Saturday, March 04, 2006

My Classroom Management Paper

Sometimes I just have a hard time understanding what program directors are thinking when they put a university course together. Take, for instance, my project that is coming due. It requires me to write down my philosophy of classroom management, in 6-8 pages. I am supposed to support my strategies and management techniques with some of the theory we've been reading about in class. The task seems innocuous enough.

However, consider for a moment the audience of said task. First-time students and after-degree students, most of whom have never set foot in a classroom as a teacher (save for their brief one-week of observation recently). Fortunately, I have an advantage in that I did experience four years in the lion's den; most people have not. So, armed with next to no experience as a classroom teacher, a mere week's worth of observational experience, possibly a handful of baby-sitting jobs, and for some, years of child-rearing their own off-spring, these students are being asked to put down on paper and in ink, their classroom management plan. How does one even begin to tackle such a task when one has no idea?!?

I mean, before I entered the HK classroom, I thought I was a pretty "cool" and easy-going teacher. My Sunday School kids never complained about the goodies (read: donuts and cookies) I brought in, and they seemed alert enough during my 1.5 hour lessons. I thought I was doing pretty well.

Then, I began teaching.All of my strategies went out the window (and I was tempted to go that route, too!). I had nasty students who wrote mean notes about other people and formed a little "hate group" against me, I had violent students with behavioural problems who could literally pick up the desks and mimic throwing them (scaring most of the pint-sized people in the room), I had kids who didn't listen, kids who didn't care, and students whose first instinct whenever there was silence, was to talk in a loud loud voice.

So, what worked with these young people? Hrm. Probably very little of what is lauded in my textbooks. Also, very little of what I thought would work (or have observed to have been effective when I was a student). What worked with that particular group of kids (sarcastic humour, excessive positive reinforcement, genuine personal concern, relationship-building, cheerleader-esque levels of enthusiasm, strict rules, and good bribes) also did not work with my next year's group of kids. My classroom management "plan" or strategy had to keep changing to meet the needs of each group of students that I taught, so how can I (and how can someone with even less experience than I) actually put in ink, our plans and strategies? They're dynamic and ever-changing, shaped by our experiences and knowledge and a thousand other factors.

So, I will complete my paper, but I will do so grudgingly, because I know that even with 4 years under my belt, there's a ton to learn about what it means to be an effective classroom manager, and I think this assignment is unfair (or at the very least, premature!). I feel very badly for those people who have to commit in ink to something that they've never had the chance to experience yet, and thus have no frame of reference to base their thoughts on. Heck, I feel badly for myself. I don't want to write this!!


German said...

Ha...I had to write that same paper. Each one of my peers said the same thing "write down what the prof thinks is right". Because exactly what you said, it changes all the time. Even day to day. Kid to kid even. There's no overall scheme, overall plan. My mentor teacher (one of the best mentor teachers ever I think) said that each kid has a script, and you have to read that script to them everyday. And believe it or not, it's the fair thing to do.

Uggh, with all the problems I can't say I haven't learnt anything.

Vien said...

You are so right Mrs. L! Not to underestimate my lil' sister, but I wonder how Gracie is going to complete a paper like that.

I'll have to tell her you wrote it already. ;)

Anonymous said...

I am guessing (just guessing!) the intent of this assignment is to gauge if a student could come up with a management plan applying what the prof preaches!

Think about it H, like you have already said, there is no silver bullet plan. BUT some plan do generally work better than the other. And as prof, you have gotta think what you preaches in the classroom would allow the future teachers to come up with such a plan.

The real point is not to judge if your plan is full proof but rather is to judge how well you could apply what you have learn from the preaching. You might argued that the marks for this assignment would be totally biased. But that's the real world, it is never fair or clean cut black and white.

Teacher is like a Marine, you are expert at improvise. You are the few and the proud!

Mrs. Loquacious said...

Well, I will definitely write down what has been "preached" or lectured at me. I will infuse my experiences into the paper as well.

I just see how often assignments like this leave my peers reeling, when they have no experience from which to draw their anecdotes.

*sigh* Wish me luck! I begin the paper today.

H said...

You will do great on your paper, you're ahead of most of the students in the class who have no idea (like I was) what it is really like to be alone and in charge of a classroom full of 30 kids! I think you've got it right when you said what works for one, may not work for another, so be flexible and have a plan A, B, C, D... :)
I vaguely remember writing that paper...none of it stuck since I was so naive writing it, so you can see how much help it did me!

One thing I found works really well is to have classroom routines set up. If the kids know what to do in every situation, there is usually less classroom management to deal with, it makes it so much easier for me (as a sub)and no doubt for their regular teacher.