I rarely do this, but somehow my Honors class managed to convince me to let them bring in food and have a party on Halloween. While this makes sense on the surface, I am not a fan of food in the chemistry classroom except on rare occasions. They organized it and we had a ton of great baked goods (should have reminded them we would need drinks). I gave them 2 rules before anything was distributed:
- They must clean the room before they leave so that my CP classes don’t get jealous (only my Honors class asked so they were the only ones that got to have a party).
- They could socialize and eat as long as they were being productive on the work that was assigned for the day. Anyone not working would have their food taken from them.
About halfway through the period I look up and my supervisor walks in the room. I pause in helping a group of students on a problem and survey the room. The volume in the room was in direct proportion to the amount of food that each student was consuming. The students rearranged all the desks to better group themselves with friends (something they do normally when working on review sheets or “homework”) and from the causal observer, it was absolute chaos. I mean scary levels of chaos.
Then I started to really examine what each group was doing. Even though nearly every student was engaged in a conversation, they all were working on either the review sheet, the homework, or arguing about where the QR codes for the scavenger hunt were hidden. Not a single student was off task. Several were even giving instructions on how to solve problems to the members of their groups.
After just short of 10 minutes in the room, my supervisor left, and, ironically, the students began to lower their voices. Some even commented that they saw him walk in and made sure to work extra hard to demonstrate how well I had taught them. The thing about that was what they were doing didn’t look any different from any other day.
I don’t know what was running through my supervisor’s head when he left the room. Sometimes learning is messy (especially in my class) and doesn’t conform itself to what we typically think a lesson should look like. The classroom needs to be a relaxed environment where students feel like they can be themselves, demonstrate learning in ways that are best suited for them, and where they can dare to fail.