Controlling, not controlling

The year is off to a good start. Yes, I wish I had a few more students in my CS classes, but I generally like where all my classes are headed. In my middle school classes, I think I’ve come up with a curriculum that will not only teach them some cool things, but will also keep them engaged. I’m still doing web site design in 6th grade, and they seem exited about that. Scratch is going over well in 7th grade, where I’m hearing “cool” and “wow” and “come look at this” around the room. The 8th graders seem happy with their assignment and happy to be in groups. We’ll see what the end result is.

And the upper school students seem happy, too. Some have even said so out loud.

A non-teacher colleague saw my middle school class the other day and said, “Wow, some of those kids are hard to control, aren’t they?”. Um, yeah. Especially when they’re sitting in front of a computer in spinny chairs. Basically, I don’t worry about having complete control. I try to get across my instructions to them in relative quiet knowing that the three girls in the back are going to ask again.

Across the board, I know that I can only control so much. I can create curriculum but I have no control over how students will interact with it. They might go slower than expected, as my CS II students are. They might be excited by it or bored by it. The best I can do is adjust as needed to make sure every student can learn. So I might go slower or I might create a new project that gives students more freedom or that they will find more engaging. I might cede control entirely as I let the students determine their own direction.

I often find it difficult to cede control in the classroom, but I’m almost always happy with the results. The students often do more than I thought they would or go in very interesting directions. But, yes, it’s sometimes a bit unsettling. I just have to go with it.

2 Replies to “Controlling, not controlling”

  1. “Especially when they’re sitting in front of a computer in spinny chairs”

    Hey, wait. This is still a problem in middle school/high school and with classes with just girls! I had assumed, really assumed that my discovery that fourth graders can’t sit still in spinny chairs was going to be rapidly supplanted as they grew older and more mature!

  2. It’s definitely not the whole class, but 6th graders are definitely still kids, which makes them fun to work with . . . If you can manage the energy.

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