Element Five: Teachers create and maintain safe and challenging learning environments through the use of classroom management skills.
During my practicum experiences I have aimed to create an environment of respect and rapport through utilisation of a number of strategies; conducting a classroom meeting at the beginning to negotiate fundamental behavioural expectations such as "Talking in turns," completing a "Y Chart," creating a "Noiseometer," explicitly teaching and modelling appropriate social behaviours and celebrating individual student achievements. Creating a positive learning environment along with flexible grouping strategies (such as Jigsaw or Think Pair Share) and assigning discussion roles, has ensured students feel comfortable to risk full participation. I have sought to provide students with a "voice" at the classroom and whole school level by enabling them to address queries and concerns in appropriate forums, such as the school assembly.
On my practicum at Shelley Public School in 2008 I provided students with a regular routine of learning tasks to manage classroom activities smoothly and efficiently. At the beginning of each day events were clearly posted on the board with correpsonding images for ESL students, and any queries were discussed. The students responded positively to this structure and were aware of my consistent expectations. This daily routine linked to behaviour management strategies; students were aware that inappropriate actions could have consequences on scheduled activities. For example, before lunch students had the opportunity to partake in a game titled, "Dutch Auction," however if students hadn't completed tasks to a satisfactory level or had been disruptive, the game would have to be removed from the schedule. This strategy again proved effective during my time as supervisor of a vacation care centre, daily and weekly activities were posted on a communications wall, these were again linked to negotiated behaviours.
This strategy was complemented with providing students with choices in learning tasks and events. For example, in some lessons students were provided with a range of tasks or questions of which they had to complete a negotiated number. Tasks were linked to Gardener's 'Multiple Intelligences' (1983) and questions were linked to 'Bloom's Revised Taxonomy.' (Anderson et al., 2001) This was particularly successful when working with a stage three class who appreciated the opportunity to be treated like adults.
In my last two practicums I experimented with providing students with a "personal time out" area, this area was set up in the corner of the room with books and beanbags/cushions. Students could move to this area (and rejoin the class) without question whenever they were feeling frustrated, overwhelmed or tired. This strategy was particularly successful with challenging students who would move to the "personal time out" area rather than leaving the classroom. Students also felt empowered with the choice to participate.
On all of my practicum experiences I familiaried myself with the appropriate school and NSW DET policies (e.g. Supervision Policy) to ensure the safety of my students. I also aimed to create strong support networks for myself and my students by familiarising myself with appropriate school personell; counsellor, stage coordinator, and other executive staff.
On the coming professional experience I will further develop the clarity of my instruction and develop a wider range of behaviour management strategies.
To achieve the above goals I will need the support of my cooperating teacher to feel comfortable in utilising a range of appropriate behaviour management strategies. Prior to the practicum I will revisit the Edwards & Watts' text, 'Classroom discipline and management: an Australiasian perspective,'(2004), to gain some practical examples and strategies which may be effective for my students. When attempting different strategies I will need to clearly communicate my expectations to students and model the corresponding behaviours. Success of each strategy will be evaluated through a reflective journal. Improving the clarity of my instruction will be achieved through taking every opportunity to interact with the class.
My behaviour management philosophy is strongly influenced by my philosophy on teaching and how students learn. I believe that each individual student brings with them a wealth of knowledge, ideas, beliefs and life experiences. As such, each child is "not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited." (Plutarch) Thus, I believe teachers have the responsbility to foster a classroom climate where all individuals and learning are celebrated. Furthermore, I support Glasser's statement that, "the only person whose behaviour we can control is our own." (1965) Thus, in the classroom I aim to promote self regulation and management whereby students are supported in managing their own behaviour. This can be achieved in a fair, consistent, positive and collaborative classroom environment.
Jessica Coughlan, 2009.