Truth is, Todd never took a class called “Classroom Management.” He took a class called “Group Processes” that was all about how groups work and how we can make groups work better. For some reason, the state of Arizona allowed that class to replace the needed “Classroom Management” course required of K12 teachers for certification.
The class I took was a three week “block class” at Prescott College. We spent a bit of the time in the classroom but most of it was hiking in the Sierra Anchas Wilderness Area and in Sedona.
Things Todd Remembers about his Group Processes Course
If I recall, we were introduced to Carl Rogers book Freedom to Learn in this class. And then, Freedom to Learn for the 80s. As Carl Rogers was known, his humanistic takes on schooling and learning fit well for our class and for me as a student. To this day, most of what I think about schooling and learning was written well before MRIs and computers. Of course I love the stuff from the late 60s. You can tell by my hairstyle.
I remember thinking early on that educators really are just group therapists. I had wanted to be a family therapist like my mom before I went to Prescott College. I quickly found that in many ways teachers and therapists are the same. I was going to say “Especially in the early grades and high school.” But you know, that would be a lie. Twently year olds and 40 year old need all the same help children do.
“The facilitator helps to elicit and clarify the purposes of the individuals in the class as well as the more general purposes of the group.” Carl Rogers
Making Leaders out of the Sheep
I remember on our days of hiking we had “leader for the day” and we would critique the job the student leaders did in the evening. In this day of “Student Engagement” there is no better way to get people engaged than to hold them to high standards that they have had some role in making. Just about the opposite of our “syllabus driven” mentality. When you demand that students create the parameters and the guidelines for the work they do it gives them a voice. Having a voice feels good. It makes you feel like you have some ownership of the mess you find yourself in. It makes you partly responsible for what the heck happens. It makes you part of the responsible party and not a spectator digging ditches.
But all that takes precious time away from the “content” of the course. There is so much to cover in chapter three….
“Learning is facilitated when the student participates responsibly in the learning process.” Carl Rogers
The Portfolio and that Damn Graded Work
Prescott College relied pretty heavily on student journals as documentation of a student’s learning. We were encouraged to use the journals in classes as tools to think in. Asking questions, drawing, charts, scribbles, poems, and anything that helped us wonder about our work was considered useful in the process of learning. We were encouraged to feel the work we did and in this class, our teacher was a psychologist and well versed in making a group go from a bunch of uninvolved individuals to a high functioning team of leaders.
We did a 24 hour long session where we all sat in the same room and discussed everything from the most influential events in our lives to how to behave in a classroom and how to get others to participate at a meaningful level. People were crying and screaming. It was intense.
“Self-initiated learning which involves the whole person of the learner – feelings as well as intellect – is the most lasting and pervasive.” Carl Rogers
So what the heck did Todd learn in his Group Processes class? I suppose if I had to take it down to a sentence it might be something like, “Classroom management is best done by reducing the amount of management needed to be done by the designated leader and giving that responsibility to the larger group.” Or something like that…. I just made that up. And I think I learned some other things too.