“All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion
As you read this, I would like you to think about the ecology of your classroom; the physical structure, the ambience generated by the posters, your bearing and voice, outside influences, are you near a train line or a highway, or do you have construction work going on, as we do in our school that is impacting on various aspects of the school? I would appreciate any feedback on my room and the various initiatives that Mrs W and I are putting in place.
The new classes were put in place on Tuesday after the final numbers and class mixes were determined. The initial mix for Stage Three was two classes of just Year Five students, two composite Year Five and Six classes and then a straight Year Six class. Due to the vagaries of enrolment numbers, this meant that Mrs W and I would have twenty students, another would have had only a few more and then the others would have had high-twenties, which is not particularly equitable. The final mix is that all five classes are composite Stage Three classes, with everyone having either twenty-four or twenty-five, which I am sure you would agree is much more equitable.
Having a composite class presents its own challenges, which I discovered about ten minutes after getting my new class back to our room when all of my Year Six students left to go and be with their Kindergarten buddies. I effectively did not see my Year Six students again until the final session in the afternoon, which was rather frustrating as it made those initial stages of setting up the room, in regards to the basic mechanics of the classroom, very difficult.
So far, between the last session of yesterday, and the morning session until Year Six went to join their Kindergarten buddies, we have been able to play some getting to know you games, have a conversation about rights and responsibilities and then brainstorm rights and responsibilities for both the teachers and the students as a more positive option than just a classroom rules, given out the various books, and discussed the classroom management system that Mrs W and I are putting in place this year, which is a classroom economy system.
We wanted something that would be relevant and actually useful for students and that would actually have an impact on students, encouraging to be positive with their behaviour, rather than a negative structure that tries to control their behaviour, and after talking about various systems that we have both come across, decided on the classroom economy system.
Students will earn a daily wage, with the opportunity for bonuses for a variety of things from returning permission notes and monies on time, to improvements in various learning contexts. In contrast, they will also be required to pay living expenses as will be required of them in them in the real world; rent, wifi, electricity, groceries, and occasional unexpected costs such as a broken window, or repairs. We will be using real amounts, divided equally amongst the class. They will also be fined for things such as forgetting equipment, negative behaviour, and will need to pay levies for borrowing equipment, requiring a loan from the bank (Mrs W and myself) to pay their fines.
This system will require a lot of real-world mathematics skills, and will, we hope, a method for encouraging positive behaviour, and learning improvements in a manner which has some real-world contexts, including the obvious literacy and numeracy skills, as well as budgeting, planning, and personal traits such as organisation.
It is going to require significant work to maintain throughout the year, but we are hopeful that it will be worth it. I have already had the conversation that we may tweak the system as we go, and that if it is not working that we may decide to scrap it, but that we want to give it a go. Thus far, the students have been very intrigued and excited by the idea.
We are also planning on placing a significant level of responsibility for their own learning on the students by putting in place some simple routines that will generally remain the same and allow the day to commence with a minimum of fuss and need for direction by us. This will be enhanced, hopefully, once our building is internet-enabled and we are able to utilise online distribution to prepare a day’s routine.
I have left multiple pages of notes for Mrs W of things that have occurred around the school that she needs to be aware of, particularly in relation to tomorrow’s swimming carnival, but also to let her know what I have been through with the class, what I have not been able to get to and various other minor things.
I would like to hear how you plan and execute the first few days in a class at the beginning of the year, how do you create a classroom ecology that is conducive to a positive learning environment, and how do you go about creating an environment of trust in the room?