So, what am I reading this summer? I have decided to read two books. The first is Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith, which will be the focus of this blog. The other is Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I will blog out my reflections about that book at a later date. I think these books are great so far. I have read about half of Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire, and I have to admit that I am quite addicted to it. It is very hard to put down.
I have learned a lot about creativity and classroom management in this first half of the book. I really thought that I had a great handle on creativity, after all I am the Gifted Intervention Specialist. But what I found wasn’t me being creative or even the students being creative. It was more of teaching the students in a creative way that would reach them in a more realistic and meaningful way. Students need to know why the are learning something. They need to know the meaning behind many important events in history, (World and U.S.), they need to know science, writing styles, and math. I came to the same conclusions that in the elementary school teachers are focusing on math and reading a lot. In my gifted classes in the elementary I focus more on social studies and science. We can’t leave these kids hanging out to dry when they get to middle school and can’t find the Mississippi River on a map or don’t know the difference between Washington, D.C. and Washington State.
So for my self, I need to explain more and give more background information for my students when we are doing a unit. I need to be more creative in my delivery of the material. It just doesn’t have to be reading or worksheets. It can be slides, video or digital recordings of events or real people. I need to spend some more time finding these resources on the web and use them in my classroom.
As for classroom management, I learned that there are six levels of moral development. Using these in the classroom Esquith has created a classroom culture that is like no other.
Level 1: I don’t want to get into trouble:This is the basic level where most are at. This where most kids are. They don’t want to get into trouble because they know that there is a punishment that could happen. In our classrooms there are students who don’t want to get into trouble because they don’t want detention or a call from the teacher to their parent. Many teachers exploit this because they threaten their students with warnings of severe punishment if they act up with a sub in the classroom.
Level 2: I want a reward: This level is a prong from the first. This is where students behave not because they are worried about punishment, but they want a reward. They think that the better they are the bigger the reward. Teachers use this as dangling carrot for students. If they behave while a sub is in the classroom they will have a free day or a pizza party.
Level 3: I want to please somebody: This level describes the student who want to be helpful not for reward but because they want to. teachers will see these students as teacher’s pets. But this is where we want our average students to be. We want them to be helpful in our classrooms and in our schools so they can translate that into the real world when they are older.
Level 4: I follow the rules: It is important to know the rules in any situation. In our classrooms we have rules, in our school we have rules, in restaurants there are rules, in elevators there are rules, etc… In our classrooms, having students help with the creation of the classroom rules can be a great activity. But the rules have to make sense and have consequences that are reasonable. The teacher should be the guide for this activity, and the rules should be transferable from the classroom to the real world.
Level 5: I am considerate of other people: Esquith uses the character of Atticus Finch from the book To Kill a Mockingbird to help explain this to students. Atticus said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view…until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it.” Students need to be aware of where they are at and how their actions can affect those around them.
Level 6: I have a personal code of behavior and I follow it (the Atticus Finch Level): This is the most difficult level to achieve. This is on where as a teacher you will need to illustrate this with books, short stories, and movies. Esquith lists such books as A Separate Peace by John Knowles, the movie High Noon, and Death of a Salesman. We teachers need to strive to teach our students to have a personal code of behavior. We want them to be ethical and compassionate people in society. When you come across a student or adult in this level, they will stand out.
Now, how can I use these levels in my classroom. Well, I believe that I will start to make classroom agreements. Instead of rules and consequences, I will make these agreements. Things that we can live with in our classroom that help create boundaries, help perpetuate compassion, empathy, and be able to translate into the real world. I want to encourage my students to reach for the highest level they can based on their age and ability.
As I am writing this, I realized that I have so much more to learn and internalize. Crazy! I hope that after you read this blog, that you will take some time and read this book. This book really can change your outlook on the classroom, and how you teach your students….and a whole lot more.