Newton’s Laws of classroom dynamics:

Back in September I got to watch a lot of great learning. I also listened to teachers worry about both the physical mess in their room and the mental mess in their heads.

Then went home where I am reading a book on Isaac Newton: The result is that I have discovered Newton’s Three laws of Classroom Dynamics:


The first law of classroom dynamics:

Learning is not Passive…

Students engaged will remain engaged, while students being passive will remain passive. If you want students involved and trying and working on their own learning then don’t ask them to sit and practice sitting.

The second law of classroom dynamics:

The acceleration of learning is directly proportional to the positive energy in active participation…

Put simply, if you are excited to teach they will be excited to learn, no matter the topic.

The third law of classroom dynamics:

For every chaos you manage there will be and equal and apposing chaos arise.

Learning requires a bit of chaos. Chaos is messy ergo learning is too. Newton was never a teacher, even when he was a professor at Cambridge both he and his students refused to go to his classes. He knew nothing about learning or kids or teaching… Still I feel as though I need give him naming rights to these laws on the nature of learning.


If you’re an educator, what do you think? What would you add or challenge?

Brian Cleary
Brian Cleary

Mr. Brian Cleary works for the Evergreen School District of Vancouver, WA. He has been in elementary education for almost 25 years, as a teacher, librarian, and currently as an Elementary Instructional Coach. He received his BA in Elementary Education for the University of Puget Sound, and an M.Ed. in Leadership from City University of Seattle. "I believe in the teacher, the student, and learning; the small start of big things, and the teachable moment. I believe in rigor, connecting, and real assessment, that the books of Rowlings, Seuss, and Curtis change lives. I believe that learning to fail is more powerful than learning to win. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing high stakes testing and merit pay. I believe in reading out loud, project-based lessons, and number 2 pencils and teaching children how to learn rather than what to study - and I believe in long, slow, deep, conversations that last more than one period."

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