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“Withitness”: Being Aware of What’s Going on in the Classroom
posted by: Larisa | June 13, 2012, 02:01 PM   

In the battle of classroom management versus teacher sanity, it is imperative that every teacher makes use of his/her inherent sense of awareness.  While these self-examining “superpowers” aren’t exactly the powers of the Incredible Hulk or Spiderman, they are powerful enough to manage the classroom on the most hectic of days.  This suite of abilities is what educators refer to as “withitness.”

While most teachers are excellent multi-taskers, the best teachers are “withit.”  “Withitness” is the art of running a classroom while having eyes in the back of your head.  It’s that creepy moment during the math lecture that you realize that Johnny is misbehaving, so, to let the class know that you’re aware of what’s going on, you continue writing on the chalkboard and say, “Johnny, stop blowing spit bubbles.”  Much to the shock of the classroom, your “withit” superpower is having eyeballs in the back of your head.  Johnny stops blowing spit bubbles and everyone goes back to being attentive, well-behaved students.

The art of “withitness” is broader than just having eyes in the back of your head.  A teacher who is “withit” is also able to see into the future.  Using this superpower properly, the teacher knows when Johnny is going to start disrupting class by blowing spit bubbles.  This gives the teacher the opportunity to diffuse the situation before it even happens.  Prevention, after all, is better than a cure.

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility, so “withit” teachers use their superpowers for good, not evil.  “With-it” teachers are effective because they are aware of every aspect of the classroom at all times, including the students who are being good.  “Withit” teachers might draw attention to a student who is being good so as to create a “ripple effect” of good behavior in the classroom.  If you catch one student being good, then other students will want to be caught being good, too.

“Withit” teachers are also just teachers.  They are “withit” because they know who is operating as the instigator of good behavior and who is operating as the instigator of bad behavior.  Just like Batman knows who is causing trouble in Gotham City, a “withit” teacher who is causing trouble in the classroom because he/she has been observing the dynamic of the classroom.  A “withit” teacher is just and does not accidentally punish/reward the wrong student.

While there is justice in correcting the behavior of the appropriate student, there is also justice in correction at the appropriate time.  For example, a student with an emotional behavioral disorder who has just had a tantrum might need to have his/her behavior modified after a cool down period in private so as to prevent further outbursts.  A “withit” teacher has the “superpower” of knowing his/her students well enough to know how and when particular students will respond to correction. 

Finally, one of the most powerful “superpowers” a “withit” teacher has is the famous “teacher look.”  Every teacher has a signature “look” that sends a nonverbal cue to students that they need to modify their behavior or that they are doing a good job.  The “teacher look” isn’t a regular feature in the classroom; it is used as needed so that it doesn’t lose its potency.   It’s amazing how much power a teacher can exercise over a class by just smiling or raising an eyebrow. 

All teachers have “superpowers,” but some teachers are more “withit” than others as it concerns proper application of his/her “superpowers.”  Knowing yourself and knowing your students is the best way to start.  Be sure to click here and here for more information about classroom management and “withitness." 

Teachers, what does “withitness” mean to you?

Comment below.

Comments (7)Add Comment
Doctor of Education (ED.D)
written by Clayton E Davis, May 11, 2018

Withitness is a teacher's confidence of leading learning in a diversified classroom. It also involves critical self-assessment, which is crucial for not sending out subliminal messages. If students detect teacher-preferences or prejudices, they will most likely cause disruption in the classroom. Withitness is also about building rapport with students and parents - the student knows that a positive relation exists with their parent and teacher. Withness includes correction and praise - silent corrections and praise are often student-preferred.
written by Michael, NC., September 06, 2016

Jessica, some people as you say are not meant to be teachers, but some people are also not meant to be mentors. You found the energy to come on here and dismiss him. Have you used that same energy to help the student teacher. Your passiveness as a "mentor" is the most disturbing aspect of your comment.
Student Teacher
written by Joss - Germany, March 07, 2016

By no means do student teachers have sound classroom management. After all, student teachers are still college students themselves. Not only do they need the active guidance of a seasoned teaching professional, but CM skills take years to develop. I would be more supportive of a student teacher, as we were all there once!
written by saria , December 03, 2015

Can anyone tell me the examples of withinness ?
RE:Student Teacher
written by Marianna, April 14, 2015

I'm sorry Jessica, but teaching your student T "withitness" is your job as his mentor. I can guaruntee you weren't with it either when you were a student teacher. None of us were.

Some people weren't meant to be mentors... unfortunately there are plenty of teachers who will take the break and graduate credit hours to train a student who have no business training a new teacher. Bad teachers breed bad teachers. Do you tell your students "some of you just aren't meant to do well in this subject area"?

By far worst teacher comment I've ever read.
Not wih it, Low-rated comment [Show]
Withitness and ambiguity
written by Bruce, FL, June 13, 2012

When I first heard of withitness, it was in context of teacher evaluations. I immediately saw the term as an ambiguous and vague term that could become a tool for principals to judge teachers based on personal feelings.

Imagine the exact same thing happens in two classrooms: Johnny blows spit bubbles and the teacher responds.

The principal already thinks Teacher A is great, so when the teacher responds, the principal says, "Teacher A sees everything and is with it."

Teacher B, however, has previously been deemed by the principal as being not so great. So, when the teacher responds to Johnny, the principal says, "Teacher B had to react to a disruptive student because the teacher took eyes off the class. The teacher should have foreseen this (since Johnny is known for his poor behavior) and taken steps to prevent the problem. Teacher B is out of it."

Even your blog post makes clear that both judgments could be justified through the vague idea of withitness.

As a side note, multitasking is a myth. Nobody is good at it. The person who thinks they're good at it is like the person who insists they drive better when a little buzzed.

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