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Individual vs. Group

Technique: See the potential mutiny as an opportunity to work as a team to balance the needs of one student with teacher needs, content, and group good. Remember to use a constructive approach rather than feeling responsible for the outcome.

Mutiny in the Classroom

In the classroom scenario, we have a teacher and numerous students. I am attempting to run a smooth operation, to disseminate information satisfactorily, to engage students in thinking, building a personal model and moving into their own constructions of what is being presented. As I am attempting to do so, I am assailed by the students who wish attention or who do not desire to go on the voyage as constructor, but rather as captain of the class. I am facing a true dilemma. I am, in effect, responsible by my assumed position as teacher, to move through the content, to meet the needs of myself and my mission as well as the individual students‚ needs.

I am torn by this one student who seizes what does not belong to him through anarchy. Why do I see it as unacceptable? Am I unwilling to allow the disruption simply because I am the boss? [You will show me respect young man!‚]. Because the student is being rude? No, it is unacceptable because it takes the voyage off course for the whims of someone who is self centered rather than community centered.

As I am teaching the lesson, most of my thoughts and energy are focused toward the goal of taking the students forward. Because I am so fully aimed at the destination of lesson finished‚, I never quite come to the realization of why I cannot allow the attempted mutiny, but rather I clamp down on that one student. I may even get irritable or force my will and the power of my position upon the students. I must, after all, get into the content, and I am frustrated and tend toward crankiness because it is made more difficult by one selfish detractor.

The reality of this scenario develops in every classroom, every age group on an ongoing basis, regardless of the power or sophistication of the teacher. It can be observed in pre-school and it occurs in the University setting. It can be a blatant and demonstrative mutiny or a quiet note passing and whispering undertone. In the classes of novice teachers it tends to be a mid-size group movement, while in the master teacher‚s room it is a smaller insurrection.

It is sometimes addressed by teachers who clamp down tight, who dominate the talking time through lecture and no questions permitted, by sarcasm, removal of a student to make a point, by setting up a feeling of intimidation. We have so many books and articles written about handling this, including every conceivable remedy - tokens, demerits, marbles in a jar, timing mechanisms, contacting parents, sending the student to other learning environments, suspension, expulsion.

Remedies regardless of the discipline program
Pay attention to:
    How to help the one student
    How to further the tolerance of self
    How to increase coping skills of students and their feelings
    Making an informed cognitive decision about how to use time best
      Is own lesson part of the problem? (BORING!!!!!?; too difficult)
      Do students need more "process" time and community building?

        Is this a critical time
        Could the social context be dealt with later with more efficiency?
        Is this a bait and switch? [get her onto that and we won‚t have to do math‚]

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E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at Janne.Ellsworth@nau.edu

Course Created by J'Anne Ellsworth & Center for Technology Enhanced Learning

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