Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lines and Circles

I've remarked before that one good thing Bloomberg and Klein have done was encourage semicircle arrangements in classrooms. I've always arranged my college classrooms this way, and for a few years I've been able to do so in high school as well.

I like my students to feel welcome to talk and contribute as long as they follow my class rules:

1. We will treat one another with respect
, and
2. We will speak only English in this classroom.

For the most part, kids cooperate, and we have a very good atmosphere, where they can use English in a non-threatening forum.

Sometimes, though, I get a very uncooperative group, with kids who really have no interest in learning English. That's very unusual for teenage kids, but what can you do?

What I do is put the chairs back in rows, being very careful to leave such kids in the vicinity of no one who speaks their native language. I really don't like to do that, and I only did it once before. I decided to do it once again in my afternoon class. This class is full of kids who've been stubbornly unable to understand what I want to promote.

They'd be playing handball in back of the trailer and running dance-a-thons if left to their own devices. While things have never gotten to that point, they've persisted in hoping I'd allow them to do whatever they want, whenever they want. After two months, several of them still register shock when I don't do that. And scores of calls home have failed to drive a stake through the heart of that odd notion.

I rearranged the furniture last Thursday.

I didn't really want to do it. But they are still surprised as they forlornly trudge to their new seats, and so far it's worked like a charm.
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