I dislike being forced to sit through a class lecture or presentation where the presenter is obviously unprepared. Whatever the reason they decided not to prepare, the truth is, many of the presentations we saw this fall were marginally prepared if at all. Presenter must do more than read slides and ask questions. If a presenter does nothing except read slides and ask questions I am inclined to busy my mind with something more enriching like my 8-times tables or the contemplate the essence of cultural uses of the Cor Anglais between the St Petersburg and Paris schools displayed in Tchaikovsky and Debussy songs of the late 19th century. Yikes! Preparation is key to setting the tone for the entire lesson, unit, semester and year. Part of this preparation is what is done before school starts. Building community with students is the cornerstone of CM and will be the overarching goal in preparing before school. (Alber, 2011) This endeavor will include organizing and preparing the physical space, laying the foundation for strong teacher/student relationships and preparing rules, procedures, and academic expectations to be discussed and finalized with the students on the first day of school. Figure 1 is a 3D version of a cartoon classroom. While it would be nice for the first day of school, the chairs would likely need to be a little taller for the HS student.
Safety will always be the first priority in teaching and learning. At times, when dangerous activities are required, all risks will be mitigated to the highest degree and agreed upon by parents and guardians. If a student wishes to opt out I will have other means for them to earn the point load.
A clean, organized and uncluttered classroom (as shown in Figure 1 above) will give the students an indication of how they can expect the year to go. The horseshoe setup may control but will allow for maximum discussion, represented here in figure 2. Changes for collaborative work will be necessary but will be pre-positioned to a large extent to minimize time spent moving furniture and maximize discovery, instruction, and group time. Group areas will be easily setup. Seating choices are often a subject of some consternation among students. The mission should be to learn. If the class can accomplish mission without leaving anyone behind, then seating should be by choice. If behavioral issue arise assigned seating might be the most unobtrusive way to mitigate the problem. The walls will eventually be covered with posters and graphic organizers. Someone always uses permanent marker on the white board. Damage to furniture or fixtures always happens but none of these should not be evident at the beginning of school. The hallways approaching the classroom should reflect the classroom environment. They will be decorated throughout the year but should be clean and clear to start in the fall as shown in figure 3. The school, the hallway, and of course, my classroom will be prepared for the work that will be done there.
Electronic and analog tools are important as well and should be in good working order before the first day of school. It is critical in any endeavor to have the necessary tools available to perform the activity. The classroom is the central tool of formal education for students. The average high school classroom seems to give a slightly cluttered appearance as the tools available have increased since junior high or even the previous year. For some students, this environment isn’t the most ideal, but the teacher must strive to maintain organization and limit clutter. If clutter exists it should have a purpose. Technology has increased greatly over the past four decades. Every student, regardless of location, should be afforded the opportunity, not only to learn, with these tools but also use these tools to open their world to present and future possibilities. Tools should be used but always put away for the next usage. Figure 4 is an example of what happens when tools are used but not put away. This SHOULD NOT be found in any HS classroom. Electronic tools seem to have more pitfalls than mechanical ones, therefore, the teacher must mitigate these pitfalls having a “plan b’ in the event the electronic failures. Consistent tool failure cannot be tolerated as the norm, but appropriate use and consistent maintenance must be the culture.
Stakeholders in these environments are likewise different in their view of formal education and their level of investment and involvement in the student’s learning. Laying the foundation for strong teacher/student relationships is a “must do’ before the school year begins. A note to parents/students builds a strong bridge and send a message of accountability. Recently, a point was made by an experience administrator/educator that some teachers detest having parental involvement. The community, parents, teachers, and administrative involvement and positions must be seen as positive, effectual, and influential to support student learning. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the importance of these groups and individuals to the profitability of formal education. Seldom can a group of people, with variety of cultural and belief systems come together to accomplish a goal. This group of people should have the students’ formal education as its common and highest goal. All deference and support should be given to parents who desire a quality educational experience for their child. Naturally, there will be times and situations the parents don’t want to be involved. The teacher must encourage the parents to engage their child and provide a home or other non-school environment to support formal learning and incorporate it into home, community, and cultural learning. The community must make every effort to accept student led projects and support them logistically and financially. Administrators must be creative in combining school and community; they should seek differentiated instruction and student opportunities for involvement in community solutions were community leaders may assume or be hesitant about including students in extra-curricular community activities.
