This picture above was originally a background image for a presentation I was giving. I included it quickly and without much thought. It was taken in a classroom at Brownsville Collegiate Middle Academy in 2012-2013. I’m embarrassed to tell you I don’t even know who the teacher was. But I found myself unexpectedly talking about it at the presentation, quite impromptu, because I was suddenly struck by how much it reveals about a good classroom and specifically its use of consistency and routines to drive results…. and how intentionally great teachers approach teaching students the right way to do things.
Look for example at how students sit in class: upright, attentively, eyes on the teacher or whomever is teaching. The students are all siting that way and the result is a culture where the normal situation is engaged students.
Look how their hands are raised. That’s how you show you want to be a part of a conversation. It means not much calling out; it means lots of hands in the air and a normalcy of participation.
Look at their clutter-free desks: that’s how you set up your space–distraction free–so you are productive in the classroom. No one has a backpack on their chair, blocking passage around the room for teacher or students or spilling out into the space behind. You’ll notice them all in the closet in the background, on numbered hooks- one to a kid, so everyone has a place to put their stuff.
Notice that they are all holding pencils- this is a classroom where the teacher thinks it matters whether they do work in pencil or pen and every student is meeting that expectation- not to mention their pencils are all sharp and not stubby, barely-longer-than-a-quarter remnants of pencils.
It’s hard not to look at a picture like this and see the power of an array of decisions that you could almost over look at first- they are “beneath the threshold” (ie I’m pretty sure schools of education aren’t teaching teachers to think about these things because, they believe, they are “unworthy”of their time and attention), but they are often the very things humble things that drive results.