It is all too familiar: long after the lesson has started learners are still dribbling in, showing little regard for the way they are distracting their classmates. While the teacher is talking the class is far from silent and attentive. When books are taken in for marking there are huge gaps where work has not been completed, and many books haven’t been handed in at all. Homework is regarded as a suggestion rather than an instruction, so it simply isn’t done. No matter how often the teacher asks, tells, threatens or even punishes, there are always learners who just don’t care.
Why is that?
When you think about it, it isn’t really all that surprising; in society today the overwhelming message is, “Not me – I don’t have to.” Leaders of all kinds get away with fraud and corruption because the law doesn’t apply to them. Motorists go through red robots, drive in the emergency lane, block traffic and treat roads as their own personal racetrack. Rules? What rules? Whether it’s breaking a promise, jumping a queue, arriving late for an appointment, underpaying an employee or lying on a tax return, we are all getting away with bending and breaking the rules every day. Why? Because we’re buying into the message that “we don’t have to.” And without realising it, we are taking this message into our homes and our classrooms. No wonder our children are behaving the same way.
We cannot control society. We cannot silence the message. But we can create our own message in our own worlds. As educators our classroom is our kingdom; it is one place where we do have authority and influence. And as such we are able to create our own microculture of beliefs, values and behaviours. Our message needs to be, “Yes, me – I do have to.”
In Edufundi terms we call this creating a culture of 100% compliance:
Every learner pays attention.
Every learner answers questions.
Every learner follows instructions.
Every learner participates in lessons.
Every learner hands in work.
Every learner learns.
The teacher only accepts 100% compliance. This is non-negotiable.
Of course, creating this kind of culture takes time and effort. The key is to expect 100% in every aspect of the lesson and take steps to achieve it. Start small and build up slowly. And remember to make compliance visible (you only know it’s happening if you can see it). Here are some suggestions from Teach Like a Champion:
Threshold: acknowledge and greet each learner – individualisation starts here.
Routines: have set steps for everyone to follow.
Do Now and Exit Ticket: start and end the lesson with everybody answering a question.
STAR: make ‘paying attention’ something you can see.
Joy Factor: make participation and compliance fun.
We Do activities: use Name the Steps, Show Me, Turn and Talk, and All Write to give everyone an opportunity to speak, write and contribute.
No Opt-Out: “I don’t know” is not an option – an answer must be given.
Standardise the Format: have everyone do the same thing in the same way.
Affirmative Checking: allow no one to work independently until he/she knows what to do.
Circulate: keep a close eye on learners while they work together or individually.
These techniques all send the message, “Yes, you – you do have to.” But for there to be a real culture of 100% compliance, it must start with the teacher. The person in charge must believe, “Yes me – I do have to” and act accordingly. This comes into lesson planning and preparation, punctuality, meeting deadlines, following through – every activity that makes effective teaching and learning possible.
This is a challenging task, but it’s the only way things are going to change.
How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time. So let’s take a bite.