Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hello! I like the quiet.

It’s been one of those weeks where I simply cannot focus. I am trying. First, my daughter is waking up at least three times a night. We hope it’s because she’s growing teeth. Second, we’ve moved offices and the transition is incomplete and the new space is louder. Finally, there’s just too much to do right now. What follows from this point on is pretty general and inchoate since it is part of my ongoing process in trying to figure out how to help cultivate a classroom culture that builds community that fosters a greater number of successful students. Perhaps I am over thinking it, but I feel happy to simply be thinking about it at all. So one of the first things I did for homework was take an exam: I am a “strong introvert.” Go figure (oozing sarcasm here). I am disappointed that Susan Cain didn’t try to harder sell on this one. The question that prevented me from being an ultimate introvert was the question on whether or not I value you my friends (or people?) over some “thing” else. Since I can’t value things over people, I am incapable of becoming king of introverts. In any case, this wasn’t what I found interesting or surprising. I was more intrigued by her definition of shyness. I believe that she said shyness is the fear of social judgment. This was interesting to me because a good portion of my students are obnoxious; they love to embarrass one another. This may cause some students to shut down (especially if I don’t intervene adequately and according their standards) and retreat from group activities or the class all together. So, what are the opportunity costs of trying to approach multiple levels of learners and personality types with a varied and measured set of tools? What are the opportunity costs of trying to be adaptive, sensitive, and accommodating in the classroom when dealing with student coping mechanisms? The time required to ready students for the GED is something like 100 hours or more, but I spend a fifth of that time quieting the class down. Quiet and reflection are not socially acceptable or valued in my classes. The reasons for it seem relatively unimportant in comparison to thinking about how to achieve it. Extroversion walks into my class like a god; it governs harshly. It can cause my students to distrust their own thoughts (because it’s not certified by the group or an authority). At present, quiet seems dangerous. But I do have a concern for those folks who work better alone. I am one of them, so I decided that it would be important to establish norms for the classroom and then again for the online discussions and activities. First, I think the connecting activity needs to be supported by a day in the computer lab. It has to be supervised and well structured. There has to be a clear goal and outcome. The class requires that students have a chance to review those outcomes and see if they align with their goals. The outcomes are incentives and benefits; they need to add something to their lives (socially). They need to prepare and plan for anything that they do, well in advance. The topics of conversation need to be social, meaningful, and somewhat challenging. One of our students created a project for the This Is Fatherhood Challenge last year and he came in fourth. We could ask students to start to piece together a definition of fatherhood and work collaboratively and alone. We’ll see. I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed, but I think everything is going to work out right in the end. Needless to say, quiet, and taking into account all of the different learners and personality types is something that I am thinking a lot about these days. I would appreciate any recommended readings that you can provide for me.

3 comments:

  1. Hi, Daryl,
    You're such a great writer! You must continue!
    A few things: I loved, loved, loved: "Extroversion walks into my class like a god; it governs harshly. It can cause my students to distrust their own thoughts (because it’s not certified by the group or an authority). At present, quiet seems dangerous." If extroversion is a god, why is quiet so dangerous. I'd love to hear (read!) more about this.
    I sympathize about spending 1/5 of your class hours getting people to be quiet. A companion TED talk would be Ken Robinson's How Schools Kill Creativity in which he tells the story of a little girl who couldn't sit down. Why do some people need to move and others to be still and how can we accommodate what makes learning happen?
    We hope that we can model and share possibilities in the seminar and in our connecting activities this semester.
    Sorry to hear about all that you're going through at this time. It's extraordinary how superhuman you need to be to be a parent--and yet so much of the population does it! That's what shocked me most when my son was a baby.
    What kind of recommended readings are you interested in? About different learners/personality types or ...?
    Hang in there and looking forward to *hearing more from you!

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  2. Hi Daryl,

    Thanks for a wonderful post--I echo Maria's comments about your writing! To a (thankfully) much lesser degree than you, I've also struggled to navigate the various cultural norms that students bring vis-a-vis silence, speaking, extroversion, and introversion. Your comment about having to "intervene...according to [certain students'] standards" also resonates with me. As a deeply non-confrontational, soft-spoken person, I probably wouldn't be able to manage the classroom in ways that such students would respect. Even now, having taught 100+ classes over the last 13 years, I don't have any answers.

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  3. "Quiet and reflection are not socially acceptable or valued in my classes."

    To a large extent, very true.

    "Extroversion walks into my class like a god; it governs harshly. It can cause my students to distrust their own thoughts (because it’s not certified by the group or an authority)."

    What a great sentence! I think you nailed it in deciding to implement norms, what I call "regulation".

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