Recently, several students commented that I seemed to have a lot of classroom rules. This is an old refrain in my life, and, in a sense, it’s true. However, the rules I have are all just special cases of my basic three rules, which I share on my About Me page.
- If you are going to break the rules, don’t be obnoxious about it.
- If you can’t be engaged, don’t distract others. It’s unfair to both you and them.
- Don’t promise to focus, but fail to do so. Instead, acknowledge whatever is distracting you and address it.
- Know what questions your classmates are asking.
- Recognize which questions are related to tweaking the solution and which are related to a different problem context.
I think my biggest failing in the classroom is that I’m uneven in the application of the rules, which is perceived as me being arbitrary. Inconsistency and randomness seem very similar to the outside observer.
I sometimes let feature creep take over the problem statement, which can lead to unintentional complexity or student confusion as the problem changes. I need to spend more time up front specifying the problem completely with students so that it’s clear to them and me what the invariants are.
I also find it difficult to ask a student actually to leave the classroom. I’m forever optimistic that the unfocused student will find moments of clarity and engage with the course material. Often, they do, but unfortunately, while I’m waiting for that to happen, the class as a whole is affected and, generally, material isn’t covered as concisely, clearly, or completely as might have been the case otherwise, thereby disadvantaging the other students who could have gone further, faster. Such is the nature of a set of random people with diverse metacognitive skills and needs. Still, I’m certain that I could serve better both ends of the spectrum.