Adolescents are under so much pressure, between extracurricular activities, family dynamics, social growth and development, school assignments and expectations — you name it! Often these stresses occur because the adolescent doesn’t understand what is required of them in diffusing conflict. My personal philosophy is that students deserve a clear definition of what behaviors and work ethics need to be modeled in any classroom, up front and before content instruction begins. For my classroom the essential ground rules are immutable: “Respect yourself, respect others as you want to be respected.” These apply equally to students and teachers. And based on these non-negotiables, I have the responsibility to encourage students’ participation in the formulation of classroom rules; obtaining student input is key to gaining their buy-in as stakeholders in maintaining a positive classroom environment. Classroom management is the single most important factor in promoting effective learning on the part of students. Gathering student consensus on what guidelines they consider important in framing their classroom community is also helpful for me, as a teacher, to become sensitive to the issues that these kids feel are important; subsequently, I can then better manage our environment as well as support the students in building positive coping strategies to master maturational crises. Oddly enough, it appears that students tend to identify far more severe consequences for infractions than I. However, bearing in mind that consequences must be relevant to situations and occur immediately after an infraction, I opt to guide my students in this direction.
My vision for a healthy classroom community includes providing a safe place for students to take risks, to master challenges that stretch their boundaries. In doing so, I support students to share in an atmosphere where censorship and criticism won’t be a possibility. Emphasizing the egalitarian nature of my classroom management strategies is designed to promote each individual’s sense of self-worth and self-consistency; everyone is equally important, every student is valued, and there will be no verbalized aggression or put-downs either on the part of peers or the teacher. The establishment of trust is an essential first step in a healthy collaborative relationship. By providing structure that makes my classroom a safe place to share ideas, work toward goals, and examine concepts, I’m encouraging trust on which students can build a strong foundation for learning not only of content, but also of critical social skills that will serve them in the world of work, as they move forward as adults after leaving high school. As a teacher, I owe my students at least this much.