Don't get me wrong, I love humor from time to time, but high school is an academic stage in life when students begin to buckle down as the "real world" looms ahead. Horse-playing and and cajoling about the classroom is only acceptable when the students are entering or exiting the classroom at the start or end of a class period. I have had to slam the breaks on my lessons multiple times simply because there was a decent chunk of students maintaining a level of focus that indicates to me they are not paying attention.
As I have mentioned before, this fits quite well into my action research "omoi," or, my belief that as a teacher, it is my duty to help my students become strong students and citizens – leading by example and promoting productive, responsible behavior in the classroom. For the first week of beginning my needs assessment, I focused on my personal reactions to distractions in the class. I kept a tally of my responses to student disruptions in several categories. However, assessing my own reactions will not solve the behavioral issues of my class. I needed to explore how they felt about disruptive behavior.
I compiled a short, 10-question survey asking my students how they felt about distractions in my class. Surprisingly, a majority of the students said that they did not feel disruptive behavior in the classroom was detrimental to their ability to learn effectively. Most of the students said that they remained quiet and respectful of myself and other students when they were talking, but largely felt indifferent about the need for discipline for students who did create distractions in the classroom.
At this point, I think it is important to determine what is a distraction. For me, a distraction is anything that is going to prevent me from effectively communicating to the whole class. However, it is clear that my students do not necessarily agree with that definition. Perhaps side conversation is not as distracting to my students who are perhaps more inundated with noise than I am. Of course, their job as listeners (passive or not) is less demanding than my direct instruction when given.
So how do I move forward? I think from this point, I want to focus on a particular set of students who all consistently display disruptive behavior in my class. However, I fear that by turning my attention towards particular students, I will somehow neglect the learning of everyone else in the class. We'll have to wait and see, but I'm already anxious to begin attempting new styles and pedagogies that will prove helpful in my classroom.