Saturday, July 7, 2012

Classroom Management Questions!

One of my co-workers asked me to answer some questions for an education class she is taking.  I thought my answers might be of interest to others -- I've learned a lot since I was taking education classes myself!

Do you use more of an authoritative approach or an authoritarian approach with your teaching? Give specific examples and details.
As a beginning teacher many years ago, I had a big paddle and I knew how to use it!! But years of experience have showed me that the authoritarian approach is not helpful to the teacher or the students.  Instead I like the old saying "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."  That may not be true with flies, but it sure is true with people -- particularly little people. I try to have a positive behavior and discipline system -- I switched to the clip chart method last year.  I love how it gives the children opportunities to "clip up" as well as "clip down." And when they do sit in time out , I remind them that the reason they have to sit there is so they can practice following the rule -- I never say "Because you are BAD!"  I do insist that they listen to me and follow the rules, but I hope they listen because I have something important to teach them. I try to encourage them and help them to want to become life-long learners.

Do you use intrinsic motivation or extrinsic motivation when you teach? Give specific examples?

One word -- Skittles!  Actually, I used to give Skittles and prize box rewards a LOT.  Now -- not so much.  In fact, the reward for getting to the top of the behavior chart is a pencil that says, "My teacher is so proud of me!" 
and the reward for mastering a list of sight words is -- LUNCH WITH THE TEACHER!  WOW!!
But I want them to work hard to learn to read because they will love to read -- not for a prize.  Last year, one of my kindergarten girls wrote "The best part of kindergarten is "Read to Self" because I am good at it'" I want the whole class to feel that way and not even think about getting a physical reward .I encourage so they will feel proud of themselves when I use their paper as an example of good work or let them write the Morning Message for the whole class.

How do you nurture classroom community? Do you use rituals, rites, routines, celebrations, conversation, or play? Give specific examples.
We start the year learning about "teamwork' and together we write the rules of the classroom.  I also teach them about how to be a 'bucket filler' -- and to look for ways to help fill someone's bucket..  We have lots of songs to sing together, like Jack Hartman's "Ready to Read" that we sing nearly every morning as we meet on the carpet. We celebrate birthdays and academic achievements .  At the end of the year, each child wrote a letter to each of their classmates and we bound the letters into a book for them to take home. It took about 6 weeks to write all the letters, but the kids were so proud to get all those letters on their day.

What do you see as your strengths with your classroom management? Give specific examples.

Probably my strongest point is that I am always looking for new ways to improve  -- most of my good ideas have come from books and blogs and collaboration with other teachers.
I've learned to model, model, model the behavior that I want from "The Daily 5."  I adopted the "clip chart" behavior plan from another teacher, then found out more from teacher blogs.  I got some great ideas from "Whole Brain Teaching" website, and the Nellie Edge newsletter has also been very helpful. But each class is different -- each child is different -- and I've learned that I also have to be flexible and even with my plan in place, sometimes I have to try a different approach.
I also keep a notebook and time-out record of behavior issues so I can talk to parents about specific problems and work on solutions.
 And, of course, I love my children and I think they respond to that with respect. 


What have been the biggest challenges with your classroom management? Give specific examples.

When I first started teaching kindergarten, I had more to learn than the children!  My home/school communication was not very good and my noise tolerance was pretty high.  I had come from a little Christian school where I NEVER had behavior problems and parents were very involved.  When I start teaching in a school with high poverty, it took me a while to realize that I was going to have to change my ways. These children have parents who are working long hours-- or not working at all --or in prison -- or homeless.  So I have to work harder at getting parents involved in their children's education -- while realizing that they may not have time or energy or skills to help.
The other challenge is just the "getting started" part -- taking children who have never had to sit down and listen, never used a pencil or scissors, never been away from mom -- and gently introduce them to school and a whole new world!!  I have to blend a class of little children from all kinds of experiences -- some with a wealth of background  experiences, ready to read -- and others who are extremely immature and sometimes neglected.  That can be a big challenge, but the rewards are great when it all comes together.

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