Learning from the "Rules"

I typically don't like throwing stones at other teachers, schools, or districts, but the computer lab rules below caught my attention and gave me cause to pause and reflect on the thoughts I had worked with earlier in the week at METC.

Computer Lab Rules
1. Come in the room quietly and go to your assigned seat. Stay in your seat.
2. Keep your hands, feet, and all objects to yourself. Don’t touch anyone else’s computer without permission.

3. Follow the directions given by the teacher. When the teacher is talking, turn your head and look at the teacher.
4. If you n
eed to go to the restroom, raise your hand.
5. Raise your hand before changing programs or printing.

6. Treat others like you would like to be treated.
7. At the end of the period, wait at your computer until you are given permission to line up. Make sure to push in your chair and clean up your area.

One of my major "Take-aways" from this years Midwest Educational Technology Conference was that first and foremost all of the students in our classroom are learners, and it is them, not us (the teachers) who are the focus. The above rules seem to reinforce the role of the teacher and not the student. Now, I'm almost sure that if I were to ask the folks who wrote the rules, "Who is the most important person in the computer lab?" they would likely say the student, but is that the focus of their rules? Do their rules reinforce their values?

So often, we communicate messages to students in subtle ways. What messages are being communicated to the students by these computer lab rules? Do your students know what the core values of your classroom or school are? Do they know that WE are there to serve THEM, not the other way around?

As teachers, specifically Lutheran school teachers, I think we quickly lose focus of the priority in our classrooms. Now if you were to ask any teacher about their calling, they would without hesitation say it is teaching kids about the love that God has for them in Christ Jesus and helping students learn about the world which God has made! But does our practice reflect our practice?

Have we sacrificed a quality (student focused, learner focused classrooms) for quantity of work? In most cases, we are not talking about quantity of student work, but quantity of teacher work! As part of our Lutheran school culture it is not uncommon for teachers to have extra ministry duties outside of the day school classroom. Do these outside demands make it possible for teachers to focus their energies what is their primary focus?

I'll admit, it is easier to work in a teacher centered classroom. If the only variable I have to think about is me, then I don't have to worry about meeting the needs of ALL the kids in class. If I'm the Sunday school superintendent, and the choir director, and an elder, and on 5 other committees, it's just easier to plan for worksheets rather than rubric driven activities!

There are without a doubt, exceptional Lutheran school teachers who go above and beyond themselves and have created students centered classrooms, differentiated lessons, and who have created classroom learning spaces that reflect student-centered values. It is these exceptional teachers who understand best that:
You're not paid to teach stuff; you're paid to cause learning.-Grant Wiggins
(Quote tweeted by @bengray. Retweeted over twelve times!)
It is these teachers who spark imagination, encourage creativity, and allow students to learn with their "whole-brain." These are the truly successful teachers and it is these teachers who know what it means be part of a Lutheran school, seeking to be the "School of Choice" in their community.

The best part? When the community comes to your school for quality Christian education, they'll most importantly get to hear the Good News of God's love for them and isn't that the most important learning that our students can ever do?

I hope this didn't come across as being too preachy. The computer lab rules above are intended to be a conversation starter. The more I consider our profession (Calling), the more clear the future becomes as to the direction of what a school is and what it should look like. I don't by any means have all the answers, but I do know that if we ask good questions and engage in meaningful conversations, we can all be part of the answers.

image "Seven Principles of Learning" byFlickr user: dkuropatwa
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