This has been a week of meetings for me. It started with a long one Monday afternoon. I was out of school Tuesday at a planning meeting for an upcoming training meeting. While I was gone, my students had organizational meetings for an upcoming school-wide fundraiser. And of course classes meet every day.
Meetings, meetings, meetings!
The planning meeting went pretty well, and I’ll be finding out about the organizational ones – and the meetings of the small groups preparing projects in my classes – if you are reading this post “live.” If you’ve worked in any organization, you know all about meetings anyway – and about the stated and unstated rules that govern them.
“[T]he hidden curriculum is the curriculum.” So, when we “deliver content” we are teaching passivity and positional authority no matter what we think we are dropping off at the doorstep of the student brain. And when we structure a classroom in a way which teaches hierarchy, we are teaching hierarchy no matter what we might debate in that room today.
That principle applies to meetings, too.
No wonder my “problem” class is so confused, so resistant to self-control! Even though I personally try to structure my classes around creativity and personal authority, they come from classes structured “in a way which teaches hierarchy.” They leave me for classes designed to “deliver content,” and they spend the day in a hierarchical structure. Stated rules and unstated rules. Spoken, written, and implied rules. What do you do if they conflict with each other?
When doing workshops for “dual families” (divorces etc) we talk about how hard it is for children to go from one household with one set of rules and expectations into another household with different rules, etc.
One story that was shared with me was of a young lad who hopped out of his mother’s car and ran up the stairs to his father’s house. He grabbed hold of the door handle, paused, took a deep breath, exhaled … and then opened the door.
From this story, we talked about the importance of giving children time to shift gears. We can help children with this transition time by helping them understand what they feel, reminding them of the change, perhaps verbalizing the expectations of the household they are going to, and, perhaps most importantly in this case, telling them that it is ok that the rules are different, challenging and confusing perhaps, but still ok. Just different.
The goal, really, is about empowering the children, giving them the awareness and the tools to cope with the challenges and to make the most of the situation.
A deep breath, and time to shift gears! Awareness, empowerment, and tools!
Five minutes isn’t very much time, especially if you have to run all the way from Ms. X’s classroom. Maybe we need to alter our start-of-class routines – and our end-of-class routines, too – to make real transitions into and out of the “Latin Family” environment. Maybe I need to be more clear, more open, about the different expectations and rules students encounter during the day. Maybe there are tools my students need and don’t have.
I’ll ask the “problem” class today, see what they think, let you know.
As for Brendan’s deep, rich comment, it deserves more attention, more space than I have today. But this part really struck me:
This gets to the authority/initiative question: who provides what prompts and feedback? How do people learn how to interpret and respond to prompts and feedback? If one person is a patron/mentor/teacher, what is the power relationship with others who might learn enough to play the same game? What are the rules?
What are the rules of the game? If they change from class to class, from hour to hour, how can we make the changes clear, and how can we help students, parents, and even teachers figure out the unwritten rules? The rules of clientēla weren’t written, but every Roman child knew them. Factory rules are supposed to be written, but everybody who works there knows about the real rules.
Once we know and state the rules, is it easier or harder to evaluate and change them? What’s the real relationship between factories and rules?