I am a big proponent of change in the library -- I think it's important to rearrange, freshen things up with paint, move shelves and books, add new programs and ideas, all with the best interests of your library community at heart, of course. I personally need this kind of change in order to keep my practice fresh and focused, especially as I've just wrapped up my 13th year in the same school. This past year, one change I made was moving the location of my desk. And it made all the difference.
This week's Take5 is all about a topic that we spend a lot of time focusing on as middle school educators: TEENS. We talk screen time, cell phones, overall struggles that teens experience and ways schools can help. Then we end with an uplifting story about students who set out to build something real -- a sailboat -- and summer reading list for middle schoolers (and students of all ages).
Last week, I found myself questioning my middle school classroom management practices. Let me set the scene for you. It was 8th period and school was going to be out for the summer in a week. So to say the kids are hyped up is an understatement. My Honors students were working on a PBL (project based learning) in the library (my school home away from home) that we had been chipping away at for weeks. The students were designing a museum exhibit -- complete with a summary of a historic event of their choice, photos, works cited, a paragraph connecting the event to a historic theme and an "about the historian" section with biographical information. Now were in the final push to create exhibits. Some students were frantically typing, others with gluing different items onto their tri-folds. Construction paper was strewn across the library. The librarians and I were fielding questions (Do you like this font? How do I print? Is my thesis statement okay? Do I need more pictures? Can you proofread this?), while at the same time unjamming printers and helping cut paper with the paper cutter. It was chaos, but most of them were learning and in fact some of them were doing the best work and deep thinking that I had seen them do all year. But that's where the key stumbling block comes in - most were deeply engaged -- but twenty percent were not.
These twenty percent were doing the work in fits and starts. They were more interested in socializing than surrendering completely to doing the work. They seemed unfazed by the looming deadline - and actually I knew that focused or not -- they would come through, completing it at home if they did not complete it in class. But they were loud, and every time I got them back on track another would be off track. It was like a giant game of whack-a-mole and to make matters worse I was in a fishtank. Teachers in their off period were coming in to make copies and I just knew that they were focused on the 20 percent (who wouldn't be -- eyes are attracted to moving, loud objects -- rather than the quiet kid deep in thought). I cringed inside at how the whole thing looked. Of course, I wanted every last one of them on task, but it wasn't happening. And I couldn't decide if it was my fault, if it was their fault, or if it even mattered? If I had them sitting quietly in the classroom, I would look like I was in control - I would be in control. Control feels comfortable; control can look very good to outsiders. But control isn't always how or where learning happens. I pondered these questions (talked with a few colleagues) and then after hours of mulling things over I walked away with some more clearly defined thoughts about classroom management.
This week we've got all sorts of things on our mind. We've been focused on equity in our school district this year so a piece on cultural proficiency sparked my interest. I also discovered a new podcast for kids, learned about the impact of drawing on learning, and considered the teen brain a bit as well.
So, take5 and share with us what you think about these stories and more! We'd love to hear from you.
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