Thursday, December 15, 2011

Classroom management

I learned a lot this semester about classroom management.  You would assume that most of it was from my 355 experience but, suprisingly enough, it wasn't.  I actually learned the most about it from my Educational Psychology professor, Mr. Ralph Hesse.  I highly recommend him to anyone that hasn't taken the class yet.  He is an amazing professor who is, quite possibly, the best teacher I have had yet at perfecting classroom management.  I learned so much from him and he helped to inspire me to strive to be the best teacher that I possibly can.  For any of you out there who care to take the time, I highly recommend that you watch a video called, "Hobart Shakespeareans".  It is a very inspiring video that I promise you will not be a waste of your time!  I recieved many different tips, from my Mr. Hesse, this semester, some of them obvious, that I wish to share with you.  Thus, I have decided to share with you one of my papers that I wrote this semester on Classroom Management.  Here it is: 
Beginning your first day as a new teacher can be extremely nerve-racking.  Expectations are high and all on eyes on you every step of the way.  You are now personally responsible for opening the minds of several young boy and girls; it is your goal that each and every one of them walks away a better individual.  Confidence is essential and there is very little room for error.  These children’s well-beings depend on you.  One of the most critical things to becoming an effective teacher is classroom management, yet it is also one of the most terrifying things to rookie teachers.  “Though the ability to manage classrooms can be a challenge, it isn’t impossible, and with careful planning and effective instruction, it can be readily accomplished.” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010)  Why is classroom management so important?  How can one insure that they are effectively managing their classroom?  When it comes to motivation in the classroom, is it better to have a learning based classroom or a performance based classroom and what are the differences between the two?  
                The first key to good classroom management is to know exactly what it is.  It is important that one understands that discipline is what happens after a problem occurs and classroom management is what happens before the problem occurs.  Also, it is important that you promote safety and order in the classroom.  Students need to feel safe before they are ready to learn.  This leads to the question, why is classroom management so terrifying to teachers “treading the water” for the first time?  The complexity of the classroom is the number one reason that makes teachers nervous.  They are in an environment that is “multidimensional and simultaneous,” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010) simply meaning that there are a large number of events and tasks occurring at the same time.  A second characteristic of the classroom that makes it so complex is that these events occur rapidly and things change quickly.  As a teacher, it is important that you remain poised and ready to deal with whatever may come your way, as these events are unable to be predicted (third characteristic).  The last thing that makes classroom management so challenging is the fact that everything you do is public.  It is important that you are able think on your feet, adapting quickly.  When you make your lesson plans, it is crucial that you know them, inside and out, because you can’t be worrying about what to say next when a problem occurs in the classroom.
                “Classroom management is more than simply creating an orderly environment.  It is a process that contributes to learners’ academic, personal, and social development.” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010)  Our first way to managing the classroom is to develop learner responsibility.  It is important that you allow your learners to be actively involved in the process of helping whenever possible so that they recognize they are being responsible.  Have them aide you in establishing class rules and a mission statement.  This will better motivate them to follow the rules, while teaching techniques in which they can show responsibility.   Another way to manage the classroom is to develop a positive learning environment.  If students feel safe and encouraged, they will be more motivated to participate.  It is important that you “wear you attitude on your sleeve”- be respectful, enthusiastic, fun, and caring.  You also want to maximize the time and opportunity for learning (third way of managing the classroom).  In order to do this, you have to be well organized.  Make sure that you plan in advance; you shouldn’t be worrying about what you’re going to teach next.  Be present and focused on what is happening right in front of you.  Plan the least amount of transition times and establish routines and procedures.  When it comes to making rules, it is important that you follow some guidelines, if they are to be effective.  State the rules positively (“should” rather than “should nots”), minimize the number of rules, solicit student input (have them help make the rules), emphasize the reason for the rules, use concrete examples to illustrate the procedures, be consistent, and establish what consequences will occur if the rules are broken.  The fourth, and final, way of managing the classroom is to understand the characteristics of your students.  It is important that you get to know each and every one of your students- know their ages, their motivation levels, their sensitivity, and their eagerness.  If you want to be a good teacher, it is crucial that you do this; let them know that you care, “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” (Maxwell)
