Spanish Harbor Key: Mangrove Ecosystem, Florida Keys
It’s funny how life works. You ponder an idea for weeks and then one day it suddenly becomes quite clear to you.
For the past few weeks I have caught myself sitting in my classroom enjoying how smoothly things were running. You know that zen moment when you realize what a happy place your classroom is and how things are going just the way you envisioned. And then… days like today come by and show you just how good you’ve had it for a while. It shows you just how hard you have worked to reach those moments and how small changes in routine can throw you right off-balance and send things out of whack for the day.
I have been pondering the metaphor of the classroom being an ecosystem for a while now. It all started over spring break after I read the Knowmad Society book was and confronted with new ideas for large societal and educational shifts. The ideas in the book seem daunting at first but in essence (for me) boil down to one thing: we are all human. Many of the issues society is grappling with today stem from the fact that we forget that we are all human: we feel, we love, we get angry, we think, we laugh and we learn. We are all connected by our humanity.
As I was mulling over those ideas I came across this thought-provoking post on how businesses can become more adaptable: “To Become More Adaptable Take a Lesson from Biology”. In the post it essentially talks about how businesses can become more efficient and adaptable they could take a few cues from biology.
The biologist nerd in me was quite intrigued by this post and it struck me that as a teacher that my classroom really is like mini-ecosystem. Yes, an eco-system is a complex thing but so is my classroom. We could go further with the analogy to a our school, divisional and educational system all as ecosystems. But for now just go with me on the classroom analogy here for a few points…
In a classroom there are many different things at play if it were as simple as a “You sit, I speak and you learn” kind of interaction, teaching is a job that could be done excellently by anyone. But teaching is not that simple and our classrooms are in fact very complex systems. There are constant interactions with external and internal forces, there is a flow of energy and knowledge that happens in every room. How you manage your classroom will decide how balanced your room looks and feels like. Change happens all the time in natural ecosystems and invariably the same is true for our classrooms: new students, changes in routines, new policies. The list could go on and on. In our classrooms there are always external forces at play. We feel pressures from time, admin, parents, curriculum and a whole plethora of other things. These forces impact the way we interact in the classroom and the things we choose to teach.
Your relationship with your students can have a huge impact on your classroom ecosystem. Have a lack of respect and you lose the balance that is vital for a classroom to thrive. If you are too strict and you can stifle avenues for self-expression and learner directed learning. One of the things I have hoped to foster this year is to have open and respectful avenues of communication. Classroom relationships also help determine the energy of a classroom. If things are always negative you will have an environment students will be reluctant to share openly. Sharing helps deepen learning and provides different perspectives on ideas. When all learners are happy our classroom is happy and the learning flows.
What does it take to make your classroom a thriving eco-system?
For me it would come down to balance. Just like many other things in our lives and in any natural eco-system, for things we require balance. Too much of a good thing can lead to disaster. Too much of a bad thing never quite works out either.
So here’s to balance and finding our inner zen tomorrow.