Taking control of your classroom can be as simple as walking around.
With-it-ness is a pedagogical term that describes a teacher’s continual awareness of all that is going on in the classroom at all times. We’ve always said, “Teachers have eyes in the back of their heads!” and withitness is the chance to prove it.
Teacher withitness is about making sure students follow rules and procedures; it requires the teacher to be quickly aware—or proactive—when students don’t meet those expectations. It is about curtailing misbehavior, of being aware of hot spots, of monitoring combinations of students that might spell trouble, and noticing any undercurrents that might boil over. Proximity, giving the “look”, cues, or quiet reminders, can all head off potential misbehavior. In order to be using this strategy at the “Applying” level, a teacher must monitor to make sure these strategies are having the desired effect on most of the students. A teacher should ask himself: “Are the students following the rules and procedures because of my withitness?” Walking around the room can answer this question.
What Withitness is Not
A good way to help define a strategy is have a notion of what it DOESN’T look like. The absence of teacher withitness is evidenced in these non-examples:
• The teacher stays in front and center of the classroom for long periods: at the board, at the ELMO, at the lab demonstration table. If the teacher is not out and about the classroom every ten to fifteen minutes, behavioral issues can develop.
• The teacher notices minor misbehavior, but decides to let it go for a while, hopes it will go away, says nothing, and takes no action.
• The teacher sees certain students complaining about their group assignment, and has a feeling that things might go astray. She hopes the students’ emotions, actions, and words won’t escalate. She avoids that group.
• The teacher puts out new materials for students to use that are intriguing and enticing (i.e. math manipulatives, lab or PE equipment, art supplies) but has neglected to say anything or establish procedures for using the materials safely and appropriately.
• The teacher sends a small group of students to a separate location (hallway, practice room, stage, etc.) to work on a project but does not check on them periodically, and “hopes for the best.”
Simple and Demanding at the Same Time
Monitoring for withithness is fairly simple, but it demands a lot of a teacher’s time and energy. When demonstrated well, it is invisibly seamless but ever-present. A teacher who is both experienced and skilled at classroom management uses withitness naturally, and to the observer, it looks like “All is going well—there’s no need for monitoring.” But if all, or most students are following the rules and procedures, it is likely because the teacher is really “with-it”! Students know that the teacher constantly scans the class, walks around the room, and takes action in a proactive, controlled manner. Any thoughts of misbehavior are nipped in the bud. The artful teacher can accomplish a lot by walking around the room—monitoring for withitness is one of them.
We’ll look at monitoring for content and monitoring for engagement in upcoming posts.
Do you have strategies for demonstrating withitness you’d like to share? Leave your comments in the space below—we’d love to hear your thoughts!