Author: andrew2

Andrew’s classroom philosophy

Classroom management is perhaps the most difficult part of teaching but it is also by far the most important. Without a calm and organized classroom you will not have effective learning. My overall philosophy of classroom management revolves around withitness, or total control over your classroom. Students should understand that the classroom belongs to the teacher and they are all guests for whom a particular decorum is required. Students should learn to be aware of your policies and procedures from as early of a date as possible. They should be conditioned to see you as an authority figure from the start of the school year. A teacher must also ‘sweat the small stuff’ so to speak, if students realize that they can get away with certain things, however minor, they will constantly try to push boundaries. Procedures must be established to ensure that your classroom functions smoothly. Changing from one activity to the next can take up much time and distract from the learning process.

In terms of withitness a teacher must constantly be aware of what is occurring in their classroom, they need to have figurative eyes in the back of their head. If a teacher has an encompassing presence in the classroom they are more likely to have order, it is usually when students think they can get away with things that they will misbehave. A teacher must also have a cool exterior, if they show that they are annoyed or bothered by things then students are more likely to attempt to push their buttons at a later date. A teacher who has established themselves as an authority, who has set up good procedures, and who has an encompassing presence in the classroom is likely to have success.

Classroom Observation- Alaska Studies

1) For my observation I will use my mentor teacher as I have been learning most of my classroom management skills from her. To open lessons she makes sure to wait until she has everyone’s attention, to do this she will usually call attention or at least stand in the front of the room waiting for the class’s attention. Generally students understand the procedure for beginning class however sometimes they need to be told to sit in their assigned seat so we can take attendance. To begin a lesson we usually try to start with a question or two to get students thinking, I feel that this holds their attention much better than simply jumping into a lecture. During a lesson she makes a point to call out students who are misbehaving, this serves so somewhat embarrass them and hopefully prevent them from continuing the behavior. If it does continue she is quick to move the student away from others who may be contributing to the disruption.  For concluding the day she sometimes has the students all sit at their assigned seats before they are dismissed. This is an annoyance for the kids but helps to keep order in the classroom.

2)Three common transitions I have seen are first to transition from direct instruction to group work. She will first hand out instructions or a rubric, explain it, then have the kids get into groups. If she were to explain the project after they got into groups it would be much more chaotic as they would be chatting with their friends without any sort of instruction. This way they know what they are doing right away and are more likely to get onto it. To transition from group work to direct instruction it is usually better to have the students move back to their original seats. This makes a break in their focus but hopefully prevents them from being too distracted by their group partners. A third transition method would be to go from direct instruction to individual work, this is generally easier as the students are already in the seats they need to be in and they are generally quiet and focused. The best way to do this would be to hand out material or have students take it out, clearly give instructions, then have students work on their own. The teacher should then walk around the room making sure that everyone is focused and offering help if needed.

3) Most of these strategies are things that I will eventually employ in my classroom. One great strategy I witnessed while observing a teacher on our team was using candy to motivate students. He used it for a variety of activities, first of all he would have short review games at the beginning of class, anyone to get the correct answer would win a piece of candy. Secondly he would reward student with it for good behavior. It is amazing how much motivation candy gives to high school students, they seem willing to do just about anything for it.

Teacher student relationships

This link really applies to all three categories. It offers a lengthy video where teacher Tyler Hester showcases his first day of class for the year. Here you can see several great methods he uses for classroom management as he establishes specific procedures for the year for all sorts of things. He then lists seven tips teachers can use for good classroom management. One particular thing I found useful was his point “do sweat the small stuff.” I started out this year being fairly lax on minor behavioral issues in class. However this set up a bad precedent where students feel that they can get away with many infractions.

Here is a short video which lists ten good tips for classroom management. Again one important one here was to start the year off tough, it is much better to begin the year tough and then ease up than to do the opposite. Also its a great idea to give incentives for good behavior. Another one I have run into is to over plan so that there is no empty time at the end of the class. I have seen first hand several times what the video describes as “the point of no return” once students mentally check out for the period.

Here is a blog which offers a lot of advice for classroom management. One article in particular “How to Save yourself a Mountain of Stress and Misbehavior” hits upon a point made in both prior links. Coming down hard early on will truly help you out later in the year. Minor misbehavior early on will compound as students realize that they can get away with more and more. This blog contains many more articles which will prove to be helpful in your teaching endeavors.

