Archive for the 'First Year in the Classroom' Category

Six Tips for Classroom Management

classroom managementBy Nick Rocha – One of the most important aspects of the teaching profession involves effective classroom management skills.  After teachers plan out their lessons and curriculum, being able to properly implement the lesson within a classroom is crucial for engaged learning and to minimize disruptions.  Dave Foley, a retired teacher and counselor from Michigan, suggests six tips for classroom management.

  1. Take charge of your class: Before you start the lesson, make sure that you have everyone’s full attention and everyone is in their seats.
  2. Focus on disruptive students: Make sure to address instances of disruption through either non-verbal communication, pausing while giving a lecture, or specifically calling out the student’s name in class to answer questions or to give their opinion.
  3. Let students choose their seats: Dave argues that allowing students to decide on their own seating arrangement gives them “ownership” of their spot and often encourages students to behave well so that they do not get moved.
  4. Give incentives to do their best on assignments: Sometimes assignments are either not graded or collected from the students. One strategy is to tell the class that all of the activities will be collected and one response will be randomly selected to be evaluated on the board.  If the response is well done, the teacher can give incentives such as smaller warm-up assignments.
  5. Keep an eye on your students: When you are teaching, make sure that you are in visible site with all of your students within the classroom. This allows you to make eye contact with all of your students and address concerns before they become disruptions.  Another recommendation is to vary your position in the room when you teach.
  6. Establish consequences for misbehaving: It is important to explain expectations and consequences of actions in the early days of class. One tactic is to write a student’s name down on the board if they are misbehaving and mention that if they do well for the rest of the class, they name will be erased from the board.  A consequence of having the name on the board could be staying after class.  Dave recommends that teachers should follow up with their consequences of misbehavior to show students that you are serious and as a result they will be serious with you.

New Year, New Role

13965306323_217afc85c3_oBy Shannon Bentley –  Happy belated holidays, readers, and Happy New Years!

It has been a long time since I have written a blog and, trust me, I have missed the tiny steps and taps of the black and white keyboard. Since the end of November, I have been diligently working as the new 10th grade English teacher at Washington High School. The transition has been a bumpy road, but I am surviving the teenage battlefields of hormones, cliques, dominance, and identities. I am embarking on an endless journey trying to discover my own teaching techniques and my identity as a teacher. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the students.

Final exams are coming, which means that the first semester is almost over! My workload consists of figuring out how to motivate my students in their learning experiences. They’re currently reading the novel “Night” by Elie Wiesel, and the book caught some of the students’ interests, but left a drag in the rest. The students cannot identify themselves with “Night.” Even though the Holocaust did create cruel outcomes for millions of Jewish people, the students chose to ignore the cruel outcomes. My co-teacher and I tried to give mini explanations on Syria and countries in Africa. Unfortunately, the students have a strong belief that the Holocaust will never affect them.

Therefore, my co-teacher and I began to orchestrate a number of possibilities that we could turn in to empowering unit plans. We took in to account our students identities. The first key to creating unit plans is knowing what your students might be interested in learning. The past three weeks that I have been with my students, I have come to understand that they are from low socioeconomic backgrounds, most of the students know someone who has died through violence and/or went to jail, the students love to create raps, and they also love to talk about sports. We took those interests and created ideas.

We came up with unit plans as monthly themes so that the students are not stuck on one topic for more than 4 weeks. These topics consist of research on their identity as black youth such as the Black Lives Matter movement, black women’s hair, sports, employment, education, etc. We also thought of doing slam poetry, teaching Shakespeare’s Othello, along with a follow-up unit of film adaptations of the classical play. Will these ideas interest all of the students? Probably not. However, as a teacher, you have to start somewhere, especially when you want your students to learn the necessary reading and writing skills.

It is important to always reach the students based on their interests. We have seen classrooms on the news more successful in that aspect. My co-teacher and I will test our ideas and put them to work, along with changing our techniques when teaching the information to the students.  It is a bumpy road, but I am willing to learn and be dedicated. It is like one of my education professors at Marquette said: “If you quit after your first year, how do you know that you learned?”

Rethinking Black History Month

black-history-monthBy Elizabeth Turco — February is one of the most important months.

It signifies love, through Valentine’s Day.  It shows presidential spirit with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln celebrating birthdays and the annual celebration of Presidents Day. The Super Bowl happens in this month. It is the strange month with the extra day every four years. It gives hope as it is the first month where winter starts its end. Of all the things that make February great, however, there is one over which I am torn: Black History Month.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love celebrating African American culture and historical importance, especially in the classroom. I like that the culture gets a chance to celebrate and be emphasized instead of simply being forgotten and passed over.

