Many of you may have seen the popular anchor chart that is trending now on teaching sites in the land of social media. It says something along these lines…When is it okay to INTERRUPT my teaching? The chart shows rebus pictures of: aliens invading, a tornado, a fire, and then a variation of either Ryan Gosling, Peyton Manning, President Obama, or Justin Timberlake entering the classroom. It is meant to be a funny way to prevent students from interrupting the teacher while he/she is teaching. Thousands of educators are going gaga over this anchor chart. They find it hilarious. “I can’t wait to make this for next school year!” “I so need this with my group this year.” “Maybe I should post this chart outside of my classroom and shut the door!” The popularity of the chart not only scares me but makes me feel angry as both a mom and a teacher.
Here is my main beef with using this type of anchor chart...it’s insensitive. It’s also sarcastic. Young children don't understand sarcasm. And when I say young children I am including third and fourth graders too. I have heard the argument that, “This is just a joke and of course my students know they can come to me with other real concerns because we have strong relationships already built”. That is great, but how can you be sure? I am particularly thinking of the shy, timid, rule followers. I have a hunch that my first-born rule following third grade daughter would rather poop her pants or just deal with an illness than interrupt a small group if this expectation was set by the TEACHER and hanging up in the classroom. My fear is that many actual needs are going to go unmet if you post this anchor chart on your wall. It is disrespecting children. How would you like it if your administrator made a sign that said, “Don’t interrupt me unless if there is a fire or aliens are invading”? My guess is you’d be pissed. Possibly report the principal to the superintendent or the Teacher’s Union. At the very least you would feel like it’s not a safe environment to express your needs or concerns.
The next issue with this chart is the wording: When is it okay to INTERRUPT MY Teaching. Yuck. This type of wording screams THE TEACHER SHOW. At the Teacher Show the teacher does most of the talking. The teacher decides what we will learn and how we will do it. There is no to little regard for what the students would like to learn about during the Teacher Show. No ownership of learning is happening here. I know all about this show because in my last few years of teaching I aired this show often. The following is sited from teach.com and speaks to why you don't want to broadcast this show in your class, “A classroom where the teacher follows the Responsive Classroom approach is a positive space where students’ voices are heard and where they play an active role in their education. The teacher also becomes a facilitator, and through listening to the students and helping them work together, the values of cooperation, independence, responsibility, and accountability are further instilled.” To me...this anchor chart does not support a Responsive Classroom. If you are going to insist on using this silly poster (which I don’t recommend) the least you could do would be to change the wording: When is it okay to INTERRUPT OUR Learning. I'm not saying to not have classroom expectations. I am saying always be available if they really really need you!
NOW with that little rant of mine being said I would also like to note that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. When I was teaching I wore a small hat with a heart on it. Inside the heart was written the phrase: I love you but I’m busy. I wore the hat during writing conferences, assessments, and sometimes small reading groups. The students knew that when that hat was on my head they needed to go to our classroom para to have her help them with any needs. I saw absolutely NO harm in wearing this hat. I was in no way intentionally trying to not meet the needs of my kids. Here again is where hindsight becomes 20/20. Even if I wasn’t meaning to be insensitive to my students by wearing that hat I absolutely was. Yes. There was another adult in the room they could go to. Yes. I had awesome relationships with my kids and think they would have approached me if they really needed me. But... NO I am not sure about that. Setting the expectation that there are times when you can NOT approach a teacher does not foster a safe environment. I take full ownership for missing the boat in regards to teacher sensitivity when I wore that silly hat. I definitely will not wear it again when I return to the classroom. I like to believe that my former teaching self would have found this poster awful, but I have a feeling I would have found it funny. I only hope I would have had enough sense NOT to hang it in my room.
P.S. I have a feeling creative souls like Timberlake and Gosling were the boys who got up out of their seats to interrupt the teacher every once in a while.