trip money count and answering emails before I started teaching, I heard some noise behind me, while other students were still working on their work. When I turned around to get ready to shush someone…I saw this.
The rule is read to self. Here’s a picture of my girls….being non-compliant. I’d read that book in class TWICE. I think my substitute *may* have read it a third time…and here is one of my students reading it again…to her friends who had finished their work and loved the story. There is 100% engagement on the person reading…and as I continued to watch for a few minutes, I noticed my student asking questions and the girls were answering–correctly. So many different social and academic skills were covered by this moment. This isn’t really non-compliance. It’s AMAZING. They were done with their work and engaged in a meaningful activity on their own. Most likely had they asked me if they could all read like this, I would have said no…because I wouldn’t have believed that they could do all the things they did…INDEPENDENT of my DIRECT CONTROL.
I am so grateful that this happened, because it illustrates the greater point that students can be independent thinkers, solve their own problems, and engage in meaningful activity when the parameters are set for them properly…and TRUE independent thought is encouraged. I’m so very proud of them. So, even if you are in a system that prioritizes compliance over true engagement…here’s what I suggest.
Look for ways to praise students for their problem solving.
Create opportunities for your students to work collaboratively so that you are an observer, rather than a participant.
Remember to praise your students for who they already are, rather than what they do!