Problematic issues in teaching and learning

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“You Catch More Flies With Honey Than With Vinegar”

One of the most problematic issues in teaching/learning process is classroom management; an issue that really triggered the educators' minds to go beyond the traditional concepts of having the class controlled rather than managed.  If it's meant to be management rather than control, then modern educators need to think of new strategies that help them handle this issue effectively.

Let's start with some basic rules of thumb about behavior.

If you are nice to a student and show respect to him or her, you are more likely to get it back.  This can involve praising a student for a job well done, or respectfully correcting a student when behavior isn't so perfect.

Behavior happens for specific reasons, typically because the environment allows for it.  Such as, if the environment is too restrictive or too loose, you can have some acting out, either through rebellion to the strict environment or because there is not enough structure in a loose environment.  One thing you have to think about in the classroom, what precedes behavior?  And then, what follows it?  Is the consequence rewarding to the student?  Even if the consequence appears negative (reprimand, etc.) is it providing the student with attention he or she would not otherwise get?

As a teacher or instructor, you have to observe behavior constantly, and determine what action from you has the desired effect with the students.

With that in mind, let's talk about some guidelines for classroom management.

A basic principle of behavior therapy is that very few behaviors are universally labeled “good” or “bad”. Classroom behaviors that might be considered good in one culture, community, or even school can be labeled differently in a different setting. For example, some teachers encourage active discussion among students while others consider working quietly at the student's own desk as more appropriate behavior.

The teacher, then, must define explicitly for the students the desired, or target, behaviors. This is especially important in the early school years when what a child has learned as proper behavior at home may be vastly different from the behavior the teacher desires. Defining appropriate behavior should be the first step in any classroom behavior management program.  What is it you expect in your classroom?

Behavior management works best when it is incorporated with instruction. 

When students are active in the learning process - when they are called on, when they are provided with enough work for their level, when they are challenged to do their best job, they tend to behave better.  It goes back to the respect we talked about at the very beginning - if you challenge a student to work hard, and expect appropriate behavior, all the while demonstrating appropriate behavior, then you are more likely to be successful.

One other very basic guideline is as a teacher or instructor; never let the student get the upper hand.  Always try to remain proactive - see a disruptive behavior BEFORE it explodes, try to head off student inappropriate behavior before it happens or soon after it starts.  Try not to react to inappropriate behavior with an inappropriate behavior of your own.

As a coordinator, I witnessed -through observations- some situations of classroom management which I would like to share with you. I truly believe that the personality and the character of the teacher are the essential aspects of an effective classroom management, but other factors occur to the process too. When environmental, administrative, and logistic problems play the main role in this scene, it will be so hard to the teacher to perform properly. How can the teacher achieve his target when the area is always surrounded by noises from the shops and the neighborhood? When the majority of students come from a certain social background where severe social and psychological problems prevail? When the dominating communication language is based on violence, then children will acquire such violent behavior and manners from their parents and transfer them into the school. When students are not familiar with a listening culture, then it is the teacher's role to instill this culture in the students.

Another factor is related to the administration in terms of the recruitment and induction system. Most of the teachers on board are hired without any previous experience; in addition, they received no training before getting into the classroom, nor were they informed of how issues related to the teaching/learning process should be handled. Besides, the administration has no clear plan to improve the performance of those newly hired teachers throughout the scholastic year. However, sometimes the administration calls the teachers for a training session without citing their actual needs, thus the training turns to be a mere waste of time.

The third factor is related to the logistics in the school. Classroom management is, in a way or another, part of the teaching/learning process. Therefore, there should be enough materials to facilitate the teachers work and help them to be creative. A basic principle in classroom management is: GET THE STUDENTS INVOLVED IN VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES. This means that a student who is not participating in activities is likely to misbehave in the classroom, so the teachers should keep all the students busy. In order for this to be achieved, teachers need variety of teaching aids and materials such as computers, DVD players, stationary materials, etc….

Finally, teachers in such working conditions are not expected to be performing perfectly.       

Teaching/learning process is a wholistic one through which the teacher should be teaching both knowledge and social skills that are expected to improve the students' behavior.