Are Efficient Classrooms Incompatible with Thinking Classrooms?

Here’s a horror story about Ronald Reagan. My students were in a competition called We the People. They needed to analyze the legacy of President Reagan. In the name of efficiency I fed each of them a factoid about Reagan. They didn’t deeply understand them so on the day of the competition…

 (my stomach still hurts thinking about it)

 …they couldn’t figure out how to match their factoid with the judges’ questions. There was painful silence as the students looked at the ceiling or each other for a life vest.

Bad teacher.

 Sad-Face

(image credit: fivelegsbetweenus.blogspot.com)

Despite this failed attempt to be efficient and at the risk of being labeled “corporate” or “militaristic” — we still advocate for the importance of efficient classrooms. Hear us out.

True, our vision is cultivating creative problem solving that will save the world.

You might be thinking: Wait a minute. You guys are all about intellectual discovery, real-world projects and joyful classrooms. How can efficient classrooms get a whole week of blogs and part of Stage 2 of your framework? Ick. Teachers with stopwatches, kids told how to sit in desks…hand signals for the bathroom?!   

929783

(image credit: mylot.com)

Yes. We assert that authentic intellectual growth is compatible with efficient classrooms.

Here’s the rub. Most of us are guilty of both plain old inefficient classrooms AND of taking shortcuts that rob students of intellectual work. We humbly submit the notion that we can all get better at actual time spent on real learning.

Efficient classrooms are a must because these things can’t wait many more years before they get solved:

Drought-300x300 ar09_ch3-9_refugeecampConflicts

(image credits: theeconomiccollapseblog.com, unep.org, economist.com)

We also uniquely assert that strategies that rob students of intellectual work are in the end, INEFFICIENT! In our private conversations we have a name for those techniques like the one in the Reagan story: “bull%$#@ Hail Mary passes” we throw to students when we feel we are running out of time (American football reference explained here).

Important note: We do feel the topic of “classroom management” often gets undue attention in teacher training and staff conversations. It’s probably because, admittedly, if the classroom is chaotic very little learning can happen.

We feel it’s undue attention for a few reasons:

1) Classroom management is a small fraction of the art and science of teaching so it shouldn’t get the majority of professional development time as it often does in urban schools.

2) If we engage their intellect, cultivate their passions, create joy and build positive relationships there will be far fewer problems.

3) Only a fraction of teachers excessively struggle with it so please stop making all faculty sit through hours of training and discussion on this issue.

4) No “classroom management” trainings I’ve ever attended included anything close to this very important caveat: Robbing students of doing the intellectual work in the name of classroom management is, in the end, terribly inefficient. If we just feed information to them they go home at night and it oozes out of their ears onto their pillows while they sleep and we have to re-feed them the next day!

sleeping-kid   (image credit: yesfive.net)

Therefore, we assert a better way to frame the conversation of a foundational piece of education. Not as “classroom management” but as joyful, efficient classrooms with active processing of information. That’s Stage 2 of our Framework.

Slide1

Last week was all about joy. This week is about efficiency. Next week will be about active processing. We’re attempting to outline ways to make learning more efficient without taking intellectual shortcuts!

We’ve divided efficiency into categories:

1. Teacher organization (Tuesday’s post)

2. Classroom organization (Wednesday)

3. Managing behavior (Thursday)

4. Efficient student responses (Friday)

Looking forward to your comments!

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Categories: Stage 2: Joyful and Efficient

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