Monday, October 22, 2012

Classroom Management

Since my two strongest educational philosophies are existential and essentialist, my management plans are probably going to fall somewhere in the middle. I believe that in he beginning of my teaching career I will probably be more on the essentialist spectrum because I will probably want a bit more control of my classroom. Already in my short student teaching career I have noticed that if you give an inch, the students will take a mile, so therefore I will only give a few inches away. I hope to incorporate more existential ideas as I progress, but in the beginning, I plan to have a bit more of an iron fist.

Preventative Approaches
1. Creating a social contract with your students. I really like the idea of beginning your classroom management with your students by discussing with them in the beginning of the year a contract with your students, which will determine what I expect from them and what they will expect from me. By having your students set the rules, this will give them some ownership over them, and hopefully they will take pride in following them. Kohn (1996) says that students should be actively involved in solving all problems that affect the class and that they should be involved in all classroom processes. Of course they would be guided into appropriate rules, but they will hopefully see the classroom as belonging to them.

2. Team Building Activities – By having activities in which the classroom continually interacts with each other, this will hopefully build respect within the classroom and prevent future problems between the students. Charles (2008) believes that by doing these activities, you can build camaraderie in the classroom and this will lead to greater cooperation between the students.

3. Interesting curriculum – One way to make sure that students stay engaged in the class is to mix things up a bit and keep them entertained. Kagan, Kyle and Scott (2007) believe that this can help prevent most classroom behavior problems. I find that by throwing in some movie clips during the class, and by continuously having them work together, the kids’ stay more engaged.

4. Having a set of clear consequences – The Canters (1976) discipline method states that by having a clear set of consequences and by enforcing them consistently, students will be better behaved. I generally see this as true in my classroom, as students know that if they behave inappropriately, their grade will be negatively affected. The key to this approach is to be consistent and make sure the kids are aware of these consequences. These can be settled upon in the social contract mentioned in the first approach.

5. Embracing technology – One big change I have seen since my days in high school is that pretty much every student has some electronic device with them at all times. While these can be disruptive at times, I don’t think that these should be outlawed all together. Kohn (1996) mentions that teachers need to be flexible with students, and this is one area in which teachers are going to need to be a bit more flexible. What we do in our class is allow iPods during independent work, and say that if we see them using them during other times, they will lose this privilege. So far, it has worked. It also helps to keep the kids quiet during independent work.

Supportive Approaches
1. Undertaking classroom and school wide activities (Kohn 1996) – One approach that I think I would like to try is to set up a couple fun activities throughout the year like field trips or simulations that students would be interested in. However, only students who are putting an effort into the class would be able to go, and only students who are generally in good behavior throughout the year.

2. Recognize Achievement (Albert 2008)– As a student, I was always motivated (and still am) when teachers gave positive feedback in class. I feel that when students think they are doing a good job, they are more likely to continue working hard in order to impress the teacher. Albert also says that another good strategy is to have students give positive feedback to other students as well.

3. Always treat your students with dignity (Curwin and Mendler 2008) – I agree with Curwin and Mendler in that it’s important to always treat your students as individuals. This involve getting to know them and some of their interests, with the hope that they will see you as an individual, and they will be less likely to disrupt your class.

4. Make use of Coopetition (Charles 2008) – I am a big fan of friendly classroom competitions to get the blood flowing a bit in the classroom. Charles believes that students respond to competition more then just about any other activity. I do not even think that there needs to be any real stakes or prizes, but the competitive streak in most kids should be enough to keep them motivated.

5. Promoting Life Skills (Kagan, Kyle and Scott 2007) – I like the idea of working in life skills throughout the curriculum. This hopefully will get the students to have more self control, and develop improvement in the students behavior as the year goes on.

Corrective Approach
1. Be consistent with corrective actions (Canters 1976) – One thing that I have had trouble with so far is to be consistent with my discipline. It’s easy to go hard on the students who are traditional troublemakers, and take it easy on the students who are usually well behaved. By being consistent with all students, you set a precedent that you will be fair, and hopefully the students will gain respect for you.

2. Focus on the behavior, not the student (Albert 2008) – I like Albert’s idea of dealing with what is happening in the moment, and not necessarily what has happened in the past. I think this goes a long way in communicating to the students that you are not picking on them individually, and that its their behavior that is wrong.

3. Be private, only the student involved should hear (Curwin 1992) – This strategy can not be used all the time, as sometimes you may need to call out someone in class to stop a behavior immediately. However, I do like this strategy because so far in my experience I have seen that students react much better when you deal with them in private. You may also learn something about them, which explains why they are behaving this way, which probably wouldn’t happen if you called them out in front of the class.

4. Restitution, resolution and reconciliation (Coloroso 2002) – This is a plan for more serious altercations in which a few steps may be needed to solve the problem. There are a couple aspects of Coloroso’s plan that I really like. The first is the idea of sitting down with the student(s) and having them help make the decision on how they can grow from this result. Hopefully this will allow them to take some ownership of their problem and they will take a greater role in fixing it. The second aspect of her plan is if that I think is important is to sit down all students that were affected by the behavior to make sure that all are ok after the incident.

5. Win-Win problem solving (Gordon 2008) – Although this seems like it can be challenging sometimes, especially when someone is clearly in the wrong, I think that this could be an effective way of solving conflicts between students. When they both feel that they have gotten something from the talk they will hopefully be more productive after the intervention. This is somewhat similar to Coloroso’s reconciliation process, but I like that this really works on making sure that all students come out of the incident with something positive.

As I begin my teaching career, I feel that my biggest challenge at the start will be classroom management. As class sizes in high school are getting bigger then we have ever seen, good classroom management strategies can be extremely important in making sure that you have a productive classroom. These strategies that I have chose are the ideal strategies which I think a good teacher should use, but I acknowledge that some my be harder to pull off in my first couple years. Hopefully, I can integrate many of these strategies to build a creative and dynamic classroom. 

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