Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Cruise Control Classroom

One of the many benefits of using a website to power my classroom every day, from start to finish, is I can be (mostly) confident that class will cruise along in my absence.  I've been sick, and when I'm not sick, my son is ... so I've had the chance to test this theory / class set up several times so far.

How it works:  From the very first day of class, I tell the students, "Hey, this is your class. I expect you to know how to run it."  There's a desk at the front of the classroom, and students take turns "driving," taking our class through the entire day's scripted lesson.

My students know how to get to our website, how to drill down into folders on my desktop (for quizzes, notes, etc.); they can take attendance, pass out papers ... and at any given moment my kids know what we are studying.  I mean specifically:  Unit 3, day 2 Rome, for example.

It's a wonderful thing: When I'm out, I just update our website from home, and my kids can drive. There is only one chink in our armor - the substitute teacher who can't grasp the concept. Typically, substitutes who struggle with my system either 1. don't quite understand the whole "Internet" thingy, or 2. Just don't comprehend the concept of giving kids so much power.

I do have one of the more student-oriented classes in our school, I believe, and this is by design. The reasons  behind my choice to teach this way are probably best left for another post.

I've had a few problems. One teacher came in, shut off the overhead projector, and powered down the computer.  He decided to talk to the kids the whole time.  Okay ... kinda strange but hey, not the end of the world.

More aggravating to me are the substitutes who don't get tech, or don't trust my kids. One sub walked into class and found my students all ready to go - the class website was up, the page refreshed, and the kids had found the day's lesson (always clearly labeled by date and subject).

The teacher insisted this was not what the kids were to be studying / working on (it was), and an awkward argument of sorts ensued. It's a very touchy situation having my students politely explain to an adult that they know what they are doing.  They are freshmen for the most part, and lack tact and PR skills.

I suppose what I need is a solid relationship with a core group of subs who is comfortable letting the kids, for the most part, run the show.  Because I sure am ... I feel we constantly spoon-feed and underestimate our kids - again, a topic for another post.  I type this from home ... I was at the doctor's office today and my son is quarantined from daycare for another day.

I hope to walk back into a clean classroom with a great note from the sub. There's always that moment of "Oh great, what am I walking back into?"  But regardless, I am proud of, and committed to, the cruise control classroom.