Change is really hard to take, especially in education. Change is usually uncomfortable, and at times a nuisance. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Well, in a field as broad as education “broke” is not black and white. It’s not simply working or broken; sometimes, things can be bettered by an uncomfortable change.
Here is one of my many frames of reference: students like predictability. They like things they’ve done before. They like things to stay the same, and they seem quite complacent with the hierarchy of the class — the weak stay weak, and the strong shall remain strong. A change in teaching styles could shake up the hierarchy or at least make them uncomfortable. The students who tend to protest most about change are those who are at or near the top.
For instance, in one of my math classes, we will be starting a math circuit. I haven’t worked out the finer details of exactly whose doing what, where, when, and why, but I’ve got the basic concept down pat. I’ve decided to split my class into seven groups, loosely based on ability, but also on compatible workers. I created seven stations for my students to work at — Thibeault Time (3 on 1 instruction/help with me), Mad Minute (drill and practice on basic math skills), Math Mysteries (a few problems or related games to play), Practice (work time on an assignment, which they will visit twice), Literacy Time (reading at-level math history or math-related articles that I found), and Skill Check (a short quiz that students will take after they are ready to show mastery of a specific math process, or more practice time if they aren’t ready). I plan on working through 5 ten-minute rotations each day. I have a 62-minute class, and I’m allotting 5 minutes for Oh Canada/attendance/setup, as well as 5 one-minute breaks for rotation time, and two minutes for clean up. All of this will flow under the guidance of their individual learning contracts. This hopefully will minimize chaos and maximize awesome learning time. It’s going to be hectic and crazy, but I’m ready for the challenge.
Here’s the catch: I didn’t tell them about it. Why? I wanted to flip a unit with them (the polynomials one above, actually, with a few improvements) and they complained bitterly for days leading up to it. They were uncertainly about it for the first few days, and by the end they enjoyed it. A few students complained afterward too, and it was enough to rattle my confidence. So I went back to teaching on the board (not even the SmartBoard) and powered through the next unit.
The biggest complainers involved in this whole ordeal were the students, barring a few, who were at the top of the class. Maybe they were nervous that they weren’t going to be #1 anymore? Maybe they were nervous that it wasn’t going to work for them? Maybe they knew that they could coast and not have to do a ton of work with traditional teaching, so weren’t prepared to step u their game? I don’t know. I’ve seen it in a few of my other classes as well, and I’m a little disheartened by it. Just not enough to make me scrap my plans or kill my enthusiasm.
So this is where I stand — I have big plans for change in my classroom and students who are hesitant because it will be different and maybe even a bit awkward. Any advice for keeping them calm and getting them on-board? Also, has anyone else tried math stations in their classroom successfully (or unsuccessfully)?