Norms and Agreements for Classroom Community
The following classroom norms and agreements of behavior will apply equally to everyone in the class, including the teacher. In order to create a positive, productive learning community we must all be held accountable for our actions.
1)Respect. This is not just a classroom norm but a school norm as well. It is important for everyone in class to use respectful language when addressing each other and the teacher. Respect will guide all of our interactions and classroom practices.
2) Active and Empathetic Listening. We need to all be aware when others around us are speaking and listen respectfully and empathetically. This means we will always try to understand the other person’s perspective and consider their point-of-view. Also, we will be aware that everyone has different experiences that inform their behavior and we will do our best to be respectful and considerate of these. This will be particularly helpful during our pair and group work during the semester. We have to give everyone a chance to speak and be heard.
3) Best Effort. It will always be the expectation for everyone in the class to put their best effort in all assignments. This includes class participation and presence in the class. This will allow everyone to be personally responsible for his/her work. This is a value that we must all continually reflect upon every time we complete an assignment and turn it in. Did I do my best effort on this task? Did I learn the most I could from this lesson, novel or project? After all we are all here to learn and this is a process of reflection.
4) Responsibility. If you know you will be absent due to a doctor’s appointment, family vacation or school event. It is your responsibility to come in and get upcoming class and homework assignments in order not to fall behind when you return. The time to arrange this is during lunch or after school. I cannot give you my complete attention during class and it is disrespectful to your classmates to take their class time.
5) Honesty. We must always make sure that we have personal and academic integrity. This means that cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated in class or school.
Agreements of Behavior
I have purposefully referred to the rules in my classroom as agreements of behavior. Essentially, this is the purpose of rules, we all agree to behave and react in certain specific ways that have been deemed socially appropriate. In order to teach students to be active participants in their own learning and to be responsible for this learning, they must first agree to follow the rules in the classroom. As Weinstein and Novodvorsky discuss, “with clear rules and routines, there is less likelihood of confusion, misunderstanding, and inconsistency – and more likelihood that teachers and students can engage in warm, relaxed interactions,” (55).
1)Being Prepared. When class starts (bell rings) we need to be ready to learn. This means being prepared by bringing all your materials to class including: reading book, English Binder, completed homework, paper, pen and pencil. Some of these supplies like pens, pencils and paper can be borrowed from the class as needed.
2)No Electronics. Cellphones, personal computers, ipods, MP3s, Ipads and all other electronic devices will not be allowed in class. You will be allowed daily use of the classroom chrome books to complete assignments in class. If you have permission from your parents to use Ipads or other electronic readers in class (for silent reading) your parents will need to complete a permission form. However, if these become a distraction i.e. if you are using these devices to play games or log into social media sites, this privilege will be taken away.
3)No Food. In order to keep our classroom clean and orderly, we must keep food out as much as possible. There will be opportunities for us to enjoy some light snacks during classroom parties (during the last week before winter break and the last week of school). Otherwise food needs to be put away during class time.
4)No Profanity. In this class we will be learning about the importance of words and precision of language. Words matter in particular their application. Please be mindful that others might hear a disrespectful comment or word and be offended even if it not directed at them. In our efforts to be respectful, think before you speak.
5)Don’t talk out of turn. We will have a lot of opportunities to share our opinions and answer questions in pairs and small groups. And while I always want to know what you think about a specific topic, we must always raise our hand when we want to share. This promotes active and empathetic listening.
Preventative and Reactive Management
In my teaching practice, I think that preventative management is the most important component to classroom discipline. If I incorporate norms, rules and routines in my classroom that are fair, sensitive to student’s concerns and opinions, authentic, communicative and inclusive students’ behavior will always be positive. (Weinstein, Novodvorsky, 55-66). Through these norms, rules and routines the classroom will be a safe environment and as a result promote learning. When student’s feel safe, respected and included in the classroom their behavior reflects this positive environment. My goals as a teacher involve providing this safe space for students to learn as a community. I plan on accomplishing this by taking on an authoritative teaching approach to classroom management. As indicated by Weinstein and Novodvorsky, “research has indicated that warm-demanding, authoritative teachers are most likely to achieve positive teacher-student relationships, respectful classroom climates, and better academic and social-emotional outcomes for students,” (6).
