In most classrooms all too many students are ‘present’ but not taking part in the class. I created my ‘No Parking Zone’ rules specifically to make class participation a priority for my students.
The ways students find to distract and amuse themselves during class are endless, I have learned, and I must admit that I get testy about it. The ‘No Parking Zone’ sign is intended to remind my students that learning requires action, and that everything we do in class has a purpose.
Our Classroom is a:
NO PARKING ZONE
· Enter here to work at learning and teaching.
· Use every minute; complete every task on time.
· Keep your eyes on your dreams and your feet on the path to them.
Enter here to work at learning and teaching
This rule simply reminds us that everyone works. Adolescents often forget this fact, or, perhaps, they wish they could forget it is more like it. More importantly, it takes into account the fact that each of us both learns and teaches in the course of our work together. Shared learning is a cornerstone of my style. I build ‘copy from your neighbors’ times into as many lessons as possible. It never hurts to remind students that learn is a verb! [I sure wish I had the copyright on that line!]
There is also a subtle implication here that those who do not have learning and teaching as their goal should not be in my classroom. My most effective form of discipline has been simply to send a student out of the room [to a designated short detention area] whenever the student’s behavior interfered with the class. I am sure to welcome that person back the next day, but for the moment the student needs to be elsewhere.
Use every minute; complete every task on time
Without a doubt this is the rule I invoke most often.
Hardly a day goes by that I do not say, “This room is a No-Parking Zone – put away that (blank) and join the rest of us,” or, “I’m workin’ over here. What are you doing?” I’ve also been told that I am the ONLY teacher who minds when a student sleeps in class. When I call a student on this, I usually hear something like, “I wasn’t bothering anyone!?!” I reply that if I have to work, so do they.
When I was a new teacher at our school, it quickly became clear to me that the culture here does not include any expectation that homework or projects will be completed. With the exception of the very highest level courses, one can expect only about 30% of the students to do any out-of-classroom assignment. I do and will fight this ‘tradition’ every day, in every way.
Keep your eyes on your dreams and your feet on the path to them
This is, without a doubt, my favorite part of the ‘Zone’. Strictly speaking it is not a rule, but, rather, a conversation starter. I’m sure that most of my students would be amazed to learn that I have no trouble whatsoever relating to a student who sits in my classroom day after day thinking, “This is so dumb! I’ll never use this.” I clearly remember thinking the same thing myself when first presented with a lot of the things that I now teach every day! I firmly believe that as a teacher it is every bit as much my job to “sell” learning as to “deliver” it. I return to this ‘rule’ frequently, whenever I want to start a discussion of where we are heading and what it will take to get there.
The ‘No Parking Zone’, more than the other two ‘Zones’, is about the value and the process of learning. It looks forward toward the students my kids will become, not backward at the mistakes they need to leave in the past.