All in the name of education, of course.
Some days my class flows like a Beethovian symphony, with the occasional dissonant notes only highlighting the beauty of flow in the room. Other days, however, resemble the Keystone Kops meeting Pickles and Peppers:
To minimize confusion, and to cover my ass, I have written a letter to my classroom visitors.
Here it is, verbatim:
Dear Room B362 Visitor,There are several areas of the room that students may visit just about any time except during assessments, each with its own purpose and peculiarities.Play Station:This activity (lab table in the back) is changed about once a week—students can go up one at a time for up to 5 minutes to play with a science education manipulative. Students are encouraged to write about their experience in the notebook at the station.Perpetual pencil pot:Students who need a pencil may grab one from the small pencil pot attached to the front bulletin board. While some people fear this may feed a student’s “laziness,” I must confess that even in my 6th decade I occasionally find myself stranded at meetings without a pencil.Big Green “What We Want to Know” Box:This box sits on the back shelf and serves as a place where students can ask pretty much any science question they care to ask. While many questions can be answered in class, sometimes students’ ideas wander away from the topic at hand. When that happen, the students can put their questions in the box.Madagascar hissing cockroaches station:Yes, they’re big, and can be loud, but they’re clean and harmless. Students may spend a few minutes now and then holding a cockroach.Period notebook boxesThe color-coded boxes are where the students keep their in-class science notebook, used for recording observations and for recording “Do Nows.” The boxes also have folders for each student for returned work.20th century whiteboards:These are showerboards cut to size to be used during interactive problem-solving sessions. The kids know where to find them, so if I say “get out the boards!” you will see kids wander about getting boards and markers.Liam the Leprechaun:No, he does not exist—but try to “prove” he doesn’t. You can’t! And that’s the point. Yearlong exercise demonstrates what science can, and cannot, do when faced with charlatans.
I'm not saying chaos is good in a classroom--it's usually not.
I am saying, though, that dead silence is at least as bad, unless your goal is obedience.
And we already have too much of that....