Interesting NYTimes article about what makes a good teacher and a guy named Doug Lemov, who’s trying to find out. Lemov stresses classroom management as an important part of teaching.
All Lemov’s techniques depend on his close reading of the students’ point of view, which he is constantly imagining. In Boston, he declared himself on a personal quest to eliminate the saying of “shh” in classrooms, citing what he called “the fundamental ambiguity of ‘shh.’ Are you asking the kids not to talk, or are you asking kids to talk more quietly?” A teacher’s control, he said repeatedly, should be “an exercise in purpose, not in power.” So there is Warm/Strict, technique No. 45, in which a correction comes with a smile and an explanation for its cause — “Sweetheart, we don’t do that in this classroom because it keeps us from making the most of our learning time.”
The J-Factor, No. 46, is a list of ways to inject a classroom with joy, from giving students nicknames to handing out vocabulary words in sealed envelopes to build suspense. In Cold Call, No. 22, stolen from Harvard Business School, which Lemov attended, the students don’t raise their hands — the teacher picks the one who will answer the question. Lemov’s favorite variety has the teacher ask the question first, and then say the student’s name, forcing every single student to do the work of figuring out an answer.
Here are some short video clips of teachers Lemov admires, in action. I showed these to a teacher friend, who argues that this kind of classroom management is too behaviour-focussed, and while getting kids to sit quietly and listen does help them learn facts, the kids aren’t challenged to construct knowledge from their own observations and experience when learning this way. Which I thought was also good food for thought. This whole thing is very complicated. I wish someone would just teach me how to think.