However, I do not like the hidden message that the notion of Black History Month sends.

The tradition of Black History Month spans almost ninety years. Ninety years ago, America was at its peak of racism. Reconstruction movements were completely ended and all but forgotten about. The Civil Rights Movement had not yet started. What started as Black History Week was an attempt to emphasize and celebrate an oppressed culture. Sixty years later, as a part of the Civil Rights Movement, this celebration was lengthened to the entire month of February. African Americans had their chance to become better recognized and appreciated across the nation.

As a history teacher I was met with a mental conflict about how to approach this month. Should I go out of my way to teach the African American influence in history? Should I just keep going on as scheduled? I was uncertain of where to find the balance.

My semester curriculum includes African American history. To only cover it in depth in February would be impossible. The African American influence in history is just as significant as the white influence. To only tell a one sided story, regardless of the side, would be an incomplete picture. Racial tensions have marked this nation from the very beginning and white and African American relations are a constant.

To have one month set aside for the celebration of one culture, regardless of which one it is, to me, is wrong. While it is good to embrace diversity and learn more about others, it is bad to set them apart so strongly. Continuing Black History Month only continues segregation.

To have one month for African American history would imply that all eleven other months are for white history. African Americans represent more than 1/12 of American history. This also poses the question: African Americans get their own month, should every culture get their own month? While there are months for different heritages, they are not as well-known as Black History month, even though their history is important, too.  While the history of America is full of black and white racial issues, there are a variety of other races involved too. Dividing history by the race of the people participating in it only continues the separation between races, instead of bringing them closer together.

The Curse of the Inspirational Teacher Movie

Inspirational-Teacher-moviesBy Elizabeth Turco — With my student teaching right around the corner, I have been preparing long and hard.

No, I have not been rereading all my education books from the last few years, nor have I been looking back through my old notes. I have been doing what I imagine all prospective teachers are doing to get excited for teaching: watching inspirational teacher movies. 

These movies are great and all follow the same equation: young naïve teacher + urban school + dedication and enthusiasm – life problems = success in the classroom. Everyone wins. Everyone lives happily ever after.

In the midst of friendship and fuzzy feelings, however, is an unsettling plot element. In every inspirational teacher movie, there is always at least one old and jaded teacher, who disagrees with every innovative and engaging activity that the new teacher brings to the classroom. These teachers are shown as the mean and uppity antagonist—and are more preoccupied with making their job easier than benefiting the students. They oppose all the new and innovative teaching techniques that these new teachers bring to the table.  They are exactly how society perceives old teachers.

As a new teacher it makes me worry. Having the old teachers as a road block for success is troublesome. Weren’t those teachers once young and eager for success? What has happened to them to make them so negative and jaded? The more I watch these movies, the more I fear for myself, turning into this creature, one who hates students and longs for the beloved school vacations.

Especially as a new teacher, I worry of encountering the many problems in education, but having no positive role models to turn to, thus making myself an army of one. Can I handle these teachers like in those movies? In addition to showing the greatness that teaching can have, these movies also show teaching at its worst. These movies tell me that my effective teaching time is on a countdown. Eventually, I will become just like the crabby old teachers, ineffective and uncaring. The pressure of student difficulties will overwhelm my high hopes, enthusiasm, and pizazz, therefore destroying me.

This simple stereotype of old teachers cannot be true. Do years of experience count for nothing? In my own experiences, I have encountered my fair share of wonderful older teachers and incapable new teachers. These movies show youth as the key to educational success, but is that really true? To become an expert in something, you have to do it over and over again, for years. One does not simply walk into a classroom and make an infinite amount of impact with no prior knowledge of how to do it. While these inspirational teacher movies are heartwarming and give hope to all new teachers, they do not give justice to experience.

Juggling Your Responsibilities

images (4)By Matthew Olinski — I wanted to let everyone know of my talent: I’m a juggler.

No, not that kind of juggler. I don’t have 3 chainsaws whirling past me or even 3 brightly colored balls, apples, etc, although I have tried in the past.  What I am referring to is a very practical skill that all educators, and quite honestly, most people have to do in their careers.  I will admit in some ways, I have it a little easier than others.  I have to juggle my career, my family, and my hobbies.  Luckily, I have recently taken graduate classes out of the juggling act.  In that sub category of career, there are also several other items to juggle at the same time.

There are quite a few demands placed on people who wish to be successful in their careers.  There is the time demanded to make quality lessons. I am always revamping my lessons.  I have tried to use more technology, different technology, more focus on students presenting.  There are committees to serve on, activities to supervise, and meetings to attend.  This is a well balanced act.

