Classroom Management or Something Better

In my last post, “Social Justice Teaching in the Content Area,” I hinted that although adapting principles of social justice to fit inside a given curriculum is very important, social justice teaching ultimately has a much bigger scope. Teachers interested in social justice issues will inevitably move beyond critique of standardized text books and creative use of supplemental material. Social justice teaching has a way of fundamentally changing the nature of the relationship between student and teacher.

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The biggest learned lesson of every first year teacher is that classroom management is a skill that is rarely overvalued. Continuously better classroom management is the longing of every teacher. Classroom management is immeasurably more important to learning compared to other elements of teaching like lesson planning or even content knowledge. Every teacher knows this.

Effective classroom management always includes, but is not limited to: rules, procedures, schedules, routines, norms, transitions, and habits. But what does it look like to apply the principles of social justice teaching to classroom management? Is there something better than classroom management?

I am four weeks away from beginning my 6th year as a public school teacher. My first two years teaching can be characterized by the repetitive feeling of falling flat on my face. Years 3-5 were all about honing my classroom management skills through smaller incremental failures. But now I am wondering if “management” is really what I want my role to be in the classroom. The word “management” does not seem to me to be ultimately conducive to authentic learning.

Those who work toward social justice often find themselves doing what is called “community organizing.” There are no “managers” in grass roots movements. So the question I am currently asking myself is, “What does it look like to be a classroom organizer as opposed to a classroom manager?” I don’t have all the answers yet, I think I have just found a good question.

I realize that in its current state this is largely an issue of semantics, but for me, language is important. So if I embark on a new journey that includes the phrase “classroom organizing,” and I begin to compile the language to describe what that means, then somewhere along the way I may find something that is better than classroom management.

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