Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Class Management

                Classroom management is an essential part to an effective learning environment. It is one of the hardest concepts to teach new teachers, and must be deeply rooted in the individual’s pedagogical philosophy. I am an experimentalist and essentialist at my roots. As an experimentalist, I believe that education is about inquiry and experience, and students should be involved in problem solving and critical thinking to further their understanding of the content, as well as their world. The essentialist side of my philosophy relies on building a foundation of knowledge that facilitates growth in whatever direction a student may want to go in. My classroom management plan is mostly related to my experimentalist philosophy. I want to build a classroom focusing on respect. I feel that if I show my students respect, they will appreciate that and show me respect in return, preventing many discipline problems. A supportive classroom involves students in the management and discipline process, by giving them a voice; I can correct those students who feel the need to speak out and try to control the classroom by having an appropriate and encouraged outlet for that. My classroom management plan relies on building trust and respect and a safe environment for students to share and not be afraid to make mistakes. If I can accomplish this, I am confident that I will have few discipline problems.
An effective classroom management plan works to prevent behavioral problems before they even emerge. My plan to prevent behavioral problems involves a respectful and motivating classroom environment where students are involved in problem solving and the decision making process to create clear expectations for their own learning, and are provided with meaningful curriculum.
1.            Respect in the classroom creates a safe environment for students to share ideas and make mistakes without the fear of failure. As a science teacher and experimentalist, I believe that making mistakes and trial and error are some of the best ways to learn and experience learning.
2.            This kind of safe environment for learning should also motivate students to try to solve new problems and test their ideas. C. M. Charles claims that motivating students will produce energy and excitement, thus preventing many behavioral problems (Charles, 2000).   
3.            To better experience learning, students should be involved in the problem solving and decision making of classroom rules and procedures (Kohn, 1996). Giving students a chance to voice their opinion and make choices builds trust and respect between students and teachers. This also creates accountability among peers to follow the rules they placed and take responsibility for their own learning.
4.            Students also need meaningful curriculum and assignments in order to keep them engaged and motivated, thus preventing many behavior problems before they occur (Glasser, 1985).
Once a respectful and motivated classroom is established, it must be maintained and supportive of positive student behavior.
1.            To support positive behavior, I will implement a “good things” segment to open each class so students feel comfortable sharing their lives with the class and helping build relationships in the classroom. It also shows students I care about them and their lives and in turn, their success in school. By getting to know my students and what they are experiencing, as an experimentalist, I can better relate the material to the curriculum in hopes of engaging all students.
2.            I will also encourage and reward positive behavior by thanking students for participating in class and always supporting their comments whether they are right or wrong. This shows other students that they will not be punished or made fun of for making mistakes; that it is a normal part of the learning experience.
3.            Alfie Kohn suggests holding regular class meetings to keep students involved in problem solving and behavioral issues (Kohn, 1996). This would fit smoothly the other supportive strategies of classroom management I suggested earlier.
4.            Class meetings can also be where I can ask students where they personally need support and how I can support them. If a student needs a special signal to know when it is ok to speak freely and when to raise his hand, then the small adjustment on my part will make a big impact on the possible disruptions later (Curwin and Mendler, 1983).
Support in the classroom is all about maintaining trust and respect in the classroom to show students I care about them and their education and want them to succeed.
Despite our best efforts as teachers to create a classroom free of discipline problems, they never go away; there will always be students who are difficult or having a bad day.  
1.            When such issues arise, I plan on being clear about expectations, direct, respectful, and immediate with addressing issues, and quick to recover and recognize positive behavior. My essentialist side is direct and makes clear of expectations and the consequences of behavior problems so that students are without surprises when they act out (Lee and Canter, 1976).
2.            When such issues do arise, being direct and consistent with students reduces the drama and possibility of bias among students. I will give direct and concrete suggestions instead of abstract ones (Curwin and Mendler, 1983).
3.            Linda Albert’s cooperative discipline model suggests a Target-Stop-Do strategy; immediately and verbally target the issue, speak to the student to stop the issue, and follow through with the consequences (Albert, 1996). Being able to verbally target the problem then pull the student aside to privately discuss the issue shows respect and saves some of the student’s dignity (Curwin and Mendler, 1983).
4.            Consequences for misbehavior should be equal to the severity of the act, and quickly addressed and moved on. Once an issue is addressed and solved, there is no need to further punish the student. I will be quick to recover and jump at the chance to praise positive behavior by the student.
 Pride means a lot to high school students and anything I can do to minimize hurting their dignity and relating school to excessive discipline, I will do. I don’t want disciplining disruptive behavior to break the trust and respect built throughout the entire year.
                In conclusion, experimentalism drives the way I will prevent discipline problems and support my students throughout the year to maintain a respectful, safe, and collaborative classroom. Essentialism supports my need to be direct and consistent with students who do act out and quick to recover and offer praise for good behavior. If I can maintain these goals, I believe not only will I have few discipline issues, but I will also facilitate a safe and healthy environment for students to learn and experience science.

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