At TMC13 I attended Ilana Horn‘s (@tchmathculture on Twitter) presentation on Culture in the Classroom. I didn’t write much down during the talk because I ended up thinking so much about the things she was saying and it is hard to describe the video we watched in words.
But, there are some pretty serious take-aways from the presentation that I have acted on and implemented. First, the serious topic of how much culture is created by you (the teacher), how much culture is brought to you by the learners (from prior teachers) and how much culture is created by the learners independently is very eye opening.
Think about that for a second. There really are three independent sources of the current classroom culture in our classrooms. I have certain expectations; the learners have learned how to “play school” in other classrooms; and finally the way they interact with each other independently of what my expectations and other teacher’s expectations are all mash together into creating the current “Classroom Culture” of what happens in my room.
I had never really looked at it in this three part way, and definitely not considered that my expectations are only 1/3 (maybe!) of what is going to occur in my room.
Eyes opened. Jaw dropped. Now what do I do?
Enter some serious thinking and changes to how I opened the year. I wanted to open the year in a totally different way, so that that culture could be more of my own expectations and less of what other teachers wanted them to do in prior years.
Some other things I am aware of and have done.
Seating charts – I used a totally random way to construct them. I handed out cards at the beginning of the year with A – 8 on them. Each number was a table number, and that is where they sat. Seating was completely random, they recognized it, and they commented on it.
Next, no syllabus until middle of week 2. I didn’t talk at them. They worked. They worked bell to bell on interesting and engaging lessons. They noticed and commented on that too!
So far, in all of my classes the homework turn in rate is around 95%. That is exceedingly high for my school (very high FRL rate). I think it is because the homework makes sense to them. I have been asking them to create their OWN problems and solve, not do mine out of a book.
Finally, and most importantly, I have been overly encouraging of questions, noticing, wondering, and thinking. Everyone has gotten involved. Each table must come up with a solution or a question or a noticing, so they need to discuss at the table level and class level.
I am hoping this encourages all learners to take more possession of their own learning. Only time will tell at this point. I will say thinking about this has made me add a tag to my writing. Culture. I think it does need to stand on its own.