                When it comes to motivation in the classroom, is it better to have a learning based or a performance based classroom?  In order to answer this question, we must first know the difference between the two.  A learning based classroom is one where the emphasis is on effort and on understanding the information.  It is one where the goal is continuous student improvement.  In a performance based classroom, the emphasis is on high grades and public displays of ability.  Performance is priority.  One can clearly see that a learning based classroom is what one desires to have in order to ensure the highest level of motivation in our students.  The first variable associated with a learning based classroom is that one needs to have self-regulated learners, learners who set goals and recognize the thought process and behaviors that lead to achieving these goals.  In order to help students become self-regulated learners, one needs to guide them, using steps to help them arrive at their destination.  The first step towards getting them to their destination is to emphasize the relationship between accepting responsibility and learning.  Next, the students themselves give input into the elements of being responsible and embracing learning.  The following step is to actually teach them the concept of responsibility.  It is important that “an informational, rather than controlling,” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010) method should be used in expecting responsibility.  The next step to getting your students to their destination of becoming self-regulated learners is to model responsibility yourself, “practice what you preach!”  The fifth step is to “provide a concrete mechanism (ex-use a chart) to help students monitor goal achievement.” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010)  The sixth, and final, step is to develop an initial rewards system for students to meet these goals. 
                The second variable associated with a learning based classroom is teacher characteristics (things that you aspire towards).  It is important that you have a high personal teaching efficacy- the belief that student learning is significantly influenced by your teaching abilities.  Low achievement by students should not be dismissed as a function of bad parenting, poor intellect, or bad students.  It is important that you be enthusiastic; you should model a genuine interest in your material.  Never let your students know if there is something in particular that you don’t enjoy teaching (ex- science).  Always show that you care by demonstrating respect, spending time with your students, using “we” and “our” often (creates more connection), learn names, smile, greet, use warm body language, and occasionally show personal interest.  Demonstrate positive experiences, meaning that you want to show confidence in a student’s abilities, show high standards, and be encouraging, as well as supportive.  It is important that your students know that you are one hundred percent invested in their interests and well-being.
                The third variable associated with a learning based classroom is climate variables (environment).  As a teacher, you want to make sure that you are creating a motivating environment.  It is important that, first, you establish safety and order.  Next, you want to establish a climate of success.   Begin class with open-ended questions that assess the learner’s current understanding and then invite participation.  Provide scaffolding while students practice before placing them on they own (ex- if having trouble shooting a basket, lower the hoop).  Minimize competition and maximize cooperation.  An example of this might be putting on a class play where everyone is given a part or some responsibility in the play production.  Next, you want to establish an environment where students are challenged.  It is important that students feel that they have mastered material that is challenging because it helps increase their self-efficacy.  Lastly, you want to make sure that students feel the material is relevant.  If they feel that there was no purpose to what they just taught, or are being taught, they may become frustrated and learning will not occur. 
                The fourth, and final, variable associated with a learning based classroom is instructional variables, which are those variables that develop an interest in learning activities.  It is important that you develop a good introductory focus because this increases attention and curiosity.  Present the students with a unique problem, ask a paradoxical (question that has a riddle in it) question, or provide a demonstration that is eye-catching.  Next, make sure that you personalize the topic; link the subject to students’ lives to help draw them in.  The third thing you want to do in order to develop an interest in learning activities is to create an active involvement; have the students themselves be participants in the lesson.  The last thing that you want to remember to do is to get feedback from your students on how you’re doing.  In order to be a good teacher, it is necessary that you are always open to change if needed, “feedback also contributes to self-regulation.  It gives us information about progress towards goals, and when they’re met, our self-efficacy increases.  If they’re not met, we can then increase our effort or change strategies.”  (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010) 
                One can see the importance of good classroom management and what elements, exactly, it consists of.  It is obvious as to why classroom management can be intimidating and difficult, but one can see that it is not impossible to do so effectively.  There are several different ways to manage a classroom effectively, each way emphasizing the importance of coming to class fully prepared, this referring to both you (as the teacher) and your lesson.  When it comes to motivation in the classroom, a learner based classroom is more effective than a performance based one.  There are four different variables associated with a successful learning based classroom, each variable consisting of several parts that aid in helping to insure that learning does, in fact, occur. 

Eggen, P. and Kauchak, D. (2010).  Educational Psychology.  New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.

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