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The effects of a student having a low socio-economic status play a big role in their education. Stereotypes of, and prejudices about, students in this class exist because people and institutions of higher authority, specifically teachers and schools, echo them. The judgment and actions of both teachers and students are affected from this and from continued cultural attitudes and values (Byrnes, 2005). So the question is not why you should address classism in your classroom, but how you can. There are many strategies that teachers can use to reduce classism in their classroom that range from examining your own expectations for your students, building resiliency in your students, creating a positive classroom climate, developing a positive home-school relationship with families to teaching about classism to help students take action (D. M. Decker, personal communication, November 1, 2012). The strategy that I intend to use in my classroom is to educate my students about classism so that they can take action. Classism, which is discrimination or prejudice based on social or economic class, is apparent in classrooms everywhere. To help students understand and change classism within their classroom, a teacher can educate their students about economic inequality and students can observe how class prejudice is present in their classroom so that they can work to help remove it from their classroom (Byrnes, 2005).
Classism hinders learning, prevents positive social connections among students and eventually supports societal discriminations. Students of homes of lower economic status are oblivious to how home life conditions affect their academic performance. Generally, these students think that they are responsible for their poor academic performance, but in fact their parents are not able to provide the support or afford the extra educational help (Byrnes, 2005). Teaching your students about the root causes of poverty will help them to better empathize with others who are not as well off as they are. Education before action is the key concept to focus on when teaching about classism. A program called Kids Can Make a Difference, KIDS, focuses on analyzing the root causes of hunger and poverty and is based on a curriculum that is followed by age-appropriate community service activities. This program has been used worldwide. Judy Huynh, a 6th- and 7th-grade social studies teacher, in Palo, MI. uses this curriculum every year beginning in May (Neal, 2007). Huynh states, “As teachers, it’s our responsibility to teach our students about the issues of social justice in the world. Once students become aware of the inequities in the world, they want to do something to make the world a better place” (as cited in Neal, 2007, para. 25). The KIDS program is proof that teaching students about the root causes of poverty and getting them involved really works. Neal states, “If canned food drives represent a “Band-Aid” solution to hunger, service-learning projects can represent the chance for a cure” (Neal, 2007, para. 36).
Challenges that may exist when teaching students about classism are not examining the lessons for bias themselves. To overcome this obstacle, you as a teacher must first make sure you don’t make any assumptions about income, access to resources or values when upholding rules for interpersonal communication. You should, instead, teach students to gather their own data to work with and use an ethic of thoughtfulness that safeguards their susceptibility (Byrnes, 2005).
Effective Bully Prevention Approaches
I would like to incorporate a bully prevention program for my students within my classroom. Bullying includes unprovoked actions or threats, is motivated by an intent to cause fear or harm, consists of repeated acts that occur over time and is against someone with less power (D. M. Decker, personal communication, November 29, 2012). An effective bully prevention approach is widespread, in that they are aimed at bullies, victims, bystanders, families and communities. An effective bully prevention approach should also address harassment at various levels. These levels include school-wide, classroom and the individual student. For a bully prevention program to be successful at the school-wide level, it should have an administrator to help provide resources and funds and should also develop and implement school-wide policy prohibiting bullying. At the classroom level it should form classroom-specific guidelines that where created by the students and have teachers that respond rapidly, regularly and with compassion. At the individual level the program should offer instant penalties for the bully, offer a support structure for the students being bullied and educate bystanders on how to help out the students when being bullied (D. M. Decker, personal communication, November 29, 2012).
A lot more children than imaged are involved in bullying. In a National survey, 30% of students reported being involved in bullying: 13% as bullies, 11% as victims and 6% as both. Also reported was almost 10% being involved in bullying once a week or more; 70% reported experiencing bullying during their school years. 7% of eighth graders said they stayed home from school at least once a month from just the fear of being bullied and 14% of students said that being bullied has put a negative impact on their lives (Lazarus & Pfohl, 2010). These percentages are astounding and give relevant reasoning why schools should implement a bully prevention program within their school and classrooms. Because bullying usually occurs in uncontrolled areas, teachers only identify 5% to 25% of the episodes. In addition, consequences of bullying not only affect the victim, but also the bully. Tobacco and alcohol use are said to be more likely used by bullies and victims are at risk for internalizing worry, which could lead to depression and anxiety (D. M. Decker, personal communication, November 29, 2012). These statistics and the fact that it could help save loves of the victims give even more reason why schools should promote a school-wide bully prevention plan.
One challenge that could be posed when implementing a school-wide bully prevention plan is having the whole school be trained in the program and making sure that everyone in the school carries out the plan accordingly. For a school-wide bully prevention plan to be effective it must be consistently followed. Having a principle or administrator involved in the commitment of the program will help alleviate these obstacles and also by providing ongoing training for all school staff, including the bus drivers and maintenance staff for instance.
