Well, folks, I did it – I took back control. And I’ll say it: it feels good.
Before I wax too euphoric, let me be quick to temper my exultation with a bit of reality – it was only one day. Nevertheless, it was a day that really moved me significantly forward in a way that gives me a lot of hope. (Remember what I said about change?)
The most significant thing was getting my seniors under control, and thanks to some coaching from my co-op beforehand, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and said it confidently enough to regain what I needed from them – the understanding of who’s in charge. They were basically stonefaced when I told them, exactly as I had hoped, and there was no real reaction from them other than for them to be momentarily loud and boisterous when I told them that they wouldn’t be allowed to persist in behaviors that were loud and boisterous. (Go figure.) They got the message, though, and I had very fortunately planned instruction so that we moved straight into a decompression exercise for the research papers that have a quickly approaching deadline. It was virtually seamless – well, at least very practical in the strictest sense.
This is the beginning of a new approach with this one class, one less of joking and trying to be cordial and more of a parental role than I perhaps like to have. (Of course, it’s one I’m familar with as well!) I’m done even with the appearance of jokes; all that ends up happening is some sarcastic laughter, indicating that I don’t deserve to receive any positive reinforcement for my attempt at humor. None of my other classes respond this way – it’s generally something more like groaning and eye-rolling – and so I’m certain that this is a power grab on their part. If they don’t get the control they want, then they won’t give me the pleasure of their laughter, and now I’m catching on that I shouldn’t even pretend to want it. (And I really can do without it, anyway.) There was even a moment today where a few students construed something I said as a joke and did this exact same thing, and I simply responded that I hadn’t intended it as a joke. Hey, if they can be killjoys, why can’t I?
I was also able, again with some coaching and a reminder of a best practice I’ve seen used and recommended by educators previously, to organize my lessons more effectively by using the board to outline the activities of the period. Rather than spelling out each activity, however, I’ve been eliminating all but the first letter of the word or phrase; this was especially effective with my juniors, who kept wanting to know what one letter stood for after they figured out some of the more predictable ones (like “V” for video – we’re watching an adaptation of Moby-Dick). I really liked the response and my own ability to stay on-task with it, so it’s a keeper.
Last thought: I wish that I had received more instruction on set induction (also anticipatory sets) rather than a simple introduction to the idea. This simple idea – starting out with a concrete expectation of where the class is going and initiating a beginning activity or task – is so incredibly helpful for classroom management that I can barely believe that it hadn’t received more attention in my own methods courses. I fully intend to pass this on to education professors at my university, who are generally very open to feedback.
So, like every day, here’s to hoping that all of the good things from today carry over, and that even better practices can come from a new day.