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Ive come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized." (Dr.Haim Ginott)
We need to move away from the traditional way of looking at classroom management. Classroom management is not about having a set of rules which students have to follow and punishing those that don't conform. Classroom management is all about the strategies the teacher adopts in the classroom and the affect they have on the students themselves. It also involves establishing appropriate procedures and routines which the teacher and the students would have agreed and formulated together at the beginning of the scholastic year and then work hard in enforcing and integrating them in their daily activities. These are important since children feel secure with a routine especially when dealing with something new and different. As Harry and Rosemary Wong states, "The ineffective teacher begins the first day of school attempting to teach a subject and spends the rest of the year running after students. The effective teacher spends most of the first week teaching the students how to follow classroom procedures." This is so since as Thody et al. (2000) points out, procedures are in fact central to the classroom since "the lack of them would lead the students to acquire undesirable work habits and behaviors that would be difficult to correct".
The management of a classroom includes the creation of an appropriate working environment which matches the activities and tasks the students would be working on so that they are able to keep focused, motivated to learn new things and not losing concentration. The atmosphere of the classroom must be relaxed and work-oriented while providing a positive climate which makes the classroom a pleasant learning place since this affects a lot how much the children keep focused on tasks and involved in activities. Thus, positive instructions contribute a lot in the creation of a positive climate, for example in saying what we should do and not what we shouldn't, such as, 'We listen to each other when someone is speaking' instead of saying 'We do not talk when someone is speaking'. In such classroom where positive climate is preached, students feel more confident in involving themselves and participating in activities. Thody et al. (2000) came up with a framework for developing positive behavior in the classroom. This framework involves 4 important elements which are all inter-dependent amongst each other, these are; the rights as well as the responsibilities of the students and teachers, the rules which help creating a work-oriented atmosphere and in the creation of positive relationships amongst all members of the school.
Organizing classroom space is also part of the classroom organization because the use of all the available space and desk arrangement tells a lot about the management of the class for example; if in one particular classroom the desks are arranged in groups it clearly shows that in this class a lot of group work is enhanced. Good time management techniques are also important when running a class since as Fisher et al point out; there is the idea of academic time which is the amount of time each student spends performing at a high level of success. Therefore the teacher must plan the time well for explanation and then, provided supervision, letting the students work and try out on their own. The use of appropriate resources is also important to be considered in a class, as well as, the selection of activities that match the individual ability of each student because no two students learn in the same way. Here the idea of differentiated classroom comes in and for this to be efficient, good monitoring of all the individual students must take place so that adequate activities which suit the individual student's abilities and interests are provided.
Paul Hawken tells us a lot about the importance of classroom management and the role of the teacher, in fact he came up with this interesting sentence, "Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them." This reminds us that management is all about how the problem is framed and presented which is where the teacher comes in since it's the teacher who makes all the difference. Classroom management is all about the way the teacher organizes what goes on in the classroom, for this reason the teacher must be equipped with a number of different skills in order to provide an efficient and meaningful learning experience to all the students. It entails good knowledge of the subject matter in showing confidence and carefully pre-establishing objectives to keep the students focused and not letting them lose their concentration throughout. This also implies that careful planning and preparation must be done so that the teacher knows where s/he must take the students and work hard in helping them obtain a particular objective. The teacher must also anticipate what problems could arise in order to be always a step before the students themselves and organizing other activities which would come in handy when problems come up. Anticipation must even take place while planning a lesson because it's useful to know to which activities could require more attention.