Rules and Procedures
The most obvious aspects of effective classroom management are classroom rules and procedures. Rules and procedures convey the message that “my primary mission is to present information and your mission is to learn.’ (Marzano, 2005) They give students the structure and framework necessary to help them feel the classroom is a safe and predictable place. Based on the student handbook, the rules for my class will be agreed upon by all and posted in a prominent place. A student’s self-image as a learner or “grasper’ of concepts taught in class has to be, at least, adequate for the student to accel in that subject. In my own experience, I find safety and predictability to be of utmost importance. Having an atmosphere in which to learn is a major part of why I did so poorly in HS. I believe all students have a desire to learn and be acceptable to the groups they find themselves in but a large portion of them were taught at home or have chosen to accept the rules that have been laid out for them by other teachers and classes.
Typical rules and procedures hinge on the age and maturity level or developmental point which the class or student has attained. A great example from the text is one where the author has several listings from various grades. These rules increase in complexity but decrease in number as the student matures and can be accountable for ever-increasing responsibility as is seen in here in figure 5.
Disciplinary events must and will be a last resort to correct behavioral or other problems in the classroom. In observation this semester I encountered one student who refused to be a part of the class and even threaten the teacher’s life. The village can be a very violent place but keeping cool and managing the situation accordingly will conclude positively. Much has been said and written about administrative involvement in classroom discipline. I will attempt to deal with challenges first and resort to administrative help when I no longer believe I can teach and handle the behavioral challenge.
Sometimes problem students, if their self-image is important to them, will take on appropriate self-discipline if they have a visual reminder of behavioral/educational rules from the past. Rules and procedure will be agreed upon at the beginning of the year by everyone so that consistency will rule over impulse. In the likely event new rules must be put into place, they too, will be agreed upon.
As has been a common theme, safety must be the first priority in the classroom. It requires diligence to maintain safety standards and safe operations. The classroom should be organized for ease of movt and interaction. The teacher should be able to move to any location in the room without touching students. Distraction are not usually safety issues but doing away with distractions will help the learning process. Classroom arrangement should be according to OSHA standards to ensure legal compliance. My class will be arranged so that resources needed will be available. Dividing attention between students must be kept to a minimum.
The teacher should not turn away from students unless absolutely necessary as is shown in figure 6.
Mirrors in the classroom can aid in encouraging responsible behavior. On days that are particularly busy, having students write on the board will enable me to keep my eye on the class. If I model respect for student safety, then that respect will become a classroom norm. (Duesenberry, 2012)
When there is any doubt about what legal issues there may exist, the student handbook, administration, or state guidance must be adhered to. There will be times with every class that students will push the limits of behavior and acceptable responsibility. As a normal practice student issues should be dealt with in the classroom. However, whenever disruptive behavior severely threatens the physical or emotional well-being of the teacher or other children in the class, the disruptive child should be removed from the class. (Duke, 1978)
Student Diversity – Cultural
Culture, as acceptable or encouraged behavior in every facet of life, can be specific to a region or even a village. More and more, teachers need to be inclusive of cultural differences, finding common ground and effective methods to encourage cultural differences while teaching non-cultural or acultural material. Often in my visits to Native Alaskan villages I have noticed, in large group settings, children are permitted to exit and enter the event location freely. While some would view this as less than ideal it is nonetheless acceptable in those villages. Teachers must incorporate culture into the learning environment. In the past classroom leaders demanded stillness and quiet. This practice is not consistent with present-day life or educational norms in some villages. Present practice has shown what used to be perceived as behavior, disrespectful to teacher and fellow students, is now viewed as learning support. (Vita, 2001) Good order and discipline can include learning support activities such as quiet talking between students or what is perceived as confusion by the onlooker. The intentional disrupting of group or individual learning activities should not be tolerated but there exists a line the teacher must discover between cultural norms and a blatant attempt to disrupt. It must be assumed every culture and environment is different and should be observed and analyzed before hard and fast assumptions and conclusions can be drawn.
Student Diversity — Special Needs
Attitudes toward classroom inclusion of special needs student are varied and sometimes hostile. Most often, as seen in the Avramidis study, teachers who have more experience in this endeavor tend to have a more positive outlook on the additional effort and effects for the class and the special needs students. (Avramidis, 2000) Students will see and work with an ever-increasing amount of special needs people in their lifetime as has been my own experience. Moving past the need to include and seeing the unique set of abilities or benefits each person holds will aid in the students view of common human talents and rights therefore transferring these views to their work, recreational and personal environments.
