Over the next month, this blog will feature excerpts and guest posts surrounding my latest book, Leading Connected Classrooms- The Heart and Soul of Teaching and Learning. This book is designed for teachers, teacher leaders, and building leaders who are looking to bring excellence to the learning in their schools.
A culture of control begins to grow in many classrooms as each grade level passes. This can look like an increased desire for less talking in the classroom, more rules and procedures to control the flow of conversation, and a growing amount of the teacher at the front of the room to control the pace and speed of learning. This need for control, or perceived control, leads to more and more students learning that to do well in school, it is necessary to talk less, “play school,” and make sure that their voice isn’t the one heard above the rest.
This leads to a cascade of events that lowers interest in learning and begins to remove the passion and engagement from classrooms. As these control factors are what are valued by the teacher, the students begin to police themselves by applying additional peer pressure to comply in the classroom. Students who speak up now are seen as the nerds, know-it-alls, and the teacher’s pets. The students who persevere through this pressure can find great rewards as they grow into lifelong learners, but too many students wilt from the peer pressure, and they find themselves looking for other avenues beyond school where their voice is heard. They look for ways to become invisible in classrooms, and they begin to build a tool chest of ways to avoid looking academic. This armor builds educational plaque that causes decay in the quantity and quality of learning that is taking place.
Connected classrooms work to fend off this disease. They build a culture where it is cool to learn, ask questions, and be a top performer. Teachers in these spaces are able to reward the right behavior, use the right praise, and address the little digs that erode the desire to learn for students. All of these efforts validate the power of individual student voice. Connected classrooms can fight the trend of fading engagement. They keep kids connected and build a desire for learning that lasts no matter the pressure, inertia, or trends pushing back from the outside.