The Classroom of Choice: Giving Students What They Need and Getting What You Want

The Classroom of Choice: Giving Students What They Need and Getting What You Want

The Classroom of Choice: Giving Students What They Need and Getting What You Want

The Classroom of Choice: Giving Students What They Need and Getting What You Want

Excerpt

[Don't smile until Thanksgiving!]

That was the advice I most remember from my undergraduate Methods of Teaching Secondary English course. I was in trouble before I even entered the classroom. I knew I wouldn't be able to heed that advice for long. I was right. As soon as my first class of 7th graders came into my classroom, with every book they had precariously crammed under one arm and a look on their faces that could only be described as equal parts eagerness and fear, I blew it: I smiled. I should have known right then that the traditional classroom management practices I'd been taught would be just as useless as the advice not to smile. But, not knowing any other way, I used them: a combination of positive reinforcement and, on occasion, punishment. My teaching strategies were equally traditional. The results? They were okay. Academically, my students fell into the normal distribution pattern of the old bell curve: A few students excelled, a few failed, and the vast majority fell into the average C range. Behaviorally, it was similar. I had a few model students, a few chronic behavior problems, but most were acceptable—behaving responsibly as long as I remained vigilant.

[Is this it?] I asked myself. Is this why I entered teaching, to spend the next 30 years monitoring behavior while accepting mediocre learning and performance from my students? Of course not! I wanted to have great relationships with my students. I wanted to inspire them. But I didn't know how. Then one summer, I was invited to take a workshop, a Basic Intensive Week in Choice Theory. [Why not?] I asked myself. [It pays a pretty good stipend.] Surprisingly, it was, for me, the week that changed my life. This was the stuff I needed to hear in my education classes in college.

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