Tabula Rasa

Oftentimes when I’m sharing our curriculum with teachers who are new to our strategies, at least one person will say, “I can’t do that activity with this group of students.  Third block can’t handle being out of their seats.” 

Why is it that the fear of the unknown is often so paralyzing–even in education?  I find that the very students who one might think would not be capable of handling a bit of freedom during an Experiential Exercise (as an example) are the very ones that will shine when given such opportunities. 

Classroom management can involve many strategies on the part of the teacher.  I have always preferred to offer students a blank slate rather than strategically place them according to what I have been told about them from others.  Year after year the most challenging students have been placed in my classroom because I seem to have greater success with them.  It definitely wasn’t because I ran a tight ship.  It’s much more likely that my success was because I kept them engaged and gave them roles the same as any other students. 

One of the best compliments I ever received as a teacher was from an 8th grader–a very troubled one–who had returned to my classroom after spending nine weeks in a day treatment center.  I told the young man that he had a clean slate in my classroom and that I expected him to participate fully in all activities. His expectation was that he would be placed in a desk near mine. He was not. He hoped that I  would not  ask him to act out scenes from history or wiggle on the floor like a river. I did.  What I found was that he shined when given the opportunity to interact with his peers.  He loved attention, so why not give him the opportunity to receive attention from a positive experience rather than from negative behaviors? 

And just what was the compliment that I received from him?  “Mrs. Smith, I never know what to expect when I come to this class!”  At least I gave him something to look forward to! 

What tips and tricks do you find helpful when dealing with a challenging student?  How might you set up a classroom conducive to learning  that encourages creativity and participation in a safe environment?

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