Educator Claims Controlling the Classroom is Counterproductive

Share Article

Educator believes there needs to be a balance between the control needed in traditional, directed teaching situations with the freedom necessary for students to do inquiry and group work.

There is a fine line between having control of a class, and being controlling. Teachers think, either coming into the profession or being taught early in their training, that they must do the latter. But that really turns out to be counterproductive. Kids are very capable of self-regulating if given the chance and the tools. Mark Kennedy, an educator, has his own system—a small (Micro) class government or corporation—as a proven method to give that chance and those tools.

As a mentor teacher in the early and mid-1990s, Kennedy had one mentee who was obviously a gifted teacher, but who couldn’t get to the rich content he’d planned because of the chaotic context. That is, his 7th and 8th grade classes were just out of control. “For example, I remember observing one group project he was trying to teach, but while he was giving directions, kids were throwing markers at each other across the room and yelling over him, “ explains Kennedy. “His supervisor, in desperation, looked to me to solve the problem, which I also really wanted to do.” In searching for answers, Kennedy decided that his relatively new system of sharing ownership of the class with students, which he had begun using a couple of years earlier, might work for the mentee too. Kennedy adds “in his case, it was too little too late, however, and he ended up leaving in mid year, only to be replaced, I’m sure, by someone who was more in control, maybe even controlling—whether or not gifted in the art of teaching.” Witnessing the chaos, Kennedy promised himself he would never get into a situation again where he didn’t have an answer about classroom management for a teacher in need or in training; a complete, detailed how-to for maintaining control while fostering growth in an active, differentiated-learning classroom.

Kennedy begins small. “Even then, once we see how the first small introduction of co-ownership goes, we adjust what’s not working or pull back from it a bit, keep what is working, rename/redefine our working labels as needed. Then we let that simmer for a while—too many changes too quickly will backfire. Once the first small step is well grounded, then we can take another, repeating the adjustment process,” Kennedy continues to explain.

For example, Kennedy might begin to introduce Micro into a new environment—in fact, he did just that last fall when he transferred to a different site—with just the Micro money. “Up front, I make a stash of cash, enough for keeping it in circulation for how ever many kids there are. Then, I pay the kids regularly for whatever aspect I wish to reward/change/focus on, for example, by grade for the week or unit, by attendance, or for participation.” This is very behaviorist in approach, and the more progressive educators may not like Kennedy’s approach. But it works, and the end result will please the most progressive educator, because external motivation will begin to be overcome by internal motivation as most kids learn/wish to regulate their own behavior.

Recognizing that the student will be stronger in one of the specific learning styles, Kennedy helps classroom leaders to take note of that fact, and broaden learning experiences for the students in “Classroom Management: The Dance of the Dolphin” (ISBN 1885580177, Psychology Press). “Each student has a dominant learning style, and it is important to structure the classroom in a way that every student is able to spend some time learning through his or her preferred style,” concurs Christine McAlpine, special education teacher at the Pflugerville ISD near Austin, Texas. “Kennedy sums up what I had been trying to formulate in my own mind for years. I would like to implement his Micro classroom management ideas into my own classroom.”

Does it work with every kid all the time? “Of course not. But the risk is worth it, and if we don’t get too idealistic in our expectations, by expecting everyone to change overnight or to stop being kids and be adults or to never revert to unacceptable behavior, then all will be well,” claims Kennedy.

About Mark Kennedy:

Mark Kennedy is an adjunct professor at Chapman University College since 2000, and Certified Black Belt Instructor. He was chosen Teacher of the Year 2002-2003, San Bernardino County Schools, Teacher of the Year 2000, Inland Empire Council for the Social Studies (Alternative Education) and listed Who's Who in America (Since 1998); Who's Who in Education (Since 1994) His book “Classroom Management: The Dance of the Dolphin” may be purchased at any book store or on-line.


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Irene Watson