Is your classroom Focused on Learning? Consider how your classroom handles each of the following. More importantly, consider how your students would feel your classroom handles each of the following:
How does my classroom handle....
•Late work? •Failure? •Bonus Points?
•Student seating? •Curriculum maps? •Homework?
•Supplies? •Criticism? •Technology?
•Noise? •Textbooks? •Learning styles?
•Grades? •Objectives? •Relationships?
•Behavioral disruptions? •Assessments? •Feedback?
All of these things represent a potential obstacle to being focused on learning and it’s important to make the distinction between what is an obstacle of learning and what is an objective of learning. Without discussing each one of these points individually, it’s tough to decide if your classroom is really “focused on learning” but it’s not like there’s a test somewhere teachers have to pass. What’s important is that teachers reflect and determine if the manner in which they handle these issues is in the best interest of improving student learning.
When students remember you ten years from now, will they think about the awesome things they learned in your classroom? Will they think about how much they enjoyed your class? Or will they think "She used to FREAK OUT if you didn't have your homework done!"?
There’s another reason why your primary focus as a teacher should be content instruction. It’s easier. Simple self-preservation really.
Student forgets their textbook?
“No problem, there’s one back their on the shelf.” Student forgets a pencil? “Here’s one, no problem.”
Student forgets their homework? “No big deal, show me you know how to do what your homework was about.”
Student doesn’t want to do this assignment? “How about one of these two? Doesn’t matter to me, they both demonstrate knowledge and what I care about is you learning the material.”
Not every one of these issues needs to be handled with an iron fist. The simple shift in mindset from “doing this my way” to “learning this or else…I’ll eliminate the reason you didn’t learn it and try again” is an important distinction.
How much easier would your life be if you never bothered with late work penalties, extra credit, weighting homework vs test scores, etc? Grading for learning is awesome.
How would your students react to changes in some of these policies? Would their new opinion of you make your job any easier?
As you look at each of the issues above, ask yourself whether or not you could change the way you handle these obstacles in order to improve student learning of course content. Chances are even the true Edunators in the profession could tweak a few little things in their classrooms to truly make it about learning.