I want to consider student’s diversity in the classroom in order for it to be a truly inclusive space. Acknowledging this diversity by having it be reflected in meaningful assignments and class work is crucial because it will let students know that I am an authentic teacher (Weinstein, Novodvorsky, 8). I would never assign work or reading that I did not think was important or worthwhile. Additionally, being mindful of students with disabilities, and different language requirements will be crucial to my planning process as well as fostering a welcoming environment for these students. The norms and rules I have chosen for my classroom are meant to make every student feel respected and welcomed. Since students in my class will be required to work in pairs and small groups it will be important to model pro-social behavior for students through respect (Weinstein, Novodvorsky, 76). This will also be an important skill for their development and will aid in developing social-emotional skills (82).
Reactive management is also an important part of classroom discipline. When a student breaks a norm or agreement of behavior they need to be held accountable for their actions. This means being understanding but firm in this endeavor, this means “resolving conflicts constructively [as] it is a key social-emotional skill,” (82). I have found in my mentor teacher’s classroom that the best way to do this is by organizing restorative justice circles (known as Circles of Power and Respect at Adele Harrison Middle School). Because the focus of restorative discipline is to communicate how “misbehaving students deal with the harm they have caused to individuals and to the school community,” it promotes personal responsibility (Amstutz, Mullet, 10). Additionally, the misbehaving students can reflect on the cause of their behavior and the community members that come together for the circle would help him/her find a solution. It has been my experience with being a part of these circles that students tend to share aspects of their lives that teachers and school counselors are often unaware of but which affect their performance in school.
Establishing routines for students is critical for students to understand and follow the classroom norms and agreements for behavior. If there is no classroom routine that students can rely on, their understanding and consequently, their adherence to the rules will be affected. I have separated the routines of the classroom based on Weinstein and Novodvorsky’s outline (101, 103).
In my classroom, taking attendance will always take place at the beginning of the period, after the bell rings. This will give students sufficient time to come class and get ready for the days lesson. Also, it will keep students accountable for their punctuality. School notices have been difficult to distribute without causing an unnecessary disruption in class. However, I have found that the best way to do this is by distributing these notices when students are working in pairs or small groups.
Procedures for Student Movement
Students will be expected to enter class everyday in an orderly manner. This means coming in to class quietly, calmly and without slamming the door. They are to take their seats as soon as they come in and read the instructions on the agenda. If they need to use the restroom, they can do so without asking by signing out on an available log in class. These will be checked regularly to make sure that students are not simply avoiding class by going to the restroom. When I am speaking, students need to stay in their seats until I am finished and then they can raise their hand and wait to be called on to make their request. During pair and group work, they will be allowed to get from their seats to join an assigned partner or group and to get needed supplies like paper, pencils or pens. However, wandering around the classroom will not be allowed. Their movements need to be purposeful and follow the agreed upon routines.
During emergencies like fire and earthquake drills, students need to remain in their seats until I give them instructions to get up and follow the school guidelines for these events. Students will be expected to exit the classroom in an orderly manner and stay with their class and teacher during the duration of the drill.
I will always make sure that the classroom is an environment that is conducive to learning. This means keeping the classroom clean and organized. Students will be expected to leave the classroom as they found it. I will always try to conclude class a few minutes early in order for students to put away computers, gather their belongings, and clean their tables and areas. They will not be excused by the bell; but rather they will be allowed to leave the classroom only when all trash is collected, chairs pushed in and books organized. Students will always have access to a sharpener, hole punch, stapler, pens, pencils and paper in class. These will be stored in the same place everyday where it does not interfere with classroom movements.
Everyday, the agenda of tasks to be completed along with the objective for the lesson will be prominently displayed for students to help them in being prepared. When students come to class they will be expected to read the agenda and objective for the day and follow its instructions. The beginning of class will be structured to include silent reading and writing for the first twenty minutes of class. Students will be provided with appropriate prompts for each day. Students will also be given instructions on what to do if they finish early. Also, in order to keep everyone accountable for time in the class, I will always use a timer for each task and display it to students.