In the process of becoming a professional teacher a novice teacher must be aware of the basic skills and techniques needed to be enquired so that s/he would be well prepared when facing a class of students. These skills all sum up into three major categories; skills needed in using tactics which help in the getting attention of the students such as pausing, restarting or using different tunes throughout the lessons. The other two categories involve responding to misbehavior and in preventing misbehavior such as use of eye contact, gesturing, synchronizing and so on. These will help the teacher in creating a smooth productive learning experience for the students. Moreover, classroom management is also affected by the teacher's reaction to misbehavior and by the strategies employed in correcting and preventing misbehavior acts. The teacher must be very careful in being firm, fair, and also consistent when dealing with misbehavior because the students would be all the time testing their teacher. Therefore the teacher must be very careful because otherwise s/he would end up losing the credibility. The teacher must also be able to correct misbehavior by making the students realize what and where they did wrong and why they should be punished so that the act is not repeated. The teacher must be very careful in not rediculate the student and so correction should be done individually and not in front of the whole classroom. Disturbing behavior is a tricky issue teachers have to face which results in a loss of curriculum time and even disturbs the learning environment. One major issue which a reality in today's classroom is that of unrestrained chatter which is a difficult challenge to handle. One reason of such misbehavior put forward by Good & Brophy 1997 is in fact the lack of tuned classroom sensitivity where teachers do not see the connection between the misbehavior of students and the planning of the lesson which in turns shows the teacher's lack of management skills. On the other hand, the selection of appropriate rewards in encouraging positive conduct is also important and so is praise since it helps the students building up their self esteem and confidence. Giving appropriate feedback is also important because primary school children rely a lot on the teacher's feedback, therefore the teacher must be very careful since feedback may break or make the child's self-confidence.
From the work of Kounin (1977) we can see the idea of 'withitness' of the teacher, where s/he must possess the skill of dealing with different students at the same time. A clear example of this is; the teacher who must be able to correct misbehavior in class, helping individual students while also knowing what each and every other student is doing. This is also seen even while writing on the whiteboard where the teacher must have eyes at the back of her/his head in knowing what all children are doing and surprising the students by correcting misbehavior even when not even looking directly at them. A good effective teacher must also be aware of the immediacy nature of the classroom where at times quick decisions must be taken in responding to difficulties, dealing with different situations which might arise in the classroom and so on. The novice teacher must also be able to enquire the skill of 'overlapping' (Lang, McBeath and Hebert, 1995) where the teacher must be able to handle different situations together. This can be seen for example when the teacher directs a question to a student who is not paying attention because in so doing s/he will attract this child's attention while not disturbing the pass of the lesson. Another skill which the teacher needs to be familiar with is the skill to manage movement in the class. This is done by regulating the flow and speed with which the lesson would be going by selecting appropriate activities which will make the students get and kept engaged on their tasks. Procedures and good instructions help a lot in managing this movement throughout.
A good effective primary teacher must possess a number of other skills which would help him/her in dealing with the everyday classroom situations; especially in presentation the students with clear instructions in order not to end up repeating over and over again what they have to do. Thus, the students must know what the teacher is expecting from them and so avoiding wasting time in confusion and in wondering what they are meant to be doing. Knowing what the teacher expects helps in reducing anxiety and creates more confidence amongst the students. Teachers with the most effective classroom management skills are the teachers who know what is expected of a learning situation and are determined to enforce it. A good teacher must also show determination in establishing his/her authority in the classroom otherwise s/he is bound to see deterioration in the students' behavior. Moreover, Hargreaves (1982), followed by other sociologists, say that; not only the teachers have expectations but also the students themselves have their own expectations and ideas about what makes a good or bad teacher. This is so since every student wants their teacher to be strict and fair, caring, friendly, patient, understanding, providing interesting lessons and explains subject matter well. It is only through hard work and dedication showed from their teacher, that students themselves will realize how much their teacher cares about their learning and that s/he believes in them and wants them to achieve. This will help in developing mutual respect in the classroom which is fundamental in a well managed classroom where teacher respects the students and the students respect not only their teacher but also their peers. "Teaching is good when a class becomes a community of honest nurturing and mutual responsibility." The teacher must instill in the students the idea of teamwork and in working together in groups. This is important since children must learn to share goals and cooperate together while acquiring those social skills which will help them a lot in their everyday lives. However, in early childhood the idea of group work may be a little abstract and so it is the teacher who has to be able to teach the students what working in groups entails.