Creating Gender Equitable Classrooms through Teaching Strategies
Many people don’t understand the difference between gender equality and gender equity. Gender equality is when boys and girls are treated equally. Gender equity states that boys and girls both have different needs and those needs must be met in different ways to make sure the outcome is equal. (D. M. Decker, personal communication, October 11, 2012). There are many strategies that a teacher can use to reduce gender bias to help make their classroom more equitable. They range from being aware of student-teacher interactions, creating a plan for calling on students, using a variety of different teaching strategies, coming up with comeback comments for students to say, teach about famous women from American History and encourage students to research nontraditional jobs in the community and interview people who work those jobs (D. M. Decker, personal communication, October 11, 2012). The strategy that I intend to use in my classroom is coming up with comeback comments for the students to say. I would also plan on having guests from within the community come in to talk about their nontraditional jobs. By expanding their outlook on gender specific jobs and enlightening them on catchy comebacks for gender bias comments, I intend to open my student’s eyes to the effects of gender bias so that we could have a comfortable class atmosphere where boys and girls are treated and learn equally.
Research on gender bias in student-teacher interactions by Myra & David Sadker reveals that more questions are asked of boys and teachers generally communicate more with boys. Also that, girls are guided away from academic programs that lead to high-skilled, high-paying, high-tech jobs (D. M. Decker, personal communication, October 11, 2012). Gender equity research has shown to find recurring results that girls’ are below their ability level in the sciences due to their teaching environments, rather than their skill level. This is due to the lack of a quality model, which assumes that we need to “fix” girls to make them succeed in the sciences (as cited in Byrnes, 2005). Learned helplessness can also occur because teachers don’t have the same expectations for males and females and they may complete the assignment for the female and expect the male to complete it on their own (Byrnes, 2005). The fact the gender bias exists and does affect students’ learning is why it is important to use strategies that reduce gender bias in the classroom. Some research findings on using the quirky comebacks to help reduce gender bias in the classroom are evident in Peggy Moss’s article Not True! Gender Doesn’t Limit You! According to Moss (2007), “What worked, it turns out, was not reading about people who defy gender stereotypes. What affected students’ attitudes and behaviors was learning and practicing what to say when gender bullying occurs. Researchers discovered something else, too, something unexpected: Practice group students began teaching the “comeback” refrains to peers. Almost a year later, many students in the modeling group – who had never been taught these expressions – knew them verbatim” (para. 29). With that said, I feel that it is all the more important to use this strategy so that I can have a classroom free on gender bias.
A challenge that I could see happening is not being able to see the big picture and reflect on your own biases. Teachers don’t realize that they bring in their own biases and beliefs to the classroom and they often reveal these beliefs through their teaching and don’t realize it (Byrnes, 2005). We as teachers need to recognize these biases and try our hardest to not have them reflect in our teaching. Also, whenever available, teachers should take classes or workshops on gender issues so that they can better understand the consequences of their own biases and how they affect their students’ learning.
Enhancing Motivation of Students with Disabilities
To enhance the motivation of students with disabilities, teachers can use effort-based praise and attribution training to increase their motivation. Effort-based praise is when teachers change their students’ beliefs through the types of praise they deliver, but it is done indirectly. It is praise that focuses on effort not ability. An example would be, “Wow, you did awesome on the spelling test, you must have worked hard” (D. M. Decker, personal communication, October 25, 2012). Students will then associate working hard to achieving goals and learning. They will realize that there is a process to which they follow in order to achieve their academic goals. Attribution training goes along the same lines at effort-based praise, but it is taught directly. Teachers teach students to relate their success to the effort they use and relate failure to the lack of effort used. An example would be, “I failed the science test because I didn’t take the time to study” (D. M. Decker, personal communication, October 25, 2012). These are a two of the many ways a teacher can help motivate students with disabilities.
I believe that by using effort-based praise and attribution training I will help my students with disabilities to become more motivated and feel more at ease in the classroom. According to Mueller & Dweck’s research on the impact of teacher praise, the effort-praised students improved academically, were interested in learning new strategies, reported enjoying the tasks even though they became more difficult and were less defensive about how they did (as cited in D. M. Decker, personal communication, October 25, 2012). Dweck’s research results also showed that when students were taught to attribute their success to effort and their views on intelligence were changed, they chose more challenging goals for themselves, upheld their confidence and stuck it out when faced with setbacks and outperformed others academically (as cited in D. M. Decker, personal communication, October 25, 2012). These research results prove that effort-based praise and attribution training are successful in motivating students.
Honestly, I had a hard time finding a challenge that I may face with effort-based praise and attribution training. The strategy seems to be pretty well rounded with all positive things to say about the research. As a teacher you may have difficulties carrying out effort-based praise because you’re used to your style of teaching. Also, to make sure this strategy is successful, you must make sure to execute it correctly without bias and making sure to praise the right successes. Effort-based praise also includes not praising low-challenge, low-effort and no-mistake success. Praising for these successes gives the student the message that they are only smart when they do things effortlessly and flawlessly. It will also stray them away from enjoying challenges and to not love learning (D. M. Decker, personal communication, October 25, 2012).
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