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Part One: The Observation I spent a class period observing Mrs. N, the sheltered English math teacher, then followed up by interviewing her. This particular period, she had Pre-Algebra with a small class of nine level two ELLs with six different L1s. They are an academically strong group despite their limited English proficiency. The class began with the students coming in and immediately seating themselves silently at their desks. They had just been behaving boisterously in the hallway, so this was clearly not a matter of them being naturally reserved individuals. Mrs. N handed out half-sheets with a sixquestion warm-up on them, gave the students brief instructions, then the students silently filled out the papers. As the students finished the warm-up, without being prompted they rose, put the sheets in a pile on the table beside the teacher’s desk, and picked up a brain-teaser activity to work on at their seats. After all students had completed the warm-up, Mrs. N displayed the warm-up on the SmartBoard, and she and the students went through the six questions individually, working them out on the board. The students did not have to raise their hands before asking questions or offering answers, but occasionally Mrs. N called on an individual, generally after that individual had been quiet for a while or seemed somewhat distracted. Next, Mrs. N handed back corrected exams the students had taken the previous day. Students who received a 4 (the highest grade at this building) pinned their tests on the bulletin board. Mrs. N explained to the class that if they’d received a 2 or a 3, they could retake it for a higher grade, and that if they’d received a 0 or a 1, they would be required to do a retake. Then, without prompting, the students who’d be retaking the test pushed their desks into a rectangle.

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Mrs. N worked with the review rectangle while the other students remained at their seats and worked independently on the brainteaser from before. They continued this way until the bell.

Part Two: Analysis of Mrs. N’s Classroom Management If I were to sum up Mrs. N’s classroom management strategy in one word, it’d be “routine.” The students clearly knew precisely what was expected of them at all times, and conformed to it. Mrs. N reinforced the routine through firm but not aggressive voice tone while giving instructions, which she did not have to do often, as the students were able to anticipate the procedures. Mrs. N has made a conscious choice to build her classroom around a set of routine procedures. During the follow-up interview, she told me that most days follow the same pattern – a warm-up of questions taken from MAP testing results, correcting the previous day’s assignment, presenting the students with the day’s goal and any new instruction, then independent or group practice. She stated that she believed the three fundamentals of classroom management were routine, structure and clear consequences – any of these can be altered to fit the needs of individual students, situations or lessons, but that the framework needs to be in place both in the interest of fairness to the students and to allow effective teaching and behavior management. For example, she said that with this particular class, she had removed her usual policy of requiring hand-raising before speaking and asking permission before leaving seats, as it was a small group of amiable, hard-working kids who got along well with one another. Mrs. N said that it took her years to work out which routines and structures would be consistently effective, and that she worked this out primarily by trial and error – implementing a procedure, observing the results, then keeping it, modifying it, or discarding it depending on the results.

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While I am, of course, working from limited information, it appears that Mrs. N’s classroom management style produces desirable results. The students’ behavior was largely selfdirected within the provided framework – for example, Mrs. N did not have to prompt them to follow routines such as handing in their warm-ups or getting into a review rectangle; presumably this was due to clear procedures practiced to automaticity since the beginning of the school year. The instructional time was maximized – there was essentially no down-time whatsoever, as they transitioned seamlessly into the lesson and between activities, staying on-task the entire time. The student’s demeanor also had several unambiguously positive attributes – students who received high test scores were clearly pleased and proud to display their work, but did not brag or rub it in, and those who didn’t were visibly disappointed, but willing to work with Mrs. N to correct their mistakes and try again. The pace of the lesson was superb, allowing all students to work at a rate comfortable to them; this doubtless prevented students from becoming frustrated unto giving up if they were initially unsuccessful, and also prevented more advanced students from becoming bored and disengaged. The students also provided instructional support for one another – when Mrs. N was otherwise occupied, students were happy to jump in and answer each other’s questions about the assignment. Based on my observation, it’s unclear whether Mrs. N had deliberately fostered this cooperation, if it was a side effect of having a peaceful, orderly classroom environment, or if it was a result of the students’ natural temperaments; I suspect a combination of the three. All in all, Mrs. N’s highly structured, consistent classroom management style appears to be very effective in meeting the needs of early adolescent English language learners; it is developmentally appropriate to provide reasonable, firm boundaries. Personally, I might be slightly concerned that the level of regimentation could stifle Dewey-style intellectual

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exploration, but perhaps an extremely harmonious, peaceful, efficient classroom is worth this trade-off; it’s certainly true that if the classroom were chaotic and/or hostile, intellectual exploration could definitely not occur.

Part Three: Implications for My Own Classroom Management I believe that the two greatest lessons I can take from Mrs. N’s classroom management are the efficacy of routine procedures, and the value of reflective practice. Her routines were clearly highly effective both at making the best use of instructional time – something that is particularly important for ELLs, to prevent them from falling behind their native English speaker peers – and at maintaining the sort of calm, orderly environment in which the students can feel at ease, and focus on learning rather than adolescent drama. Also, it is clear that her willingness to tailor her routines to the needs of specific students and classes is particularly valuable, as is her process of experimentation, self-evaluation and self-correction to work out which techniques are effective and which are not. I will definitely take both these success factors to heart in my own classroom. However, I believe my personality and my content areas require a slightly different overall approach. As a Language Arts teacher, I am responsible for helping students develop the ability to use language in hugely varied ways, and as a Social Studies teacher, I am responsible for developing in students wide variety of information gathering and interpreting skillsets and a vast store of knowledge. Thus, the instructional activities I do cannot be as consistent day-to-day as they are in Mrs. N’s class, which has a much narrower content focus. And, to be honest, I become bored very quickly; having each day look so similar to the previous one would quickly become tedious rather than reassuring for me, which might make it difficult for me to keep up

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my own motivation level, which wouldn’t be good for students. Also, I have found that highinterest materials and instructional activities serve as a form of classroom management in and of themselves – when students are interested, curious and engaged, their behavior is generally unimpeachable. Clearly, in my own classroom I need to mix things up more than Mrs. N does. Also, I think Mrs. N understated the importance of relationships in classroom management in our interview, both in general and in her own practice. She clearly got along well with the students and knew them as individuals; it was evident in how comfortably they interacted with one another, with gentle joking and zero confrontation. And her belief in treating students fairly doubtless contributes to the way they reciprocate by treating her and one another respectfully. I suspect that without this component, Mrs. N’s structure and routine would fall flat – she would be perceived as a martinet rather than as a fair-minded person who fosters harmony and order. I personally find that my classroom functions much better when I have established personal connections with students, for example by dialogue journals, family collaboration, and by frequently positively interacting with students in more relaxed settings such as extracurricular activities and tutoring. So, in conclusion, I intend to use structure and procedure strategically without being a slave to it – I will use to maximize instructional time by making daily routines, such as entering the room, distributing materials, and getting into groups efficient and predictable. I will increase student motivation and engagement, and thus improve their classroom behavior, by using highinterest materials and lessons, and by building mutually positive relationships. I will prevent and deal with behavioral transgressions fairly and consistently by following pre-established procedures and implementing pre-established consequences. I will engage in frequent selfreflection about my own practices, and require that students do the same, following my model to

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analyzing the effects their own choices have on their individual academic progress and on the classroom environment as a whole. I have learned a lot from watching and interviewing a skilled classroom manager, but I must make my classroom management style my own if it is to be effective for me.

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