Loosen Up

Are you a stickler for discipline? Do restless students and side conversations drive you insane? Here’s my take: You could either swim against the tide, or swim with it. Young adults are fidgety, inattentive, and completely addicted to their cell phones.  Granted, you have very, very, very important stuff to tell them. They must know this stuff. They must hear what you have to say. It’s vitally important. Right? I get it.

But then again, are there certain topics and situations where we can afford to loosen up the leashes just a bit? Is the world really going to end if your student sends that text or makes that one side comment to her neighbor? Is that so catastrophic?

Classroom management is a touchy subject. And since I could never, ever manage a room full of six-year-olds, I’m probably not qualified to preach about what level of freedom is best for students to enjoy in class. However, in the secondary and post-secondary world, my modest suggestion would be to choose your battles wisely. Instead of threatening to confiscate cell phones, consider incorporating them into your lesson. Instead of insisting on dead silence during your lecture, try stepping aside and letting the students lead the discussion for a bit. You’re still there to redirect if things fly off the rails.

They’re not incompetent. Impatient, maybe. Hormonal, perhaps. But far from useless when it comes to knowledge creation. So pick a day to assign the lesson to a student rather than giving your usual thirty-minute spiel. And don’t be afraid to let the class get a little boisterous sometimes. Heck, I even stoke the flames on purpose sometimes. That’s when the magic happens. After all, which of the two classes below would you rather attend?


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