Last week a blogging friend, Laura Coughlin from Love :: Teaching, wrote a post titled How I Measure Success in the Classroom. She listed two key considerations:
1. A classroom where questions are welcome and
2. A classroom where the students feel loved.
It got me thinking… how do I measure success in the Middle Years classroom? In our current educational environment of formalised, national testing, I knew that would never be on my list. While such testing is inevitable and can be managed carefully, it holds very little place in my teacher heart.
I wholeheartedly agree with Laura’s list but I decided I would add three things to it: eyeballs and hands and the ‘too excited to wait’.
In the classroom, I want to see kids who choose to look at me when I’m teaching. Now, this is not about me and my need to be front and centre, but it is about seeing that I’ve engaged them to the extent that I’ve cut through the adolescent fog and into a realm of real engagement. They actually want to look and listen through my lessons. I know I’m succeeding as a teacher.
In a similar vein, I know I’m succeeding when students want to put their hands up to participate in the discussion in the classroom. Again, I know I’ve cut through the fog and I’m reaching them. Now the tough thing here, of course, is that Middle Years kids are often very happy to let someone else be the enthusiastic contributor and hand-putter-upperer. A great response to that is the first technique that Doug Lemov writes about in Teach Like a Champion: No Opt Out. I make sure the kids know that I value everyone’s opinions, that I believe they all have answers and that I won’t let them opt out of giving an answer.
Finally, I especially love those times when kids blurt out an answer because they couldn’t hold it in because they were so engaged. I don’t usually allow calling out for the sake of it but I am always looking for those times when the engagement levels rise to that place where kids just need to say something, even at the expense of ‘breaking’ a classroom rule.
How about you? What defines a successful classroom for you?