A teacher should poses good leadership skills in order to guide the students to learn in a skillful and experienced way. This usually requires a firm presence and a strong sense of purpose as well as patience and good humor. The Ivey business journal tells us that, "instead of looking for saviors, we should be looking for leaders who can move us to face the problems for which there are no simple painless solutions- the challenges that require us to learn new things". Teachers should therefore guide the students in exploring new things and help them in coming with the right solutions themselves because students learn much more from first-hand experience in order to satisfy and feed their curiosities. In the process the teacher must also involve and expose the students to variety of activities and instill in them the love of learning new things since "A manager who leads orients people, not to the old procedures and role relationships, but to the realities that must drive the development of new role relationships and procedures" (Ivey business journal, 2003). Moreover, as it was written in 2010 by Gigs Gasper in the Philippines, "A good follower is always a good leader but great leaders did not follow, they created good leaders." Thus, great teachers not only lead the students but work hard in the creation of other leaders.
From different researches done in the educational psychology, in particular that of Davis (1983) it was found that the teacher's approach to the management of the class is very much related to the teacher's view of education and therefore different teachers would react differently to the same classroom situations. For this reason different researchers have attempted to find solutions and approaches to different classroom management issues. These approaches have been grouped into three main categories. One of which is; the humanistic approach where shared problem solving between teacher and students must take place. The second is more of a behavioral approach where behavioral modifications are to be applied in the classroom. While, the third approach deals more with the management and organization of the classroom. The latter approach being the most recent is mostly applicable to today's classroom situations. However, one must keep in mind that no one approach is the best since no one of them fits perfectly to every problem which might arise, but one approach complements the other. For this reason it is very important that the novice teacher keep up to date with these different approaches so that when the need arises s/he can make the necessary amendments to these approaches and apply them to the classroom while also improvising depending on the situation. On the contrary, while considering these different strategies in dealing with the managing of a class, one must keep in mind that as future educators we must move away from the idea that classroom management is made up of a set of prescriptions to be applied when faced with a behavioral problem. This is so since the behavior and reactions of the students will be the result to how well the teacher manages to provide the students with the right atmosphere and appropriate tasks in order to motivate and engage the students in learning. Most of the misbehavior that take place in classroom is due to the teacher's fault in not taking into consideration some important issues in regarding particular individual students; being the child's abilities, interests, or any other aspect which is important to know about the child and to take into consideration. For this reason, an effective manager of the classroom must address a number of issues which would help in nurturing good management skills. MacDonald & Healy (1999) state that effective classroom management depends on three main factors which the teacher should have complete control of, these are: commitment in providing a meaningful learning experience to the students, perceptual sensitivity in recognizing what the appropriate classroom climate is and adjusting it if the need arises, and in knowing different classroom behavioral strategies which can be used flexibly in class depending on the need.
Most of the time the teacher's approach to teaching and classroom management is very much related to the teacher's own experience of schooling in trying not to repeat the negative experiences s/he went through in the past and in building on what the teacher considers to be the best for the children. Looking back at my own school experience there were some teachers who made a positive impact on my learning experience but there were those who really made me hate going to school. This negative experience was due to the teachers' lack of good management skills, especially the primary teachers. After so many years I still remember the wrong management strategies they used in class and all the unfair punishments which such management entails. Therefore as a future primary teacher I don't want to repeat any of the mistakes my teachers made with me, but instead I want to build up on all the positive I've experienced so the I make my students' learning a meaningful and interesting experience. One, which they will remember but in a positive way. From my own experience in teaching primary school students although it was a short experience I still feel that I've learned a lot about classroom management and I'm sure that in the future I will continue to develop in order to enquire all those skills in order to become a good classroom manager. During my last year's teaching practice I did came across a couple of problems which influenced my classroom management. This is so since I had some students who were always misbehaving in the class and no matter how much I tried no strategy seemed to work out. Then by spending time with these students in order to get to know them better I've realized what the problem was and so worked hard in order to overcome it. They didn't trust me because for them I wasn't 'their' teacher since I was only 'a' teacher who comes into their classroom to teach them something. I was in fact surprised when one six year old student told that "I don't want to be your friend because when you are gone then I will miss you!" For this reason, I worked hard in winning their trust and also promised them that I will continue to visit them even after teaching practice. I needed to show them that I cared for them and that I wanted them to learn. Moreover, I encountered a number of other problems which affected my management of the class, for example in being able to suit my activities to all the different abilities that there were in the class since I had very bright students in class as well as others who find difficulties even in writing their name. At times it was like an impossible situation to cope with since some students managed to understand a new concept in no time at all while others need a lot of repetition and examples. During class work the bright students always used to finish much before the others and it is at this point where they start misbehaving. In order to solve this problem I looked up in a lot of books and articles and tried even a lot of strategies in class until I've managed to suit one to my situation. Now I admit that books and researches helped me a lot but I do feel that I've learned much more from the concrete experience because it helped me putting into practice what I've been reading and also made me realize that no one approach completely works in the class, thus one needs to adopt and change depending on the particular situation.
