My philosophy when it comes to classroom management and creating a productive environment is that your management strategies always need to be changing to adapt with the circumstances. I am going on my second year of teaching, and I have found that I have a different approach to classroom management for every single class that I teach. Every group of students has a different dynamic, and your approach to them must be flexible. An approach that works perfectly for one class may not work at all for another class. As a teacher, you must always be willing to change, adapt, and modify your strategies, always trying to stay one step ahead of the students.
A key strategy is to keep the class dynamic enjoyable but manageable. You have to let the students like to come to class instead of dreading it every day. However, you have to find the line at which the class becomes too enjoyable and productivity is threatened. Some classes you may be able to let the students joke and chat more because they are easy to bring back; other classes you have to seriously curtail off-task chitchat because it can spiral out of control quickly. You must always be observing and questioning what is working and what isn’t.
This brings me to my most important management strategy for my philosophy — self observation. As a teacher, I believe that you must always question yourself. Ask yourself if a particular strategy works. If it does not, change it. It is ok to have made a decision that didn’t work.
All of these things will make for better classroom management, which leads to a more productive learning environment.
I’m getting caught up on my blog posts. I apologize this one is so late.
Because I am teaching full time, I was unable to observe a teacher for my first observation, so I observed one of my own classes and wrote about that. It is my biggest class of the day, the 9th & 10th grades and are notorious in the school for being a rather…rowdy bunch. They come into my class right after lunch, and they know that they need to have their binder out. As they’re sitting down, I have their “bell ringer” ready on the board, so they know what to do once their in. This limits their socializing because they know that they need to work once they’re at their seat. Once that activity is done with, I explain to them what we will be doing in class that day, and we move on to the next assignment. I have spent a lot of time on transitions with these students and explaining to them my expectations — no goofing off, no excessive talking, get what they need and start working. Of course there’s always some chatting while they’re getting their things for the next activity, but they know that it can’t be long.
I also try to make transitions as quickly as possible, especially with these students, to give them as little opportunity as possible to get distracted; when they get distracted, it takes a while for me to reign them back in. I keep a close eye on them, especially the chronic disrupters and make sure that they’re doing what they need to be for their transition.
Right after this class I have the same students for 15 minutes of silent reading time that the entire school does. This transition involves them getting their books from their lockers, which are located in that classroom (we have a small school with no hallways). I position myself near the lockers to keep them from having a little party — this invariably happens if I take my eyes off them.
I did not find the article to be very insightful or ground-breaking. It follows the pattern that many other authors have published before — the non-Natives are coming in with their Western education system and are ruining the native youth. While I completely agree with this, and it has been shown to be true by many researchers, educators, and a whole variety of different people, the author of this article does not have any new ideas or solutions — it is just a rehash of what has been said countless times before, usually by non-Natives. Mr. Berg decries the “middle-class non-Natives” who come into the villages to provide all manner of help; however, he is exactly this person whom he is denouncing in his article. From what I gathered through his article, he is one of these “middle-class non-Natives” who is part of the industry of the middle class that make huge money off of providing services in rural Alaska.
I myself come from a different culture, and I know that it is virtually impossible to truly understand a different culture if you have not grown up in it. My father came into the culture over 30 years ago and has spent his entire life since then completely enveloped in it; even still, there are certain aspects he does not understand. Every time I read an article or a book or a paper about how things should be done in the Alaska Native villages, I ask myself, does this person truly understand the culture? Are they a part of it, or have they come in from the outside and are providing suggestions based on their observations? Almost every single time, it’s the latter. (For example, Conflicting Landscapes by Oleksa & Bates is a wonderfully insightful book that is recognized as one of the foremost works about the Natives and their plight in education, but it is still written by non-Natives.)
While Mr. Berg does bring up an excellent point about how the natives need to take control of their own destiny and provide help for themselves from within the community, others here have pointed out that he falls short of suggesting solutions. If truly “a new day is dawning in Alaska,” then how do we deal with it? How do we approach it? Is providing grant money to train new teachers from those communities the answer, like he mentioned is being done right now? This has been tried before, with limited success. So, how can it all be fixed? This is a question that many, many people have asked before, and will continue to ask for a long time. Will the solutions come in time to save the cultures from dying out? We can only hope so.
My apologies — I’m a little late with this post. It’s fun to read everyone’s posts and to see the similarities, and also the little differences within each other’s philosiphies. As for mine…
I expect my middle school and high school students to be responsible in the classroom. I tell them that I trust their common sense and judgement to know what is acceptable and what is not in a classroom — they have been going to school for a long time already, so it’s nothing new. I try to limit how many rules I have spelled out. However, there are some important ones that I let them know I am serious about:
- Always be respectful, polite, and appropriate to your classmates and the teacher. Absolutely no making fun of others.
- Always follow directions and pay attention when teacher is speaking.
- NO unsafe behavior (this is a big one).
- Don’t wear a hat in class. (I have a thing about hats inside.)
Here is an interesting website that talks about techniques to use in an elementary classroom — some of it can be translated to a secondary classroom: https://www.helium.com/items/852226-how-to-instill-positive-discipline-and-effective-classroom-rules
I was born and raised 20 miles east of Homer, AK, at the head of beautiful Kachemak Bay, in the Russian Old Believer community of Voznesenka. I am now teaching Russian language in the villages of Voznesenka, and Kachemak Selo, which is just down the hill on the water. I teach Russian to students who already speak it, so it’s more like teaching Language Arts, but in Russian (it’s called Heritage Language instruction, since the students learned how to speak it at home). I am now one year into the teacher prep program, and am looking forward to another great school year!
Before this, I graduated from UAA with a BA in Russian Language, and then spent four years doing IT for the Kenai Peninsula school district until I started teaching in the fall of 2011. I am extremely fortunate and happy to be teaching in the same school that I graduated from less than 10 years ago.
Here’s a peak at my view on the way to work each day at Kachemak Selo.