Communicating through speaking and writing will always be necessary in an English class. In order to promote focus in the classroom, talking must occur during specific tasks. As students come in to class each day, they can socialize briefly with friends but as soon as the bell rings they must be ready to work. When I am speaking, students will not be allowed to speak as they need to listen to important information about a lesson or specific instructions about a task. Also, when a student raises their hand to ask a question or add a relevant comment about the lesson, everyone (including the teacher) must listen attentively without interrupting. Students will be expected to work in pairs and small groups and during these times they will be expected to actively participate by talking and answering questions about the lesson.
1. Beginning the class each day.
I would greet students as they come in to class and I would try to take roll at the same time. If we will need laptops or textbooks that day, I would inform students accordingly. I would also direct their attention to the agenda on the board.
- Taking Attendance.
If I cannot take attendance as I greet students each day, I would take attendance as students are writing in journals. I have compared how easily students become engaged when writing on computers as opposed to notebooks. I would try to provide these whenever possible. The cue I would use to announce the end of their writing task and the beginning of the lesson is a timer displaying how much time they have to write. When the timer goes off, it is time to continue with the next part of the day.
- Checking homework.
I would have students take out homework and keep it on their desks at the beginning of each class. While they continue writing, I would walk around and check on their work while also checking in their homework.
- Collecting Papers.
This would take some time, as students would have to be instructed in the procedure of the class. I would allocate small in-take boxes for each period wherein students would be expected to turn in all papers at the end of the period.
- Returning Papers.
I would have file folders for each student organized by period in a filing cabinet. These folders would be filled with students’ corrected work. I would try to end each class about 5-10 minutes early whenever appropriate to allow students to collect their work. In order to keep organization, especially at the end of the period, I would dismiss each table at a time or up to three students to collect their work from their folders.
- Moving from the whole group into small groups.
I would use a timer, which I would display so every student could see. I would give the class 2 minutes to find their small groups (assigned). Ideally, the timer would be loud enough so that when it went off it could re-focus students to the task at hand. To help them with this, I would have a set of prepared questions, or activities displayed with the projector in order to direct their discussions and make them responsible for their work (190).
- Ending class each day.
I would end class 5-10 minutes early in order to give students enough time to put away laptops, textbooks, to clean their area and collect their returned work. In order to do this in an orderly fashion, I would break up the class in two. The first half would put away laptops or textbooks, while the other half would clean up their areas. Then they would switch.
- Leaving class at the end of the period.
After, I go around and check if laptops and textbooks have been put away, trash picked up, if so then I would dismiss a table at a time.
Responding and Restoring
As a teacher, my approach to discipline will be guided by the needs of my students. I would want to implement almost all of the effective discipline strategies that I have observed as a student teacher. I particularly think that the self-monitoring and self-evaluation strategies would work effectively because students get an opportunity to reflect on their behavior and the ways they can improve. As a prospective English teacher, I also think that writing about disruptive behavior would help students reflect about why their behavior is disruptive in the first place. As stated by Weinstein and Novodvorsky, “students might not realize how often they’re out of their seats or how frequently they sit daydreaming instead of focusing on their work,” (317). Writing can help these students reflect on their behaviors and allow them to consider possible solutions. This strategy would work best if students were given guiding questions to answer. Additionally, contacting parents can be effective if “students show a pattern of consistent misbehavior,” (Weinstein, Novodvorsky, 311).
I think the use of restorative justice circles is a tool and resource that can be used as a response to misbehavior or concerning behavior exhibited by students. Also, it is a unique way to restore balance and communication in the classroom. I will definitely use restorative circles as a discipline strategy. The kind of learning community that I want to foster in my classroom is expressed in the examples of circle guidelines identified by the Restorative Resources Center. These include: “respecting the talking piece: everyone listens, everyone has a turn, speak from the heart: your truth, your perspectives, your experience, listen from the heart: let go of stories that make it hard to hear each other, trust that you will know what to say: no need to rehearse, say just enough: without feeling rushed, be concise and considerate of the time of others,” (Restorative Resources Center). Further, one of the fundamental principles of restorative justice is that of taking personal responsibility for the harm caused to others and the community (Amstutz, Mullet, 26). Thus it is a practice that is “central to building community,” (Amstutz, Mullet, 26). Through the practice of restorative circles students have a forum to explain their actions and reflect on their behaviors and needs. It is also a practical space of problem solving that can provide hope for change especially for students who exhibit recurring misbehaviors or concerning behaviors.