It is important that the novice teacher develop an insight of the classroom as a place of professional practice. From the work of Doyle (1986) on classroom management, he identifies six properties which make the classroom a learning environment. These being; the issues of multidimensionality and simultaneity of the classroom where the teacher has to deal with different situations together and at the same time, for example in dealing with all the different students' needs present in one class. The issues of immediacy and unpredictability follow since the teacher has to act quickly to unforeseen interruptions. Another issue pointed out is the issue of publicness of the classroom where every action which happens in the classroom is of a public nature, for example in praising a student in front of all other students makes it a public action. Finally the last issue deals with the history in class since everything which happens in class all forms part of the history of the classroom where both the biography of the students and the teacher's experience as a practitioner takes place. The awareness of these six properties creates sensitivity in creating a learning environment which matches the teacher's teaching.
Effective classroom management is an essential feature which should be adopted in today's classroom because it determines how much the children are engaged in the learning process. The more the teacher manages the classroom the more the students are bound to learn. This is so since classroom management keeps the students focused and engaged in the learning activity and thus they are to achieve much more academically. Moreover, we must not see the management of a class as something artificial because this management in its own right must be part of the everyday routine which implies that it must come out of the nature of the activity the children would be working on. This management is not only about discipline but it is a way in which the teacher helps the students to focus and get themselves involved in the learning activity. Therefore, discipline is not what governs the management of the class since providing the students with the right atmosphere, appropriate tasks which match their abilities and in adopting procedures should help a lot in the management of the class. Nowadays, we have moved away from the idea that silence in a class is always positive and in thinking that a silent class is a bright hard-working class, instead we all know well that a noisy classroom may indeed show that the students are actively involved in an activity, as long as, the class and the noise are kept under control by their teacher in knowing what each and every student is doing.
During my forthcoming teaching practice I will try to employ multiple learning styles in the classroom while also providing moderate challenges in order to suit every student's learning style and ability. I will also try to use group work wisely in avoiding uniform grouping where some student will have to struggle. During group work I will also assign individual work to each member of the group so that everyone can participate and contribute within the group. I will also help them in managing conflicts within the group and helping them to manage their time effectively while also teaching them how to contribute to the success of the group. I will also help the students in achieving their full potential since as Samuel J. Meisels states: "The highest stake of all is our ability to help children realize their full potential." I will also teach them the skills needed for success which will help them in their present and future learning such as note taking, summarizing, research strategies, and collaboration in the classroom. I will start my lessons by giving clear lesson objectives and instructions while also giving them an opportunity to critique their own work by finding their strongest and weakest points. I will also try to make use of several assessment techniques since not all students learn in the same way and so they should also be assessed differently. I will also observe and get feedback from the students in order to know what they already know so that I can start my lessons by referring to their prior knowledge and moving gradually into the unknown. I will also make it a point to end my lessons by asking questions, such as "Mention at least one new point that you have learned today" so that I get feedback from the students. I also want to teach the children to assess their own learning in order to instill in my students the confidence in becoming independent competent learners.
It is important to ask the students strategically appropriate questions that trigger their curiosity since children's natural curiosity makes them ask a lot of questions. I will throw those questions back at them, for example; while doing demonstrations, I will start with questions like, "Why did I do that?" or "If I were to do something else, what would happen?" It is important to allow the students to learn from each other and to share their ideas with one another. If one student has a question, I will try to pass it off to another student if I think that the student knows the answer.
Finally, but most importantly I will try not to repeat all the negative experiences I've experienced in my past this is so since today we all know that the reason why many adults retain a strong distaste for any form of education is because of the discouraging experiences they had in their early school years.