I would like to challenge you - next time you sit down to plan or collaborate with your colleagues, ask yourself, "How can we WICOR-ize this lesson or unit of study?" If you can answer that and clearly outline how you have utilized WICOR within your classroom, not only will you be utilizing best practices, but you will be engaging your students, and reaching for that "Excellent" rating in the Charlotte Danielson-land of evaluation. So not only is this best for you as a teacher, it's what is best for our kids.
What are students' favorite WICOR strategies?
Why is WICOR important?
They're Coming Back: A Short Play in One Act
Congratulations. You’ve made it through the beginning of another school year. At this point, the honeymoon period is ending, and some of your students may be showing their true colors. You may have already decided which students or class periods are going to keep you up at night contemplating a career change. Perhaps you’re at a loss for what to do and see a long, long year looming ahead of you.
Two summers ago at an AVID conference, my friend Lisa Johnson, a brilliant middle school teacher who also coaches new teachers in a nearby district, told me something she tells her teachers, something that has stuck with me. So that you can be in on this nugget of wisdom, I’m going to share it with you in the form of a largely fictionalized play, which I am titling “They’re Coming Back.” Feel free to act this out on your own with friends, colleagues, or loved ones:
They’re Coming Back
(Scene: A middle school classroom in suburban America. LISA meets NEW TEACHER on a coaching visit after several weeks of school have passed.)
LISA: Hey, New Teacher. How are things going?
NEW TEACHER: (despairingly) Not so good.
LISA: (concerned) Really? What’s the matter?
NEW TEACHER: It’s my 6th period class. They’re out of control.
LISA: In what way?
NEW TEACHER: Half the class won’t do homework at all. They don’t even care when I give them a zero. The students are wild and rude. I can’t get them to be quiet or listen to each other. Several of them throw things and won’t stay in their seats. I’m sick of the eye rolling and backtalk. I can’t give out detentions quickly enough. And when I do, the kids just laugh. And it’s only the second week of school! Arrrrgggggghhhhhh!
LISA: (calmly) What are you going to do differently tomorrow?
NEW TEACHER: (confused) Huh?
LISA: (more slowly) What are you going to do differently tomorrow?
NEW TEACHER: What do you mean?
LISA: (after a pause, matter of factly but gently) They’re coming back. You know that, right?
NEW TEACHER: (stares confusedly)
LISA: Those same kids are coming back tomorrow. And I can pretty much guarantee you that they aren’t losing sleep over this or contemplating any kind of personality transformation. You’re going to have to do something different if you want them to do something different.
NEW TEACHER: (having had her world view shaken up) Hmmmm….You’re right….
They’re coming back tomorrow. Those four words, which sound a bit like they belong in a horror movie, are a wise reminder for teachers.
In science class, they teach about independent and dependent variables. An experimenting scientist changes an independent variable to see how the dependent variable reacts. For instance, in fourth grade at Jackson Elementary, I did a science fair project in which I subjected bean plants to several forms of light to see which one would grow the most. One plant sat in a sunny window. One lived under a fluorescent light. Another grew beneath an incandescent light. And one spent its short, sad life on a shelf in the back of my dark closet. In that experiment, the bean plants were the dependent variables, and the independent variables were the different forms of light. The independent variable had an effect on the dependent variable. (Spoiler alert: Fluorescent light was the winner. My science fair project was not.)
In the classroom, the independent variable is you. The students aren’t going to change unless you change what you are doing. If you keep doing the same things and expect a different result, you’re fooling yourself. In order for you to change the culture of your classroom or to hit the reset button with that student who’s driving you a bit batty, you’re going to have to make the first move. Their change depends on your change.
If you’ve slipped into a rut of negativity, if you’re relying on threats and punishments, if you’re always feeling like the villain, you still have time to change that. If some yelling didn’t work, I suspect more yelling won’t either. If they didn’t respond to one detention, a longer detention isn’t going to do the trick. If you’re giving homework and they’re not doing it, giving another assignment of the same kind is only going to put more zeroes in your gradebook.
There’s still time to build relationships, to get to know your kids, and to make emotional investments in them. Perhaps some active learning and collaborative AVID strategies might result in higher student engagement. Maybe those independent variables will help you get the results you want.
Lisa’s wise questioning of her coworker helped the new teacher realize that she was going to need to dig into her teacher bag of tricks to come up with a strategy or approach that would cause her students to change their undesired behaviors. Perhaps her colleague sought Lisa’s assistance in a coaching capacity. Or maybe she just endured the behaviors that were driving her crazy for the next 34 weeks. Who knows? The ending of the play is unwritten.
Maybe Michael Jackson said it best: “No message could have been any clearer. If you wanna make [your classroom] a better place, you’ve got to look at yourself and make that change. Sha na na na na na na na na naaaaaa.”
They’re coming back tomorrow. Will you be ready?
ELA Instructional Specialist