Tag Archives: classroom management

Why “off task” is OK

By McQuinn https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcquinn/2302823476/in/gallery-38392447@N05-72157623450240233/

By McQuinn https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcquinn/2302823476/in/gallery-38392447@N05-72157623450240233/

My friend Russ tweeted this quote (questioning it):

“Every spare moment in our classrooms should be packed full of engaging, learning opportunities.” from The Edvocate.

I replied that I’m ok with students being off task sometimes. You see no one is always “on.” We all get distracted sometimes and we also need brain breaks. This may not have been the point of the post, but I often hear people talk about students like they need to make sure that they are working hard on what they are “supposed to be doing” every second of the day.

I think that there are a couple of dangers with this attitude. For one the teacher can become a taskmaster that is always policing the room. The teacher then is seen as an adversary by students, rather than someone to learn with. I think this kind of teacher rarely reflects on the types of activities in their class and whether boredom is the cause of the off task behavior.

Secondly we miss the opportunities to teach students self management. Rather than worrying about whether students are on task we should focus on teaching students to set deadlines and meet them in regards to their projects and work. Successful students already do this and are viewed as “good” students by many. I wonder how many of our “struggling” students are really just students lacking organizational and time management skills?

In the past I have not done enough to seek out the reasons why students are not meeting deadlines. This year I will conference more with students who fall behind and facilitate a conversation to help them figure out how to keep up in class. I will support them in organizational skills as needed.

Finally, sometimes it is ok to just have fun in class for no specific reason. As Dean Shareski always says we need more joy in schools. Sometimes that does not look like a learning experience, and that is ok. Humor, joy, and relationships are the building blocks of trust that will allow deeper learning later. Humans were not designed to always be working. We need to remember our students’ humanity.


I am not actually this old. From Seattle Municipal Archives https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattlemunicipalarchives/4159111102/in/photostream/

I am not actually this old. From Seattle Municipal Archives 

I played “varsity” basketball at my small, Christian school. I was a starter in 6th grade, not because I was any good, but because our team was awful and have of us were 6th graders. I loved basketball and it was my life at the time. Thirty years later I don’t remember hardly anything about it except the following two stories.

We played other small, Christian schools but most were larger than us. Two schools that we played was all juniors and seniors that were good at basketball. It was literally men against boys. The first one beat us 104-11. Yup, 104-11. Of all of the athletic things that I have participated in my life that is the only score that I can remember. They also called the radio station and had it reported. They ran up the score on a bunch of middle school kids and never let up. We were humiliated. I was humiliated. I hated that school.

The other school was probably better than the first and also beat us easily. I don’t remember the final score. What I do remember is them letting me drive into the lane and telling me, “You’re open. Shoot it!” They didn’t block my shot even though they easily could have. They were kind. I respected that school.

I know Maya Angelou’s quote has become cliche, but it is still true:

At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.

How will your students remember the year that they spend with you?

I’m an extroverted introvert.

From http://yinrenaissance.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/the-inverted-introvert/

From http://yinrenaissance.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/the-inverted-introvert/

First John and then Trevor wrote about introverts. So I thought I would weigh in also. We were joking at lunch the other day about the fact that we have a large number of introverts on our staff. My principal asked everyone who thinks that they are an introvert to raise their hand. A bunch of us did, including myself. I felt like some people were looking at me funny, like you are not an introvert.

I feel like extrovert and introvert is a false dichotomy. The truth is that sometimes I like to be with others and am loud and opinionated. Other times I crave solitude and my own thoughts. How I act is much more dependent on mood and situation than my personality.

I am a morning person, but I like it to be quiet. In college my roommate and I would get up at the same time, get ready, go to the cafeteria and eat breakfast together. The first words spoken were “See ya” when one of us left for class and that was perfect. Generally I get up and am out the door before my family gets up. On days when they are up I feel stressed by the noise.

At parties or in unfamiliar situations I am silent and in a corner. I like to be around people, but don’t like small talk unless it is about sports. I would prefer to talk about deeper issues like justice, ethics, or philosophy, not exactly dinner party topics.

But in my classroom or with friends and family I am very talkative and sometimes even dominating. I should probably step back and listen more.

I feel like most people are like this. Rather than extroverted or introverted I think most people swing between the two depending on their mood and the situation. I agree with Trevor though that we need to make spaces in our classes and schools for both situations and realize that some students may need a different environment dependent on the day and what is going on in their lives more than their personality.

Race to Your Seat!

I hate the paperwork part of my job, but I try to do it right. One task that we all have to do is attendance. My second class is energetic and is slow to find their seats. I take attendance visually and with 45 of them it is difficult when they are wandering. So I end up calling out names over the microphone for them to find their seats. I tend to get annoyed and irritated at how long this seemingly simple task can take.

I found a simple solution last week. Instead of just calling out the same few kids names to find their seats I started announcing:

Who is going to be last to find their seat today? There goes Bill to find his seat. It won’t be him. Sue is going fast to her seat. Looks like it will be between Mary and Martha. Mary takes the lead, but Martha finishes strong and beats her!

It is extremely silly, but it works. Kids that ignored me before run to their seats and everyone cheers people on and claps for the winners/losers. It is fun and actually faster than before. The most important thing is that it makes me laugh instead of making me ornery to start class.

How do you use fun ways to “manage” (I really don’t like that word) your class?

New Rule

My students and I are still getting to know each other. Last week I had to make a new classroom rule because their behavior was driving me crazy. They kept coming up and politely asking me to use the bathroom or get a drink.

I told them this had to stop because I don’t like it. They are no longer allowed to ask permission to go to the bathroom or get a drink!

From now on if they have to go to the bathroom or get a drink, they just go do it. I feel like it is demeaning to them every time they ask me to go do a normal body function.

Trust, Respect, Responsibility-that is the creed of our school. I think high schoolers can handle going to the bathroom with out any notice from me!