Caring and Motivation
In order to create the community of engaged learners, it is important to incorporate motivations for students to learn. And to show students that as important members of this community they are cared for. As a teacher, I plan on using intrinsic methods of motivation coupled with extrinsic motivators in order to engage as many students as possible. I particularly like calling parents in order to let them know something positive about their child. This usually has a positive effect on the student’s behavior because they receive praise and attention at home (where they usually need it the most). I have also observed how effective it is to allow students to teach the class something they know well. At times, this need not be tied to the curriculum of the class, students can be allowed this agency at the end of the period and in English class it can always be brought back to the lesson (if only to practice complete sentences in conversation). Extrinsic motivators can be helpful for students who need more immediate incentives. These also help with redirection of behaviors in the class. In addition, I want to provide intentional feedback. Each student is different and needs to be motivated in different ways. What I say to students needs to be specific to task and what they need to hear. Most importantly, as a teacher, I want my students to know that I care about them and their future success (Weinstein, Novodvorsky, 229).
It is important to “understand student resistance in school and … [controlling] it,” (Toshalis, 3). Before educators can have strategies to deal with resistance they must understand the factors (oftentimes complex and out of students’ control) that cause these behaviors. Further, it is critical to consider schools as potentially restrictive environment at times (Toshalis, 7). For some students school is a battleground where they feel lost, frustrated and out of control. As a teacher, I will do my best to remind students that they are safe to make mistakes, they have agency in their education and that what they are learning does in fact matter in their lives and for the future.
I would also want to provide an opportunity to conference with student’s individually every two weeks during the beginning of class or during small group work. I would want to check in about missing assignments (not only in my class but in other classes as well), reading progression, and any other areas of concern I have noticed. These conferences would serve to show students that I am taking the time to listen to their concerns and to monitor their progress in my class. Simply listening to students can make a difference about student’s outlook about school.
Examples of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Providing opportunities for success by reviewing a lesson students did not understand
Providing students with candy for providing correct answers to questions and actively participating.
“Challenging students but making sure students can perform the task at hand, (Weinstein, Novodvorsky, 204). It is important to remember student’s proximal zone of development when assigning tasks.
If students complete all their assignments for the week, they can leave a few minutes early from class.
Contacting parents to update them on a positive aspect of a student’s academic growth.
If all assignments are completed for the month, students can choose to skip a homework assignment (except for writing or projects).
Allowing some extra time, to have students teach the class something they feel is important to them.
In order to encourage reading, when students finish a book, they can receive a ticket, add their name and add it to the raffle box. At the end of each trimester, a few tickets are chosen and students receive a prize.
Conducting a restorative circle whenever appropriate.
I would also want free books to be available for students to keep.
Having students assess their own goals (Weinstein, Novodvorsky, 208-209).
Letting students know when they have answered a questions correctly or offered an interesting comment.
Having students participate in community-building activities at the beginning of the school year or the semester can be a good way to put students at ease. They can also be good ways of getting to know the students. I want to implement these activities at the beginning of next semester. Since the students I will be teaching already know each other, the “Guess Who” activity can be particularly insightful (Weinstein, Novodvorsky, 78). In this activity, students write a short autobiographical statement (only including aspects of themselves they feel comfortable sharing) without writing their names on their statements. I will participate too. Once all statements are collected and redistributed to different students, each person reads their statement aloud and tries to guess who it describes. Additionally, having students complete the form attached to my introduction letter, will let me know more about the students and their learning styles.
Moreover, I would begin the semester with a community-building circle. In the circle, all students (including myself) would go around and answer: What is one thing that you are proud of from last semester? What would you like to accomplish this semester? This would allow students to reflect on their experiences from last semester, their performance, what was easy and difficult. And they would get an opportunity to plan for the next semester, especially if they need to improve their grades.