In this post, I will be reflecting on the following four ideals as proposed by Teach for America in Chapter Five of the text, Classroom Management & Culture (2011):
How are these ideals a part of my life already? Where do I consider myself to need improvement, and where do I feel comfortable? How might they look in my own classroom? What steps might I need to go through to develop these ideals?
Students cannot read your mind, even if it feels as if they can. No, but they can read your body language, recognize your facial expressions, and most definitely hear your tone of voice; all of these components play on the perceptions students create of how you, the teacher, think about them as students. Keeping in mind that you are always trying to model the behavior you want to see can be extremely difficult. In other words, maintaining a professional and respectful disposition at all times in the classroom will reflect back unto your students. In terms of tone, I feel that the only thing I have on lock is raising my voice. I never do this: I would consider myself almost always cool, calm, and collected.
However, there are many other aspects of tone to consider, such as sarcasm or speaking condescendingly. For tendencies such as these, I have much practice and careful observation ahead. Code-switching between the adults I see outside of school and the adolescents I work with inside of school is something I need to rehearse. As the article points out, “sarcasm may [easily] hurt students’ feelings, damage self-esteem, or humiliate students in front of others” (60). As it is for many people, sarcasm is a part of my daily discourse with peers that are either my age or older, but for younger individuals it may confuse them where they may mistake your meaning with another. Remaining cognizant of how you are speaking to your students is vital in establishing that communal classroom culture.
Next up is the teacher-student relationship: being able to build strong bonds between your students and yourself – as well as the students with one another. According to the article, “some students… [consider] a teacher's care and concern… [to be] the number one factor that influences their learning” (61). This is not foreign to me. Throughout my own education, teachers’ perceptions of me have been of great interest and concern to the point of extreme worry and anxiety. So, making it clear as day to students that you appreciate all of them – even if they are troublesome or make your life more difficult than it needs to be – and that you want them to succeed is overwhelmingly important to myself.
I do plan to be a part of my students’ lives in the most positive and professional ways possible. I want to support them in their academics and achievements. Whether that is eating lunch with them or attending a variety of student activities such as award ceremonies, plays, concerts, sporting events, and others. All of these are of great interest to me. I would even like to have a role in some things like this – becoming a club sponsor or swim coach or something that fits with my interests.
The last two ideals presented in the chapter, Creating A Community That Values All Student and Helping Students Resolve Conflicts are the two that I think will be the most difficult for myself. I mean, I don’t think I will struggle with them in terms of my own personal biases, engaging with and involving all students, teaching tolerance and respect, and effectively responding to insensitivity; but more or less the issue for me will be catering to, working with, and counseling the emotional side of young human beings. I have never been to good at this sort of thing. Deescalating situations, calming people down, talking about problems in people’s lives, etc… These sort of things are the ones I struggle with, not just with adolescents, but with all people. With years of practice I am sure it will come to be a well-developed trait. Only time will tell. Working together with my students to achieve this sense of equal value and respect will be the journey to look forward to.
To sum it all up, here is a nice quote from the text that emphasizes the importance of building community within the classroom:
“The result of all of this hard work is a classroom of students who – because their need to be a part of an inclusive, supportive environment is realized – will feel motivated to learn and work with you to reach ambitious academic goals” (60).