Planning and Conducting Instruction
Just as every person has unique fingerprints, everyone also has unique learning style(s); curriculum should be flexible enough to cover the necessary details but in a manner to accommodate the greatest amount of student learning styles. At all times, the teacher must take all possible measures to ensure each student is learning the most they possibly can using whatever teaching style in the best possible way. While individual work is paramount to individual success, group work is the favorite of many as the responsibility for work is shared by many but also the burden of creativity is not as heavy on the individual but spread over the group. This collaborative learning can cause or require more work and creativity for the teacher. As well, the nonfoundational understanding of knowledge will likely meet with some resistance before it is understood institutionally. (Bruffee, 1993)
Also, individual strengths can be used to a greater degree in making the group learning experience more intense and rewarding. Group work is difficult to assess from the teacher perspective but if the class is growing through this method the teacher must find a way to set aside their individual likes/dislikes and beliefs, and support this kind of learning. Individual learning also takes place in the group setting when those who are weak in a specific area observe someone who are strong in that area. These learning events cannot be exploited to maximum student benefit unless the teacher is willing to work outside their comfort zone or within these confines to support group work.
Collaborative, place-based, personalized and differentiated instruction are all key to village application. Collaborative is as well but considering the small size of most village HS, there may be a problem with having too few students to make the collaboration effective. Regardless, they are key to any educational approach in formal schooling, but many disagree. “…it wasn’t done that way in the past’ is a true statement but is it a legitimate argument to hold when these instructional approaches never had the opportunity to be analyzed and tested? Often aspects of that argument are not holding the goal of student education sacred. Again, I desire to have a classroom full of students that understand their place in their culture and environment and how they must progress as they mature to hold increasingly more responsibility for that culture and environment.
Entrance and exit tickets are a great method for teaching peripherals or essential unit items simultaneously. The YouTube video on the Edutopia website showing tricks of the trade is an excellent example for including handshake etiquette into an entrance ticket. (McClendon, 2010) This video is available in the bibliography section. I had not heard of these but will utilize them to ensure my students learn the “adult society’ side of history and make the inter-personal relationship connection. They will “graduate’ from my class being socially comfortable.
In summary, I have offered my philosophy of education as well as my CM plan. While feelings don’t educate the human being, feeling safe in an educational environment multiplies the effectiveness of all parties toward the educational goal. Preparation will set the tone for a quality environment and eliminate many problems associated with poor instruction or lack of attentiveness. Expectations voiced, written, and agreed upon with students will be the foundation to begin instruction. Rules and procedures will lay the ground work for interpersonal respect and student/teacher expectations. Safety will be paramount in all aspects of my classroom and the learning environment overall. Legal requirements in both student and teacher handbook will be adhered to so that both student and teacher will be comfortable to seek learning goals. Any change or exception to the code by the district will be covered in writing from the principal to all concerned stakeholders. As I am anticipating serving in a village, the likely demographic variation will be a white male teacher with mostly Alaska native students. Having spent some time in the village I realize the environment is different and priorities can sometimes appear odd or taking focus away from education. This focus will be a challenge, but I will seek to differentiate instruction to include the priority of the culture and not force educational requirements at the wrong time. Special needs students might be a challenge for fellow classmates, but I welcome the opportunity to include them in critical aspects of learning and instruction. Conducting instruction will require the lion’s share of time but as with classroom preparation before school, if good lesson prep is accomplished then good instruction and quality learning have an opportunity to flourish.
As with any public endeavor the people make the difference. Key stakeholders must be engaged in this long-term endeavor if it is to be successful. The village mentality or culture and indeed, reality are much different than the tolerant society we live in, even in Fairbanks. The difficulty comes when the lack of toleration isn’t consistent. Domestic violence and sexual abuse are rampant with no solution in sight. Prosecution of perpetrators is difficult as they are from the same, very small, village or even family and the witnesses or family members won’t testify against them. Students who live in this environment don’t have a means of escape. The school, and more specifically, my class, will be a safe place for them to leave violence and cultural distractions behind and focus on learning.
Within this CM plan are some of the keys to quality education. Certainly, there are many more and to assert or believe this will be the best way to proceed is arrogant. With the ever-increasing requirements put on secondary education and the challenges of cultural diversity and sensitivity, I believe teachers in general and me specifically, can be successful understanding and following these significant guidelines. While I have left out some obvious traits like never being late, with a healthy dose of withitness, anyone using this plan, including me, will be able to “get with it.’