Saturday, April 18, 2015

Celebrating a Beautiful Mess

When I first started teaching nine years ago, I had much different beliefs about classroom management than I do now. Before I was all about structure and routine. Make sure those kids know who's boss. I'm your teacher, not your friend.

I was someone to fear and revere.

As I've grown as a teacher, however, and thanks to the guidance of my friend Katherine Sokolowski, I've come to realize that it's the relationships we build with students that matter more than structure. Does structure help? For sure. I am not anti-structure or anti-routine. But in the beginning I was letting my vision of the structured, disciplined teacher cloud my ability to see that before you can teach content, you have to reach students' hearts and minds.

When I started at my new school this year, I decided that I didn't want to be that scary teacher that kids feared anymore. Do I want them to respect me? You betcha. But I realized that they don't have to fear you to respect you. I found a different way to earn their respect that doesn't involve an inauthentic classroom management "system." I call my system Practicing What I Preach. Being a model of the writers and readers I want them to be. Jumping in the pool and swimming right along side them rather than barking orders from my chaise lounge as Penny Kittle would say. As an English teacher, I let my students see a window into my life by sharing my writing and reading with them. And as a result, they have come to respect that we are on this journey together.

Is my classroom loud? Yep. Is it messy? Absolutely. Do students turn in work late more than I care to admit? For sure. But to me that's what REAL learning looks like. And over the years I've come to realize that there is a difference between real learning and compliance.

Sit down.
Be quiet.
Do your work.

That's fostering compliance, not learning.

So today I am celebrating the beautiful mess that is my classroom. I am celebrating my students for all their joyous imperfections. And I am celebrating the need to let the control freak in me remember these things because, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: there are many more days than I care to admit when the Compliance Fairy rears her ugly head. She shrieks a lot and feigns tearing her hair out. But I'm trying my best to keep her at bay in the name of real learning. 

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres


  1. Ha! When those 'shrieky' days happen, I just take a walk down the hall for a little bit. Fun to hear, learning is messy, so true, & when they are engaged, talking books to each other, collaborating on a project, it's to see, at least I think so. Nice celebrating, Beth.

  2. Haha! "Beautiful mess" is a perfect description for my classroom too! I think that's where the BEST learning takes place. :) Great post with lots to think about. Thank you Beth!

  3. This post has a lot of wisdom in it. I know that fairy. Let the learning be messy and authentic.

  4. Compliance Fairy - love! This such a fantastic post. I am a big one for relationships. I often say Relationships, Relationships, Relationships - it is the ticket to everything!