Element 5 Teachers create and maintain safe and challenging learning environments through the use of classroom management skills.
I believe in creating a learning environment defined by rapport and respect, which works to positively influence the social and cognitive development of students. I believe that it is crucial that students feel safe and supported in their learning, so that they take risks and challenge the norm. This will encourage the students to be themselves and express their opinions openly. By developing this positive learning environment, students are more likely to achieve success because they feel valued for who they are and for their individual effort. I believe that if I am to create this positive learning environment, I need to outline clear directions and design learning activities that purposeful and significant to the students’ context. This is so that students see the point of participating and are, therefore, less likely to misbehave. Furthermore, I believe that behaviour serves a purpose and is triggered by specific variables within an environment (Conway, 2008, p.211).Thus the role of the teacher is not to “manage” the behaviour, but to understand why the student is acting in a certain way and identify what needs to be adapted in the environment to make it conducive to their learning. As part of creating an effective learning environment, students also need to be kept safe and this needs to be a serious consideration of the teacher in their planning.
I have used a variety of strategies to develop rapport with my students. For example, on all my practicums I have aimed to get to know the students’ names and identify some of their interests by lunch on the first day (see Appendix G & S). I do this through interacting with my students in and outside the classroom, encouraging them in their work, and telling them facts about myself. This develops trust within the learning environment and indicates I’m interested in getting to know them personally (Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu, 2003, pp.118-119). As a teacher this positively influences my planning as I’m able to adapt lessons to suit the students’ needs and interests. I have also developed safe and supportive learning environments by displaying all students’ work around the room and assessed their work individually, rather than in comparison to each other(see Appendix L & T). I did this to promote student self-worth and encourage individuality in their work, providing them with the opportunity to reach their full potential (Groundwater-Smith et al., 2003, p. 119). I have also demonstrated that I can develop a classroom climate that values learning and student ideas through employing strategies such as self-reflection (see Appendix M), using student comments as the content for classroom discussion (see Appendix C), and encouraging students to appreciate the work of their peers (see Appendix U).
As part of creating a safe and challenging learning environment, in the majority of my lessons I have provided clear directions for activities and designed purposeful learning activities. The importance of this aspect was most evident when I was unsure about the focus of the lesson and didn’t feel confident with what I had planned (see Appendix V). Subsequently, even though the students had fun in the lesson, I didn’t feel the students were able achieve the learning goals effectively. Upon reflection, I found that it is crucial to develop activities that were planned for engagement and deep learning, engaging the students whilst developing their understanding of the content (NSW DET, 2003, p.11).
On my previous practicum, I was required to implement a very different approach to classroom management then the one I am developing. On one of my practicums, I was encouraged to employ a reactive approach to student behaviour (see Appendix H). This meant I wasted valuable classroom time highlighting problem behaviour and focusing on the negative elements present in the classroom. I do not feel that this approach was effective in creating a learning environment conducive to success. Alternatively, on a previous practicum I was encouraged to identify what I was doing as the teacher to stimulate such a negative response from a student. This meant I was taking responsibility for the learning environment and caring for the needs of my students more than I could in the previously mentioned model.
When in my care, I have also ensured that students were safe by investigating related school & government policies and designing lessons with the students’ safety in mind. This can be seen in Appendix I, where I took into consideration the possible dangers that could occur in my lesson and adjusted my plans to ensure the safety of my students.
I need develop a range of strategies that would strengthen my relationships with upper primary students. In the past I have found this quite difficult and need to improve in this area exponentially. I also need to extend my understanding of the practical application of a variety of positive classroom management strategies, so that I can form a personalised in-depth approach to student behaviour.On my next practicum I will coordinate with my supervising teacher to designate time to implement a range of "getting to know you" strategies. I will also discuss with the students their strengths and difficulties in content areas, providing me with an opportunity to design lessons that enable students to achieve personal success. I will also investigate a range of positive classroom management strategies and attempt to observe them in practice.
Groundwater-Smith, S., Ewing, R., & Le Cornu, R. (2003). Teaching challenges and dilemmas.(2nd Edition). Victoria: Thomson
New South Wales Department of Education. (2003). Quality teaching in NSW public schools: Discussion paper. Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/qualityteach/assests/pdf/qt_disc_pap.pdf