This week’s question comes from a discussion on my Facebook feed, in which Mark North, an instructor at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Wash., asked for suggestions about how to manage students who monopolize class time with their comments. I often get the flip side of this question from parents who say their child’s teacher calls on some students and not others, or from parents who are concerned that their quiet child gets overlooked in class.
Classroom management is a constant, and complex, balancing act. Teachers must weigh the needs of individual students against the progress of the class as a whole; supporting the enthusiasm of one without sacrificing the engagement of the rest. Nearly every teacher I know has been accused of ignoring a particular student or of favoring one student — or class of students — over another. When this accusation is directed at me, I try to remind parents that in a class of 20 or 30 or more students, it can be a challenge to hear each child’s voice in the crowd and take note of nonverbal engagement. Furthermore, a child may be painfully aware of the fact that she did not get called last Thursday, but fail to notice or remember that there were 20 other hands in the air at the same time as hers.