CPS Worries – Classroom Management
I imagine there will be more of these down the road, and maybe this first one is just a school thing and not specific to CPS, but here goes:
One thing that makes me crazy about the big classes is the time spent on classroom management. My son’s Kindergarten teacher is amazing – possibly one of the best he’ll have in CPS over the years. She knows all kinds of tricks to help prevent the kids from getting out of control and when a child has a particular problem she seems to work with the parents to set up a system that works for the child and that the parents are on board with. I’ve marveled repeatedly at how well-behaved the class is. But now that a few months have passed and the kids are buddying up, the talking and goofing off factor is growing. For the first time I was in the classroom in the mid-afternoon and the noise factor was crazy. The kids spend a good part of classroom time in centers where they sit at a table of 5-6 kids to work on a learning project. Which is how parents want it these days since the traditional all-kids-at-desks-facing-front classroom is totally frowned upon. The problem is, this system really relies on the kids teaching themselves or each other the materials. My son DOES seem to be learning a ton at school so it appears to be working, but man, it is SO hard to believe that in that loud, crazy, boisterous room they are learning math. The teacher works with one center at a time, yet has to keep her ears open for the tables that have veered off course (namely one child hogging all the dominoes and another one freaking out about it – typical 5yo behavior.)
A couple months ago I happened to be in the computer lab filing stuff while a kindergarten class was learning some basics on computer usage. The teacher was infinitely patient, but his talk was something like this “OK, let’s find the letter P. Who can find the P? OK, I need everyone to sit still and not talk. This side of the room is doing a very good job. If you get this finished you can have computer free time at the end. Did everyone find P? OK, someone over there may not get free time. Find the P. Quiet everyone. I need everyone to look at the keyboard and find the P. OK, now lets look for the B. But we need to ALL be quiet. And find the B.” This went on for a good 20 minutes and it took all the composure I had not to just blurt out “It’s PBSKids.org! Just type it in!” Or just walk around and show each kid individually which would have taken half the time. Honestly, it was torture to listen to. I have to keep reminding myself that part of being at school is learning how to act in a classroom setting and that keeping Kindergarten kids in line is like herding wild kangaroos. Or curious monkeys. Or bored cats. It just is bothersome when you think about how little times is probably spent each day on actual learning.
Today my son reported that “we didn’t do anything in art class except learn how to behave and what the rules are.” Damn, they only get art once a week. They have to spend the whole class session one week learning rules?! Its just seems like its sucking the joy out of school.
I sense that these are good teachers and I have to assume that a class of 27 kids needs a lot of “molding” so they don’t stage a rebellion, but these are the times I can’t help but be wistful for the smaller classes of a private school where I imagine that controlling the masses isn’t as big a part of the day.