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August 23rd , 2009 From Linda The Math Coach
This Week’s Theme:
Classroom Management: You Create The Environment.
The Honeymoon Doesn’t Last Forever In fact, the honeymoon rarely lasts more than two days. Usually by the time you pass out that first pretest, the worms crawl out of the woodwork and start to test the water. They want to know where you stand, how firmly you stand there, and whether they can move you to stand somewhere else. So where do you stand on classroom management? If you are a new teacher, you may not be sure where you stand. If you’re listening to the teacher lounge discussion around you, you’re likely to hear lots of advice. “Don’t smile until Christmas.” “Make an example early on.” “Call parents.” “Put them out.” “Take away bathroom breaks, recess, passing time, etc.” There are plenty of suggestions flying around for how you can establish yourself as the boss and how to get “control” of your class. But is that the role you want to play, and do you really want to control your students? There may be some days where all you want is quiet students sitting in desks listening attentively. But there is so much more to learning than this. Relevant, rigorous, engaging instruction is not going to happen in an environment where the teacher is a controlling boss. Fear of authority doesn’t cut it. Your students need you to be a leader, facilitator, coach, and model of thinking and learning. You have to gain their attention, respect, and trust in order to move beyond compliance and on toward cooperation. Teaching and learning require an environment of collaborative cooperation. So, what about order and rules and procedures? You don’t want to be a pushover, do you? Of course not. There is one thing you must keep in your mind and at the base of everything you do and say in the classroom. Stay focused on why you want to be a teacher. You love learning. You love inspiring others to learn. You want to make a difference. Is that easy
when students don’t share your vision? When they flat out don’t care? did you expect it would be? Here in lies the challenge and the fun!
No it isn’t, but
How do you make difference when they won’t stop talking to listen? You have to be the difference. You have to think, talk, and do differently than the norm around you. Instead of focusing on worn out rules and elaborate systems of “interventions” and escalating “consequences,” focus on what you want students to do. Tell them what you want them to learn and what the consequences will be when they learn. Find out what motivates them, what makes them tick as individuals. We’re not talking just candy and pizza parties. Dig more deeply. What inspires them? What are their big dreams? Put opportunities out before them to create dreams. Play to their positive emotions to get positive results.
Get Real. You might be thinking that this won’t work. They’ll think you are a pushover. Your crowd is too rough and rowdy. Have you tried it? No, really tried it? Tried it and stuck with it until you begin to see results? If you think what you are doing now is working, ask yourself this: How do your students score on tests, any and all? How rigorous are your lessons? Are students engaged in accountable discussion, open ended problem solving, creating and monitoring their own learning strategies? If you are not totally satisfied with how you answered those questions, here are three strategies for you to try in your classroom that will make a difference and gain cooperation rather than mere compliance and set the stage for rigorous learning to take place.
Three Powerful Steps to Create an Engaging Learning Environment
1. Focus on what you expect. Call it the Golden Rule, Karma, Law of Attraction, or whatever you like. It is no secret that you will get more of whatever you give your attention to. Ask any observant parent or teacher, when you say, “Don’t do xyz!”and turn your back, xyz is exactly what will be going on. Sometimes you don’t even have to turn your back! Even if they don’t do xyz, telling people what not to do leaves it wide open for what you do want. Fill it in for them. Identify for yourself what you want students to do. Map out in your mind what you want your classroom to look like and how you want students to act. How should they enter
class? Where should they sit? When and how should they move around, laugh, talk, listen, question, argue, read, write, etc.? What do you want them to learn? What kind of thinking do you want them to experience? How do you want them to study? How do you want them to set learning goals and monitor their own progress? How do you want them to grow intellectually? Then, tell them. Over and over, let students know what your expectations are. Just make sure that your expectations are positively stated. You will know when they are not. Student reaction is your gauge. A negative response is an indication that your expectation was communicated in a negative way. Perhaps the expectation is essentially negative. Stop then and there to clarify for yourself whether that expectation is negative. Does it come from your own negative belief? Maybe you just need to restate it differently. Students need to believe that you are focused on what is best for them. You could waste time by reacting with discipline for a negative student response. You may gain compliance. You know, win the battle lose the war. Why not invest time on clearing away the negative response with positive and productive communication aimed at gaining cooperation?
2. Keep students constantly engaged with meaningful activity. What students call “free time,” is what a DJ calls “dead air.” A master teacher thinks of it as wasted time. There are basically two kinds of wasted time during a typical class period. One is the time that the majority of students experience when they finish before others and are waiting for everybody else to catch up. It happens during teacher guided instruction, group activities, and when transitioning between activities. Another time that is wasted is when the lesson finishes early, or the test is collected ten minutes before the bell, or half the class just got called to an assembly, or pull out, or whatever. You do the math. Five minutes wasted X five days a week X thirty six weeks during a school year is a huge hunk of time! It’s also time for students to get off track and into trouble. Grandma’s favorite caution was something about idleness being a playground for the devil. Don’t put that playground up in your classroom. Turn that “free time” into bonus learning time. Start collecting short sponge activities to use with individuals, groups, and whole class. Create a few learning stations where individuals or groups can get extra practice or enrichment or just engage in puzzle solving or research. Some teachers provide students with pull out individual work that they store in their math notebook. Internet searches reveal a wealth of material that you can quickly put into place for filling up so called free time.
3. Deal with disruption immediately and without interruption. Disruptions do occur. Disgruntled students walk in late. Class clowns perform their latest act. Fights from the neighborhood resurface. The list goes on and on. You can’t ignore them. They don’t go away. Most will escalate. You have to deal with them immediately and without interrupting the flow of the lesson. This is a skill for you to develop!
You can acknowledge some disruptions with a look or a gesture. Sometimes a brief comment stated in a positive assertive tone of voice. Always draw the attention of everyone back to the lesson. Think about this situation. Richard bursts through the door, shoves a desk out of his way, flops into the next seat, and slams down his book while cursing under his breath. You might want to yell at Richard or send him right back out. What you do next will make an important statement to your class as to what you are really all about. Are you the boss of the class? Are just a warm body they hired to babysit? Are you the caring, nurturing, adult facilitator of learning? Consider commenting something like, “I’m glad you decided to come to class, Richard. Jump in here and join us when you get refocused.” Then turn your attention back to the lesson. First of all, your students will be surprised if they are expecting you to yell at Richard. Also, they will notice the respect and concern you expressed, and they will know that you place a higher priority upon learning than on classroom “control.” You can’t always control what disruptions occur, but you can control how you react to them. Establish a pattern for reacting in a constructive way. You are the model of how you want students to react. This is the beginning of how you help your students learn to control their own behavior.
Suggested Actions You Can Try This Week 1. Make a detailed list of your expectations for students, including behavior, work, studying, learning strategies, etc. 2. Determine at least two things you can do to support each expectation. 3. Develop a file of sponge activities to fill “dead air” time. (Add to this throughout the year.) 4. Make a list of all the disruptions that take place during a typical class. Determine a positive productive reaction for each kind of disruption. Begin to use these positive reactions.
Have a great week and move closer to mastery of your profession. You’re getting there!
Your Coach, Linda
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COMPLEMENTARY CONSULTATION If you would like additional support through ongoing group coaching and collaboration, contact Linda at www.lindathemathcoach.com/qualification (877) YO LINDA or (816) 739-7923
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Bulletin Board Quotes to Share With Your Students:
On Cooperation: If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative.
We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.
Dr. Martin Luther King
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