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Bruce Springsteen

A quick shout out to Bronwyn (you know who you are) in one of our NSW secondary partner schools.  Bronwyn gets feedback.

Last week, I observed Bronwyn’s Year 8 Geography class in action, and she asked for her feedback to be direct.  I think her words were “hit me between the eyes”.

So I did.

Bronwyn is rockstar level good at the front of the room.  She’s so good that her students allow her to prattle on about biomes for 18 minutes at the start of a one hour lesson, before they actually do anything.

When they commenced individual task, we both noticed that Bronwyn was then required to re-instruct several times and that student progress was glacial and laborious.

With about 20 minutes left in the lesson, Bronwyn invited me to demonstrate a learning circle.  It lasted roughly five minutes and we, outside in the shade, briefly discussed the purpose of the lesson (why?), the task required of the students (what?), the resources and expectations (how?) and we negotiated how long they needed.

The students asked for 15 minutes.  Bronwyn was gobsmacked.  Here’s a one-hour battle now reduced to 20 minutes of both instruction and student progress.

We asked the students what they thought of the learning circle and they commented that they felt more involved, motivated, engaged and ready to work.

Bronwyn had been going home tired every day, which makes sense.  Performing at Rockstar level for five one-hour periods a day is utterly exhausting.  And as far as I’m concerned you need to be paid like Bruce Springsteen if five-hour shows is your job.

Bronwyn changed, that day, the architecture of her classroom to prioritise learning circles.  The desks are now butted up against the wall with students facing the wall for individual work.  They simply turn a chair around every now and then for – hey presto – a learning circle.  Her report was that, with a Year 12 class that afternoon, she’d never sat so much and spoken so little.

Bronwyn almost felt guilty about it.  That was, until she noticed how much the students got done.

You’re not “The Boss”.  You’re a facilitator of student progress.  And you needn’t completely nacker yourself doing it.

Keep fighting that good fight,

PS. I run a one-day workshop for teachers called “Restorative Classrooms, Strong Classrooms” where this kind of classroom management is unpacked in detail. I’m also bringing that workshop to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth in June/July. Your amazing teachers can register and find out more at this link.

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