Last week I had the pleasure of going with a group of DISD student teachers to tour some of the other schools in the district. I took this as an opportunity to scope out my options for next year as-well-as to get a deeper understanding of what the overall DISD school landscape was like. The one high school we went to was Pinkston and despite its “less than perfect” reputation in education circles, I was incredibly surprised at my impression of the school and the great work taking place within its walls.
During our visit I was able to observe one of the teachers that was a part of Pinkston’s alternative law track. As a lawyer by profession it was interesting to see how he approached his criminal law class. With a mock courtroom, legal library, and normal classroom he was able to split students into different rooms to work in groups. Despite the potential for such an open and free form setup to crumble into chaos, I found that the students seemed to be very on task and were very capable and well spoken when the teacher randomly called on them to answer questions related to their work.
This free form independence was countered by the fact that he did not allow cellphones in his class room. At the beginning of class, he has all students place their phones in a basket which he locks away until the end of class, occasionally letting students use their phone on days when it is useful. Typically however, the students have access to a COW at the front of the room that they can use to search the web. I found this interesting because I have noticed how much of a problem cellphones in class can be and have often wondered if such a classroom rule could actually work, and according to the teacher, it does. He said the main component of making it work is starting the policy from day one and not letting up throughout the year. Eventually students will get used to it and actually look for the basket if it is not out yet. This confirmed my understanding that routines and procedures are so important.
I was impressed by the school in general and especially the law teacher’s approach to classroom management. This is one of many examples of things that I am taking note of to cultivate my teaching and classroom management style for next year and the years to come.