Control in Your Classroom
Kathie F. Nunley
school students fight the teacher. Unlike elementary and college classrooms,
high school students and teachers seem to have conflicting agendas.
Rather than being on the same team, teachers and students often experience
the "us versus them" game. Teacher burnout at the secondary level
can be attributed to exhaustion from years of this common battle that
is rarely discussed. As students graduate high school and move into
college they magically change teams. Now the instructors and students
seem once more to be on the same side with the same focus of direction,
which is to see the student succeed. This change comes from a shift
in the student's perception of how much control they have over their
Psychologists believe the most important factor in stress level is
perception of control. When people feel they have control, they feel
less stress. By changing the power structure in your classroom from
teacher to student, a teacher can change the student's perception
of control. The responsibility for learning shifts from the teacher
to the student. This happens when teachers empower students to make
their own learning decisions. Now the student, not the teacher, takes
the blame or the credit for the education. The student looks to the
teacher as a facilitator of learning and the battleground disappears
from the classroom. By acknowledging the power or control students
have over their own learning, you can ultimately have classes that
are "under control". In other words, in order to gain control you
have to give up some control.
This shift may be uncomfortable for many teachers. You may need to
start small and try to increase the time spent on self-directed study
gradually. Here are some simple ideas that can be implemented immediately
and return big payoffs in terms of increased learning and reduced
stress for both teacher and student:
of assigning class and homework, offer an assortment of learning activity
a wide variety of assignments, addressing as many styles and interests
as possible. Activities may vary in terms of length of time required
and point value.
the student to choose which assignments they want to do to meet the
point requirements for that unit.
to include enough assignment choices so that even the non-readers
or low reading ability students can have success.
choices may include lecture, video, computer programs, book work,
posters, modeling clay, poetry, construction of a board game, flash
cards, mobiles, book reports, video performance.
the students freedom to come up with their own creative assignments.
Variety is key to leading rather than managing your students.
F. Nunley is an educational psychologist, author, researcher and speaker
living in southern New Hampshire. Developer of the Layered Curriculum®
method of instruction, Dr. Nunley has authored several books and articles
on teaching in mixed-ability classrooms and other problems facing
today's teachers. Full references and additional teaching and
parental tips are available at: http://Help4Teachers.com Email her:
Kathie (at) brains.org
NEXT ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES =>