Let’s just get to it. I’ve been itchin’ to talk about a few items, but I ain’t had time lately. (My dad’s actual 75th birthday, a new quarter starting–the final one; only 38 days to go, not that I’m counting or anything–the catch-up after a long break, and etc.) Go.
Item One: The classroom as casino. As I said in my previous post, the big to-do (which seems to have passed) on the middle-L listserv turned me on to some new ideas and made me rethink some things. Mr. Lee, the young charter school whippersnapper has a couple of self-published books on LuLu.com. One of them is called, The Happiest Place on Earth: 7 Powerful and Proven Ways to Engage Students. His book was not one of the sources of ideas of which I speak. But he did give me some material for this here blog, so for that I am grateful.
First of all, I live in the happiest place in the country, and since Mr. Lee teaches in California, his first claim is logically invalid, but anyway…
I read the freebie sample pages, and he starts with a letter from a former student, one he says was “historically basic” on the state tests. This former student is now a “second-year med student at UCLA,” and he writes to tell everyone what a great teacher Mr. Lee is because he cares for his students and only wants the best for them.
Raise your hand if you’ve received any letters like that.
I thought so. Everyone can produce testimonials from former students. Pretty much everyone who still has a job–as well as a good many who don’t any more–can find someone to testify. I’ve seen people that the kids made voodoo dolls of still have several letters of kudos from former students on the wall. And we all know that for every kid who turns out this way, there’s probably another who aced your class, thought you were the best thing since the cheeselog, and is now a criminal or a hobo. Teaching requires a thick skin and a small ego. I’m still working on the second one myself.
This just looks like padding your resume to me.
Anyway, his first chapter is Classroom Setup, and the first section is called Physical Set-Up Affects Behavior.
He starts by talking about how the last time he was in Vegas he ended up spending more time in the casino that he had planned, and spent more money gambling to boot. He dredges up the old CW about how casinos are designed that way. Never mind that that CW has been debunked by Steve Wynn and the other moguls who run Vegas–go read about it here in the New Yorker–but I did like the metaphor. Let’s look more closely.
Clocks. Casinos have no clocks. It’s easy to lose track of time and stay longer than you planned.
I have a clock, but it’s analog, so at least half can’t read it. It’s also behind the majority of the class. I know some teachers who cover theirs or make sure the LCD/overhead screen is in front of it.
Windows. There are no windows. It’s hard to tell night from day. Again. this makes it easy to lose track of time.
Check. I have very small windows relative to the size of the room, and they’re way over by the door behind everyone, and I had a servant years ago cover then with white paper to keep greasy noses from pressing up against them while I’m trying to work (or take a nap) in the morning.
Lights/Sounds. It feels like you’re standing in Time (sic) Square on New Year’s Eve. Your senses are bombarded one (sic) you set foot in a casino… the idea that it’s fun and that you’ll be a winner screams at you from every direction.
Say what? I thought learning began in silence. I’m obviously going to need more time/space for this one and the next one–Gambling Area. See you tomorrow before House.