Saturday, January 29, 2011

Classroom Management: It's An Art

It is the start of the school year in Australia and a good time for teachers of all levels of experience to reflect on how they relate to students. I have collected some links to help with this. For any beginning teachers, my advice is that you learn on the job and it helps if you have good teachers to work with who can model how to relate effectively to students and mentor you. If you do not have a mentor, find one. Everyone has their own style and it is related to their philosophy about teaching and learning but I suggest the following  as helpful:

Know Your Students - Show a thorough and genuine interest in your students. Get to know as much as possible about their family early on by going through records, talking to other teachers about them, listening and talking with students and their parents. Parents know their children best so do not be scared to build relationships with parents. Focus on talents, not weaknesses. Every child has a talent. Let kids know what you think their talent is and celebrate it. 

Planning - Be prepared and classroom management is not such a big deal. Plan for a balance between novelty and routine. Kids feel comfortable with routines. They also need novelty as this provides opportunities for learning. If you think you would be bored sitting through your own lessons, the kids will be too, so do more preparation and try to make it stimulating for them. An interactive whiteboard will not save you.
If the circus van breaks down outside your classroom window, stop the lesson and take a look. Encourage and act on positive and negative feedback. Be clear and firm about acceptable behaviour from minute one. Again, this is related to preparation. Be clear in your expectations beforehand. Keep your instructions brief. Effective teachers are kind and firm. Kind comes first. Kind words have the power to change lives.

Philosophy about Learning - Do not pretend to have all the answers as Google will always win. Be a co-learner and model learning as a never-ending journey. Learning happens everywhere, not just in classrooms. Good teachers provide occasions for learning and accept they cannot force learning to happen. Let kids make mistakes and reflect on them. My teaching mistakes continue to be very instructive.

Philosophy about Childhood - Childhood is a social construct that reflects society wanting to protect children from exploitation. One unfortunate byproduct of this construct is that some people teach as if kids are made into humans through an industrial or factory model of schooling. Kids are immature but if you treat them like sub-human life forms they will reciprocate accordingly. Kids are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for. Kids have feelings and effective teachers take account of this.

Teaching is an art, not a science, so take your canvas and brush and create a masterpiece of your own. Sorry, I will get off the soap box now.

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