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We Teach Kids: Project 180, Day 77.1

While this does not perfectly capture my thinking, it did resonate with me this morning as I was wandering through the Twitterverse. Words matter. What we say or sometimes don’t say has an impact on our young ┬áspirits. And, above all, our words should communicate to our kids that they matter most, not content, not test scores.

Last night, I began another new quarter at Eastern with kids who are just entering the education program. And though my course title is technically “Classroom Management,” I took a new approach last night and changed it, giving it the unofficial-but-better title, “Classroom Culture.” And while it may simply be semantics, success in the classroom is not about managing kids; it’s about creating culture, a culture where kids can thrive and succeed socially , emotionally, and academically. I tell my Eastern students, in a sense, “management” really comes down to how you want kids to feel when they enter your room. And that takes work. It takes an intentional, I-am-going-to-make-you-feel-like-you-matter approach. And that means, content becomes a secondary consideration. Of course, that does not always readily resonate with all my just-entering the program students. Oh, I don’t think it’s that they neither understand nor accept the notion; rather, I think it’s simply that they hadn’t thought of it in those terms before.

Managing a classroom is an incredibly complex undertaking. It is not as simple as teacher teaches and students learn. Recently I heard the claim that a teacher makes more decisions than a brain surgeon, and while I don’t know if that’s exactly the case, I do make an inestimable number of decisions in my day, and only a fraction of them involve content. Most of them center around the social and emotional development and well-being of my kids. And I get that some think that it shouldn’t be that way, that we should just whip the kids into line and make them learn, that we should set aside the touchy-feely aspects and get down to basics. I get it. But that’s not how it works. Classrooms are cultures, not factories. Kids are people, not products. And the strength of any culture is measured by the disposition of its individuals. As creators of culture, teachers must make kids the priority; the content in a healthy classroom culture will take care of itself. As is often said in ed. circles, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Kids first. Content second. This is the first, key consideration in creating and maintaining a healthy culture in the classroom.

Happy Tuesday, all. 2-hour late start today. For any who are keeping track, I called this day 77.1 because of our cancellation yesterday. Have to make sure I end on 180.

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