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Structure at my placement

Laura H's picture

In my placement, Ms. R (11th grade history) tends to be more unstructured and hands-off than Mr. T (10th grade English). However, I notice that she often gets frustrated when she gives the students independent work periods but they end up being loud of getting distracted. She mentions to multiple times that they can be a “difficult class.” A few weeks ago, I notice that she tries to change up the pace of the class and create a little more structure. I’ll copy the section from my fieldnotes and then comment on it below:

Today Ms. R seems a little more stern than usual. While she is still joking around and not being “mean” in any way, she raises her voice to get the students attention at the beginning of class and tells them to put their “lids down” (referring to their laptops). She begins reviewing what the class accomplished yesterday, and shows a list on the smartboard comparing individual needs/interests in the environment versus business needs/interests in the environment. She says, “I feel like you guys didn’t get the most out of that activity, so we are going to try something else. I’m giving you three prompts: “I notice..” “I wonder..” and “What if?” and you have to look at this chart and fill in those sentences. So for example, I went to New York this weekend, and I noticed that M&Ms sold in Times Square were more expensive than those sold in the regular stores at home. I wondered why they would charge more and if other people noticed this price change. What if they donated the difference in that cost to a charity or non-profit organization? After the students type up their responses, Ms. R tells them to close their lids again and begins to moderate a discussion about the tensions between business interests and individual interests.

It’s interesting that this is the first time I have seen Ms. R run the class in this way. It is much more structured than usual and it seems as though the students are not used to it. However, as the class gets settled it is clear they appreciate Ms. R’s personal story about going to New York, and they respond well to the more structured prompts. One thing I notice though is that when she tells them to “close the lids” she doesn’t completely enforce this rule, she almost half-heartedly says it. Therefore, some of the students are still not completely engaged in the discussion. Because the culture of the school is not conductive to punishments or even teachers being strict, I think Ms. R feels uncomfortable enforcing rules. However, I wonder to what extent being strict is necessary to create structure.