Learning my Own Lesson

Aside from my role as math teacher, I also teach an advisory class. Advisory is a key part of our school culture. Our main focuses are around community and restorative circles and building up the Chain of 8 Non-cognitive Variables. We also work on post high school plans, parent and community involvements, goal settings, as well as making sure each student has someone who really knows/tracks/advocates for their needs. This post is technically about advisory, but easily pertains to any class.

As a fun warm up and opportunity to encourage group conversation/problem solving, I had students decide on a single word  group goal to focus on. Then I handed each of them a string which as tied to a marker. The entire task was to write the word on a piece of poster paper together, only holding the end of their string. Another adult at our school happened to pop in and so I had him join in the group.

It was interesting to say the least. The purpose was for the students to problem solve and communicate with each other. What ended up happening was the adult took over and directed the students on what he wanted them to do.  I think a lot of teachers and adults in general do this. We are used to authority and instead of letting the students struggle immediately jump in with directions. I  100% believe the adult was trying to be helpful and had no idea how it looked from the outside.  But the adult talked/directed the entire time. I don’t think I heard a student voice.

I had an interesting debrief with the students after (The adult had left, but it would have been interesting to rope him in as well). Said adult knows some of the students  and I didn’t want to place any blame on anyone but myself, but I also wanted them to notice what had happened. (Adult took over) and think about when this happens outside of class and their thoughts on the matter and how/when/if they should address it. It was a powerful and messy conversation.

Two lessons for me: 1) I should have asked him to stop. I am not great at calling out adults of authority, especially in front of kids, but I should have found a nice way to tell him to be quiet and step back. I don’t know this person very well. But I ask kids to do uncomfortable things, so I should try to do so as well.  2) I believe my approach of making kids work things out together even if its uncomfortable and less ‘efficient’ even more important than I did before. They so rarely get the chance to do that in low pressure, no consequence situations. It is a vital skill to learn and practice.





3 thoughts on “Learning my Own Lesson

  1. You might want to imagine friendly ways of communicating (maybe, “hey! You’re making it too easy on them — let’s see what they can come up with!”)

    I can imagine the powerful and messy conversation. When does it make sense to let somebody take over? When shouldn’t you? What are the rules for the different kinds of power and the costs of your choices…


    1. Thanks for the suggestion, preparing ideas is a good strategy. I think I was kind of shocked by how quickly and complete the take over was combined with me not knowing how he’d react if I said something. I definitely and fairly immediately regretted it so I’m armed and prepared to address if it happens again (I hope 🙂 ) My kids know my group norms and when new students join we discuss those norms. I think I should have started off with a quick norm review since the adult was ‘new’ to the group.

      Liked by 1 person

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