New teachers have a lot of energy, a lot of ambition, and sometimes — often being single –they have more time to divide up these activities with.  This is great.  But, be careful.  There is a steep learning curve in the education field.  One of the reasons why I wanted to go into education was to share my knowledge, not just in the classroom, but in extracurricular activities I was experienced in as well.

I remember my first year of teaching, when I would get done with cross country practice after 5:30 or so, and then have to make sure my plans were set for the next day, and then try to eat something healthy.  That routine continued throughout the year as I volunteered to be in charge of another club and then a track coach in the spring.  It was a whirlwind of a school year. I enjoyed the connections I made that year. I was even taught how to ride a BMX bike by another teacher friend of mine, Jamie Licht, and several students. Graduate school was the last thing on my mind at the time.

Life has changed quite a bit since that first year.  I am active as a WIAA football official, I’m married now, and I’ve got a young daughter.  I have seen my role change in the school as well.  It is a matter of balancing out what activities are absolutely necessary and which another teacher can share their time and energy level in.  I feel that if I am not able to give my maximum effort, the students are getting cheated.  So, I had to adjust the parts of my life that I was juggling as I went.

As we approach a new school year, there will be many new teachers entering into a classroom.  There are going to be a lot of people asking you to volunteer for or coach an activity.  That is a reason why many people get into this field in the first place.

I say: good luck and congratulations.  Just be careful in how much you commit yourself to.  It can be overwhelming to some people.  Remember that your primary role is an educator. If that part of your career begins to suffer, the extracurricular activities might be available either.

Mid-Year Challenges: Introducing New Students Into the Classroom

BePreparedBy Dana Berens — After having a three-week (spring) break, getting back into the swing of the classroom was tough!

While it made me appreciate the calendar set up of a year round school, it also surprised me how long three weeks was. While it was fantastic prep time, the one thing I could not prep for was the new students waiting for me.

I know, and have heard constantly in my four years at Marquette, that as educators we need to constantly expect the unexpected. Always be on our toes. Stay spontaneous.

I had considered the possibility of one new student joining the classroom after break…but when I found out that there would be three, it blew my mind.

Three more copies of the already planned week needed to be run off. Three more folders needed to be prepped for homework. Three more students need to be tested and assessed to decide which differentiated group they should be in. three new personalities and behaviors to blend into an environment. It is a lot, and one more reality check of being in the classroom.

What seemed to be a stressful situation, at first, shortly became a great experience. Not only was I tested in my preparation and organization, but I was also given the experience to introduce and integrate new students into the classroom. In addition, I was able to observe my students as they took on peer leadership roles. They offered to show students which stations to work at, where to get materials, where to sit at lunch, and played with them at recess.

It was a breath of fresh air to see my students, who can be quick to be feisty, remain calm and take on mentoring roles for the newcomers. Seeing my student’s kindness and maturity is another silver lining to hold on to for those days where 4:00 cannot come soon enough.

Student Teaching: Defining the Lines Between Teacher and Friend

Teacher-Salary-Math-ChalkboardBy Dana Berens — In many classes at Marquette, we learn that one of the most important traits for being a good teacher is to have unconditional positive regard for all students.

We also learn to be a custodian of knowledge, a content expert, and a guide through the information we are bringing to or providing for our students. As a student teacher, I have significantly less experience in these three areas than my cooperating teacher. I also have significantly less experience at navigating the difficult boundary between friend and teacher.

One obstacle is creating a trusting emotional relationship with students. From my experiences at day camps, day cares, and babysitting, I can establish relationships with children well. But these settings provide for a more playful authoritative relationship. At school, I still need to maintain a professional relationship while showing that I still care.

My first graders often tell me things like: “you are my friend,” “ I love that we are best friends,” and “you are so nice to me!”

I always tell them that it is nice being their friend too and getting to know them, but wonder if this will make discipline more difficult.

A second obstacle I face, being a young teacher, is that so many students in the MPS system have siblings around my age. They know how to make me laugh, know how to look up to me as an adult, but also how to flip the attitude switch on. When this happens, I can’t help but feel they do not see me as an adult, and the friendship piece has a part to do with this. While I am able to discipline students, how much does “friendship” with student’s blur the authoritative role, especially for a younger teacher such as myself. I want them to know I care for them, but sometimes cooperating teachers feel I come about this in too casual of a manner.

As a teacher, especially in inner city schools, I think it is fundamental that students know you care, and that you will be a constant in their lives day in and day out. I want them to feel comfortable with me and trust in me. I want them to know I care for their academics, but equally for their well-being.

I feel that establishing this relationship is hard, without coming down to their age once in a while, but is this just a naïve notion? Will it hurt me in the long run in terms of discipline?

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