Musings of a Young Teacher: Classroom Management, Involving Parents, and Engaging Students
I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. I love learning new things; my thirst for knowledge has always seemingly been unquenched and I have always been excited to share that passion with others. What's more, my love for world cultures and the history of diverse peoples drove me into a career in education.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Melissa T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
I have been teaching 10th grade World History now for seven years in a suburban high school in Fort Worth, Texas. I am truly passionate about education, and although I don't claim to be an expert, I have picked up some valuable pedagogical strategies/tips along the way.
I believe one of the biggest themes across education, no matter the grade, subject, or group of students, is establishing rapport. Perhaps the one thing most new teachers are concerned about is classroom management; however, this becomes a non-issue once relationships have been built and rapport is established. Students need to respect their teacher and classmates and feel safe in the classroom environment; they should also feel valued and cared for. How should teachers go about doing this? Teachers should make a concerted effort to get to know their students: what are their interests, goals, style, etc.; Teachers should stand at the door and greet their students (maybe shake their hand or look them in the eye); teachers should be willing to laugh at themselves and have fun in class with their students. Learning should be fun! If students look forward to your class and know that their teacher cares about them, then students will naturally be more motivated and behavior issues will be mitigated.
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However, there may be times where, despite your efforts to build strong relationships, students are disruptive or disrespectful. How should teachers handle this? Honestly, I believe the teacher needs to consider the context of the misbehavior. More often than not, students are overwhelmed with factors outside of school and outside the teacher's control. Nonetheless, teachers need to maintain control in the classroom and should address this with the student. I find that private conversations are often a better approach than trying to "make an example" of a student in front of the entire class. When having a private conversation with students about misbehavior, teachers should be calm and collected and not let their frustration or anger show. It may be appropriate to "cool off" before addressing the student, but "at the moment" discipline is far more effective. The teacher should approach the student with open-ended questions and allow the student to process what happened, discuss what went wrong, and how we can do better next time. I have sophomores, so I like to treat them like adults. I rationalize with them when discussing poor decisions and this helps build respect between teacher and student as well.
Of course, I am a strong believer in parents being involved in the learning process. Parents can be your greatest supporter and parents need to understand your classroom expectations so they can reinforce that at home. I have found that more often than not, parents are more apt to be on the teachers "side" if they are kept well informed. Parents should be assured that the teacher has the student's best interest at heart (as do the parents) and that you should both work as a team to help the student. Invite parents into the learning process! They likely want to help their child get better and will, therefore, be motivated to help reinforce what is going on in the classroom in the home as well. I like to send out monthly newsletters with our class agenda; I also like to send home positive notes and let parents know their child's progress.
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Finally, engaging students is a key part of the learning process. The teacher should be patient and positive. The teacher should create lessons that allow students to explore and develop at their own pace, yet challenge them and support their creativity. Class discussions, debates, mock trials, simulations, games, and activities should be used widely. Student-centered classrooms are far more effective and therefore the teacher should only control the lesson insofar as it is necessary. Teachers should also be positive and provide constructive feedback that boots students' confidence and abilities but also encourages improvement in weak areas.
Certainly, I have more to learn about pedagogy, and my time in the classroom is not over. I am thankful for this online TEFL program so that I may expand my professional abilities and look forward to future opportunities in working with ESL students. While I am familiar with the "teaching" aspects of this course (given my background), I did learn a lot on how to approach teaching the English Language and appropriate lesson strategies for English Language Learners. I am excited to work with students motivated to learn a new language and hope that by being a part of their English learning journey, they will find more success, opportunity, and confidence in the world.
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