I have found in the process of my student teaching that creating an affective learning environment, while imperative for successful classroom management, can be a struggle to produce. Every students’ personalities, needs, and abilities are different from one another and require various forms of assistance from the teacher. In my fourth-grade classroom at Seahurst Elementary in Burien, Washington, I was revealed to this as soon as students stepped into portable P-3.
Standard 5 of the “State 8 Standards” for educators says this: 5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account physical, emotional and intellectual well-being. To me, this reminded me of September Experience. Some of the first tasks my mentor teacher put me to was moving desks around, learning names, creating posters; we were creating a safe and inclusive learning environment for the incoming fourth-graders. All that was left was to wait for the first day of school and start introducing classroom procedures and expectations.
However, the first day of school came and began much differently than expected because my mentor teacher, was ill for the first three days of school. In my classroom management course, we have been learning about how important the first days of school are to establish the learning environment for the year. So, how were we to do that with a substitute teacher? Was this my responsibility?
In a way, yes. I found myself reassuring students that their teacher would return and have expectations for all of them – even if I didn’t know what those expectations would be. I knew about some of my mentor teacher’s intervention strategies, but not enough to introduce them to my students. By the time I had returned from September Experience, my mentor teacher had come back and order was established in the classroom. For the most part, I could see that the students respected her and the expectations set for them (5.4- Managing Student Behavior by Establishing Expectations. Standards of conduct are clear to all students).
Additionally, I noticed how my mentor constantly had an eye on the kids and was aware of every behavior in the room. Sometimes she picked her battles with minor misbehaviors that would be affected more if she intervened and took away from class time – often surprising both me and the students by using pink slips in the middle of a lesson, completely aware of what students were doing in the meantime. The awareness Mrs. Koontz displays with her students is the epitome of what standard 5 represents, specifically 5.5:
- 5.5 Managing Student Behavior by Monitoring- Teacher is alert to student behavior at all times.
Being attentive to your students requires much more of teachers than what I thought of at the beginning of this quarter. Initially, I thought this meant “having eyes on the back of your head”, but it is so much more than that. The ability to be attentive and present with your students mean implementing 5.1 of the state 8 standards:
- 5.1 Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport- Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.
Classroom management has encouraged learning about making connections with students to build relationships and trust. Simply put, students consider feedback and criticism from teachers they respect. This can happen through multiple routes – having a sense of humor with the kids, honesty, consistency in procedures, or even having contact with students’ families for positive and negative updates on individual progress. I have been taught through the lessons and the classroom the importance of these actions to develop rapport, and will attempt to the best of my abilities to establish foundational respect and understanding with my students as I begin to take over the classroom.
Overall, this quarter has been an excellent introduction to the life of an educator. I am fortunate enough to have a mentor teacher who is honest with me about the realities of teaching in a diverse elementary school where 85% of the students have free and reduced lunches, and how the little to no parent involvement or support is expected for a 20-student classroom. The development of a stable learning environment will allow the best performance opportunities for students; through classwork and internship, I have begun to witness the truth in standard 5, and I look forward to continue my internship to watch the development of student progress next quarter with said learning environment established and expanded.
The evidence attached to this post is the interview I had with my mentor teacher at the beginning of the school year for classroom management. One of the most impactful questions I asked her was What management approach works for you? I was very curious for her response because of all the theories and methods we have been learning in our teaching classes and I wanted to see them being reflected into someone in the career. Her answer was very insightful:
“Know and recognize what you are going to do and how you’re going to handle situations. I like having a positive reward system, such as giving stamps and prizes for however many stamps the kids have. Honor the kids as much as possible, ‘it makes me happy when you do this…’, so you’re not always nagging the troubled students into better behavior.”
Throughout the interview I was able to reflect on what my own views were on classroom management and compare those of my mentor teacher; it really set the stage for what the rest of the year was to look like in the co-teaching modeled internship. As for the rapport with the students in my classroom, almost immediately I was able to connect with them on a friendly but professional level, reminding them that I am their teacher, not their friend. Again, this is something one can learn with time but I definitely had the upper hand with communicating the expectations and goals my mentor teacher set for me in the development of my interactions with our students.
- Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.
5.1 Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport
Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.
5.2 Managing Classroom Procedures through Transitions
Transitions occur smoothly, with little loss of instructional time.
5.3 Managing Classroom Procedures through Performance of Noninstructional Duties
Efficient systems for performing noninstructional duties are in place, resulting in minimal loss of instructional time.
5.4 Managing Student Behavior by Establishing Expectations
Standards of conduct are clear to all students.
5.5 Managing Student Behavior by Monitoring
Teacher is alert to student behavior at all times.
*Expected outcomes are expressed as program standards derived from RCW 28A.405.100, which are aligned with State-designated teacher preparation approval standards shown in WAC 181-78A-270. Program standards include criteria (e.g. 1.), elements (e.g. 1.1), and examples. Any level of the program standard is appropriate for reflection, feedback, or evaluation