A new term is about to begin and children up and down the country are ready to enter their new classrooms, but what type of classroom are they entering?
In many schools now there is a clear onus on teachers to take responsibility for all that goes on in their classrooms. Behaviour standards, standards of learning, children’s happiness, amongst many other areas, are the standards by which teachers are held accountable. But what type of environment does this lead to?
I would argue that the more responsibility that teachers put on their own shoulders (and the more this responsibility is put on their shoulders by others such as government, colleagues, OFSTED, and parents) the more they take this responsibility away from those who need it – their pupils.
Take this example, shared by headguruteacher from King Edward Grammar School for an example of the power of handing over responsibility to pupils:
A few weeks ago, looking for a colleague, I stumbled upon a room with 20 lower school students in it. They were in the middle of a debate: ‘This House Would Invade North Korea’. The Chair was a Year 9 student and the whole business was being conducted with total order and sincerity and the level of debate was superb. The teacher running the debating group had left them to it. I have been back since – this happens on a regular basis. Most recently, they were debating the value of Drama in the curriculum!
What a fantastic example! I read this and my first thought was how can we turn all schools into places like this?
So how, practically do we lift this onus of responsibility from teachers and onto the pupils so that they become independent thinkers and learners? And how do we avoid the whole system sliding into anarchy and a Lord of the Flies scenario?
As with all communities the key aspect is setting common goals. One of the best ways I have seen this applied is when a teacher asks their class at the start of the new academic year ‘how can we make our class the best possible class to be in?’
This goes beyond agreeing a set of class rules together, but is more about establishing key principles. For example some of these might be being kind to one another, listening and respecting one another, working hard, presenting ourselves well etc.
Another brilliant example of instilling a sense of community that I have seen work incredibly well with children of all ages is to disestablish the teacher as being the font of all knowledge. In these classrooms children know that they can help each other, rather than always turning to an often busy or occupied teacher.
A few key phrases are often very useful in achieving this and helping children blossom into independent, resilient learners. Phrases such as “what do you think you should do?”. “have you asked your friends for help?” and “can you think of a way to find that out?”
Let me stress this isn’t about being lazy. It’s about freeing up your time as a teacher to give support and extend where it is truly needed.
These are only a few examples, there are many more out there and do feel free to share your examples of how you move your classroom away from being one where the teacher holds all the responsibility to where this power and responsibility is shared between the whole class. Or if you disagree then let me know – I’m always happy to debate and learn.
Squeak to you soon