Monthly Archives: June 2012

Separating Management from Content

I think content and management are interconnected.  If you have engaging lessons that are matched to student ability, you have less management problems.  This means that when it comes to creating classroom management strategies, my time is best spent creating / finding great lesson plans.  Since content is the spark that drives me, this relationship is also very convenient.  I would much prefer to figure out ways to engage students, rather than figure out ways to discipline them.  That being said, I still think it is important to view management on its own merits, separate from content, and that is how I will treat it in this blog.

I separate the term management into two unique parts:  routines, and soft skills.  Routines deal with my class rules and procedures.  Soft Skills deal with my interactions with students.   I am not going to give a comprehensive description of each right now, due to my desire to keep my blog posts brief.  But I will be describing them over a series of future posts.

Dealing With The Disruptive

My most important classroom management strategy hit me like a lightning bolt one day, and instantly altered my teaching practice.  Yet it was not a specific management tool, nor was it a routine, or a new intervention pyramid, rather it was a mindset change.  I was driving home one day, lamenting a couple interactions I had with a few problematic students, wondering what I should do to keep them in the line – How could I keep them from negatively effecting the class?  It was as if they were the enemy.  That realization left me disillusioned for two reasons:  One, I was feeling unhappy even though I had a day full of positive interactions with a lot of my students.  Two, I did not want to accept that any students in my class were the enemy, and that their only role in the class was to make me angry and stressed.  It couldn’t be true that life would simply be better if they were put in some other class.  And then I realized that they were not there to make my life hell, or ruin my class, but rather they were there to teach me something.  To teach me how to  be a better teacher.  I had something to learn and they were there to make sure I learned it.  They didn’t know that is what they were doing, but they were doing it nonetheless.  I needed to learn how to deal with all types of students, and these disruptive students were allowing me the opportunity to do that.  And I thanked them for it.

At that moment it was crazy how the negatively just feel off me like dirt in the shower.  I began smiling, and shaking my head in amazement that I had wasted so much time thinking about them like they were the problem.  Thinking that they were there to hurt me and make my life worse, when the whole time they were there to help me and make my life better.  And here’s the key:  When that negativity drops, everything about your teaching gets better.  Everything.

So here’s the strategy –  when students are being the most annoying or disrputive, you need to remind yourself that they are there to help you be a better teacher, and be thankful for that .  Don’t thank them out loud or anything, but in your mind thank them.  Thank them for helping you become a better teacher:  for offering you the opportunity to learn how to deal with the situation.  Because when I began doing that all the negative energy that I held in those moments, for those students, just fell away.  I no longer got angry at them, which meant that I also never acted out of anger or stress when dealing with them.  And when you are not acting out of anger or stress, you naturally make better decisions.  You smile more.  You are more likely to laugh at something they’re doing.  And most importantly, you do not carry any negative feelings inside you, that you have to take to your next class, or home.

For me, this mindset change immediately made me a better and happier teacher, and instantly improved the way I dealt not only with the most disruptive students, but the class as a whole.  Because a few negative interactions with students can put you in a bad mood, and once you are in a bad mood, you are not enjoying yourself, and you can’t be a great teacher.  So now when a student is being disruptive, and I feel that negative stress and anger start to build up in me, I remind myself that the student is there to help me be better.  The negative feelings go away, and I get very thankful.  And the light at the end of the tunnel is when that negativity doesn’t bother showing up in the first place.

Cable Design for Satellites

The Description

This is an activity that was created by a harness and cable engineer in the aerospace industry. He is in charge of designing all interconnects between all the various systems / components on a satellite. This is an actual design problem that he made during the course of his job. The only thing he changed was the length of the wire from the ICB300 to the LAE ,because he wanted the 24AWG wire to result in a voltage drop greater than one, in order to test whether the students would see that and move to a larger wire.

The solutions are on the second page of the pdf. These solutions were authored by the engineer who wrote the problem.

I have a simplified version of this problem in my Satellite Design Teams activity.

The Advice

I would make sure that the students know this is an actual design problem for a satellite.  It is not a simplified representation of a problem someone might do, rather it is a real problem that someone must do, in order for the satellite to achieve mission success.

Looking at the equation again:  V = L * R * A.  V is the voltage drop, which is what they are solving for.  L is the lenght of the wire, which is given in the problem.  R is resistance, which they get from the table (they first choose a wire size, then look at the table for its resistance).  A is amps, which is given to be 0.8 in the first bullet point of the problem.

So basically, A is constant, and the students are inputing some value of L and R, in order to find V.  Then they are adding up all their V’s, and seeing if the sum is less than 1.

The design tradeoff between weight / voltage drop is key here.  Large wires have very low voltage drop, and since we cannot have a voltage drop greater than 1V, we are tempted to just use very large wires.  But large wires are also heavy, and satellites need to be as light as possible.  Thus the tradeoff between weight and voltage drop.  We must select the smallest possible wire, that still has a voltage drop less than 1V.

The Goods

Wire harness exercise