Future of Alaskan Native Education

I found this article particular interesting as I might very well find myself teaching out in the bush next year. I have done as much research as possible and have learned that cultural differences and animosity can be a huge road block to success. I have talked to people who have had great experiences and those who have had horror stories. It seems that those who had poor experiences echo what this article discusses, they head out to rural Alaska in order to ‘save’ that natives. That is to say they want to do their part to educate them in terms of 21st century American culture and society. We seem to be at a bit of an impasse, we as a society have decided that all American deserve a certain standard of living and that includes education.. However on the other hand we feel that native peoples should have a right to retain their culture as they see fit. It seems difficult to make these two policies work together with the way we handle education today. As long as we have centralized national education standards there will always be some aspect of American culture forced upon native peoples.  It was interesting to read about the policies in Norway and New Zealand, while they would work in the United States it would take an overhaul of our education system. We might need to provide an exception to rural Alaska for state and national education standards to free up time for native based education.


I found the comments to be quite eye opening as well, the level of dissension was surprising. One commentator in particular raised some interesting points in his rebuttal. He charged that the article suggested that there was nothing worthwhile in American culture for Alaskan native to learn, that anything based off of our culture was no more than assimilation. He asked if Yupik should be the only language taught in rural Alaskan schools. If found these points to be interesting because as a social studies teacher I want to teach my students about all the cultures of the world. Just like it would be harmful to only teach the American perspective in history it might be equally as harmful to only teach a native perspective. There are great things to be learned from both cultures so perhaps a fusion of the two is better than only having native based education in rural Alaska.

This discussion begs the question what is the purpose of education. Supporters of the current model in rural Alaska might say that it is to get rural Alaskan students ready for life in the modern world. However often that life involves leaving your ancestral homeland. I believe that we must find a delicate balance between the old and the new. We cannot expect native cultures to forget their heritage, but also we can not expect them to simply disregard human progress in general. The modern world requires state of the art skills regardless if you live in New York City or Koyuk.



4 rules for classroom management

Upon starting my internship at Bartlett High I quickly realized that classroom management would be the most difficult aspect of teaching for me. Its something that doesn’t exactly come naturally for me and I will need to train myself extensively to become an effective teacher. Through my first month teaching I have realized that having clear, strict, and enforceable rules is the key to good classroom management. If you are not clear students can simply claim ignorance, if your rules are not strict students will find ways to bend them, and if you do not enforce them students will know that they can break your rules without consequences.

Four rules I would have for my classroom are as follows.

1. Give your attention to whomever is speaking.

Naturally we need to have the student’s attention before any effective teaching can begin but I have also notice that sometimes students do not give their attention to others. We offer the students a chance to make announcements at the beginning of each period, sometimes students will talk over others or try to but into their announcements. Not only is this disruptive but it is also extremely rude and disrespectful. Which brings me to the second rule.

2. Respect others.

We will not tolerate any sort of bullying or mean spiritedness directed to ourselves or other students. It creates a hostile environment and hurts the learning process.

3. Come prepared to class.

This includes not only completing the necessary homework but also bringing paper and a writing utensil.

4. No electronic use in class unless it directly relates to your work.

I’m sure as I develop my classroom management skills this list will expand but for now they seem to be decent ground rules.

A relevant article I read was from NEA, it discussed an anti-swearing campaign at a school in Washington.

Nearly 1,000 students, on their own accord, signed a pledge not to swear. When asked why some students said they wanted to help make the school a nicer place, and that they wanted to expand their vocabulary by finding better, more intelligent, ways to express themselves. After reading a bit about classroom pledges in our text I have been trying to decide if one would be appropriate for my classroom. As one can see here students who make a conscious decision about what the rules should be are much more inclined to follow them.

Here is a link to my wordle

Andrew Brennan, introduction



Hi I’m Andrew. I moved up to Anchorage from Rhode Island about two years ago in search of the great outdoors and adventure. I had just finished an MA in history and thought that I wanted to become a teacher but I wasn’t sure. So my first year here I served as an Americorps member at an alternate high school in town, tutoring and mentoring at risk youth as they finished up their diplomas. It was by far the most rewarding job I ever had and I fell in love with the field of education. I am student teaching at Bartlett High currently and while it has been a great experience I’m finding classroom management to be the most difficult part. So naturally I am excited about this class and I hope I can learn some valuable skills. I love Alaska and want to live here for many years but I’d like to move somewhere more rural (maybe the bush?) when I search for my first teaching job. Anchorage feels more and more congested the longer I live here and the more I get out to explore this great state.

In my free time I love to get outside, hiking, backpacking, skiing, and mountaineering. I try to get out on some adventure as often as possible, whether its a day hike or a week  long backcountry trek. I’m looking forward to getting involved with Bartlett’s outdoor adventure club, hopefully I can share my love of nature with some of our students.