I had my ideal class the other day, and it was glorious. Of course I’ve had ideas of an ideal class in my head, but to see and recognize it in person has given me a very specific image of what it is – and I love it. I am writing it here, not to show off, but to remember this. This is what I will keep in mind as my end goal when I am working on my badass classroom management plan and my kickass lesson plan over the summer so I can have this on a regular basis the following school year. I don’t feel like I had much to do with this one, so I am going to describe the class, and then I’ll describe all the factors I believe were involved.
The lesson was on balancing equations, and it was an independent activity with the option to work together when stuck on a problem. I have not taught this to them yet, so the packet included all the information they needed plus practice problems.
The first 5-10 minutes of class involved me getting the students to get and stay on task – that part was obviously not ideal. However, once everyone got cracking, it was. The first 15-20 minutes of them working, I was going around answering questions and working problems with the students to get them started or unstuck on one of the first few problems; then there were no more questions. Once everyone had gotten going, they kept going. If a student got stuck, they asked someone in their group and the group would start working on it as a team. One group even went to the board to work out problems because they worked better that way. I had no involvement in the last 20-25 minutes of class other than to give permission for students to use the bathroom. Everyone was on task, the talking level remained at a good volume, we had music playing, and students worked with each other when getting stuck instead of calling me over. One group asked me which problem was the hardest, and when I told them which one I was not able to do, they took the challenge. They started working it out on the board. The bell rang and they didn’t slow down. Some students stopped by to lend a quick hand before going on to class. The tardy bell for the next class rang, and they were still engrossed. They finally figured it out and I gave them late passes for their next class. It was beautiful.
This was a pre-ap class, so these are students who ask questions beyond the scope of the lesson and are thirsty for knowledge. This was also something they had done before in 8th grade (they are mostly 10th graders now). Once they had a refresher, many of them remembered how to do it and ran with it. I did have to yell at them about the noise level about 5 minutes into class. Towards the middle of class, when the noise level was a good volume, I pointed out that the current volume level was perfect and exactly what I expected when working together like this. These factors, combined with the independent lesson (that came from the other chemistry teacher) allowed for me to see what an ideal class for me looks like and what I would like to strive for when planning the next year.
I say this is my goal next year and not this year because this is my first year teaching, and I already experienced major burn-out last semester from trying to do too much too soon. I will not be making that mistake again. My goal this semester is to work on my classroom management skills, which are majorly lacking; learn from my mistakes so I don’t repeat them; figure out things I want to do and don’t want to do for next year; and just try to do my best with what I have. As much as I want to plan my own lessons, I don’t have the time to reinvent the wheel. I can find or make things to add in here and there, but I’m not going to try and do my own unique lesson plan right now. Anyway, I diverge.
Tell me what your ideal classroom looks like. Have you ever seen it, or something close to it? What helped you get there?