I taught 5th and 6th grade students. One year, can’t remember why, but I decided to teach my students Bloom’s Taxonomy. I suppose I was trying to help them see how their learning progresses from the basic skill to higher level thinking. But as I was planning this ‘classroom management’ activity, I began to think about my own behavior as I moved up the taxonomy. I noted how I was always a bit anxious on days when I had to teach a new concept. The blood, sweat and tears I would put myself through to make sure I had more than one way to explain a concept because there were times when I didn’t get it right and I’d have 30 puzzled looks instead of 5 or 6. In those instances, I’d lose precious instructional time because I had to start all over again after I figured out where I went wrong.

I would even solicit the support of the special education resource teacher, the ELL teacher and the Title 1 teacher (who had target students in my class) to be in my classroom on KNOWLEDGE days. It occurred to me to explain all of my teaching behaviors  to my students and then ask them, what behaviors did they feel they needed in order for me to do my best. The day I made my role transparent to my students was a turning point in how I managed to teach.

My students, who are vets by 5th and 6th grade, were quick to understand that when they saw KNOWLEDGE  and COMPREHENSION on the agenda by a topic, they needed to be attentive, ask clarifying questions and take risks. On APPLICATION days, they could be trusted to work in small groups while I worked with students who needed more time. Having the additional adults in the room provided the support I couldn’t give to students were close to mastery.

I taught them that ANALYSIS, SYNTHESIS and EVALUATION were my best teaching days because I didn’t have to teach, I could facilitate as we played and created with the concepts/topics they’d mastered. Unlike the structured, quiet and active listening KNOWLEDGE/COMPREHENSION days, we could be noisy and laugh out loud. There were days where we so busy building, writing scripts, or creating – the final bell would ring and startle us. No one was watching the clock.

As I perfected this approach, I realized that I no longer used the word RULES at the start of the year. Instead, I used TEACHER BEHAVIORS and STUDENT BEHAVIORS. I shared my needs and they gave me ways they could support. We established a verbal agreement that was fair for both. Together, we created working agreements.