Educators have an awesome responsibility. They touch lives in a way not seen in many professions. Educators are molding the future leaders of our society. Bias and preconceived expectations have no place in my classroom. Self fulfillment prophecies cause failure. An ability to observe and trouble shoot in a objective manner can create a positive classroom climate. The impact I have on the children directly affects their positive self efficacy. If skills are learned and an innate feeling of empowerment is instilled in the children, a positive indirect effect will culminate as well. Children will take their skills and use them to make a positive impact on others as adults.
Educators are leaders. Leaders develop many different styles. One is not necessarily better than another. The success of the style must be adapted to the population it serves. Educators spend more time with children than their parents do. Thus, we are fundamental contributors to the development of our charges. A fundamental part of the observation process is to find a teaching style that the students are responsive to. The innate characteristics of a teacher are Directing, Participating, and delegating. Student engagement, and a student centered environment is my style of practice.
I have instilled trust in the children. Thus I instill a safe and positive classroom climate. The children know they can ask questions and their questions will not be undermined. If the children are not focused on the curriculum I am willing to adapt it by a voting system and shuffle the curriculum around. There is always a reason for lack of focus. As the educator, it is my job to look below the surface and seek resolution. Directing is done by modeling, explaining, visual lists, and then I slip off to the side and become a delegate. Delegating responsibilities for a project and acting as a coach are my ultimate goal.
If a child appears confused I am available to assist. My ultimate goal is to establish independence in the children. A firm belief is that a classroom climate that promotes independence, promotes empowerment. A child who is taught that the teacher’s assistance is needed at all times will get the distinct feeling that the teacher deems them incapable of doing anything on their own. Like snow flakes, no two students are alike. Using one form of instruction, materials delivery and assessment is not possible. Individualized instruction takes into account the learning needs and interests of each child. My program is curriculum based. Projects spawn from a book that has been read. I must be cognitive of varied levels. My children are multi age. Their cognitive levels are as staggered as a set of steps. The writer will give an example of individualized instruction. Last week, a book on leave siblings transformed into a nature walk to find leaves that fit the description of those in our book. Some children were preoccupied with finding leaves that corresponded with the colors in the book. Others just randomly snatched handfuls and popped the leaves in our container. Although I guided, the children made the ultimate choice.
We reentered the classroom with our prize, bins of leaves. The next step was to set them upon the table for a collage. The goal was to make the collage as similar to the book as possible. Some children searched for pointy the yellow leaf, Paige the red leaf, and Phil the red leaf. Google eyes were attached. Some children even added Popsicle stick branches. One child with poor fine motor skills was showing signs of frustration. Google were sticking to her fingers instead of the leaf. As the child proceeded to walk away, the powers of observation gave me the ability to assess the situation. I could have deemed her lazy and defiant. That would have been deleterious to her future enthusiasm.
I stepped out of my coaching character and assisted in a way that the child still felt in control. I held down the leaf, rubbed glue stick on the top. The child than set the googly eyes upon the leaf. Success was experienced. The child who was ready to give up actually asked if we could do another literary project the following day! The child was an active partner in our decision-making. I allowed for adaptation in the project so I could reach all learning modalities. I must take note that my I stepped in to assist the child’s project but the child still had an active role in the end result. The activity culminated with a child who was not made to feel incompetent in front of her peers. Her self-esteem was preserved.
The goals of a teacher are more complex than it seems on the surface. Many educators tell me that they like working with children and that was their reasoning behind entering the profession. Teaching is an art. An educator must be part educator and part sleuth. The classroom, the children, and the community must all be taken into consideration when observing and trouble shooting. The teacher is a facilitator. However to run a well-organized classroom we must have the ability to look at the class through the child’s eyes and not our own. In some ways, the child teaches the educator as much as the teacher educates the child.
As an adult, a classroom can evoke negative classroom experiences of our own childhood that can cloud the lenses that we view the class through. The social order of the class room, the play patterns, even disruptive behavior can evoke these memories. Memories can take two pathways in our own class. We can be introspective about our own past. Rather than reliving negativity that we encountered we can assess what was unpleasant to us and peers as children. We could remember an authoritarian classroom where the teacher had the last word. If we questioned the teacher we were ostracized to a far corner of the room. Perhaps we did not care for the class that was so silent we could hear a pin drop. I hated the rows of desks that did not allow for team work in the class.
If one becomes introspective, childhood classroom experiences can be a learning tool. Rather than repeating the very teaching styles we abhorred as children, we can draw upon those experiences to make a positive classroom climate. I hated the quietness of my child hood classroom. I now encourage group conversation and input into projects. A favorite democratic practice I use is the voting system. We vote on two items on the curriculum. The majority dictates which project is tackled first. I detested rows of desks. I now sit down on the floor with the children during circle time. I prefer being at their eye level, and it affords some great group discussions. I always tell the kids that I will never have them do anything I would not do myself. I model this, and have received respect for my authority as a result.
This writer would like to emphasize that she is not void of judgment. O n days when a recalcitrant child repetitively challenges me I find my self reverting to bias. I will avoid this child, and have even caught my self involuntarily rolling my eyeballs when she confronts me. However, I must remember my job is to teach her positive behavior strategies that will put her on a positive path. I consciously admit my foibles and strategize without singling her out. Homework support was a constant battle with this particular child. I implemented a token reward system which is labeled on the wall above the homework table. Monday through Thursday a token can be earned for doing homework with out arguing or lying about what assignments need to be done. These tokens can be turned in on Friday for extra free choice time at a favorite activity. Homework battles have subsided.
Flexibility is the mother of invention in a classroom. I felt smug in regards to a warning system I developed. Three warning cards are attached to the wall. If all warnings are taken down no token is earned. I get up and silently remove a warning from the wall. If one warning remains on the wall the children earn a token. A chart on the wall was developed as a group project. The children colored the tokens. When twelve tokens are earned a group privilege is enjoyed. After a couple of months of using a movie as a privilege, poor behavior escalated. I charted behavior in reaction to new behavior programs in a notebook. Ultimately, the old token system was re-instituted. In charting reactions I found it was the most successful behavior program. I merely had to be flexible enough to take a vote on a new reward occasionally. Once new rewards are instituted the behavior subsides.
In closing I will summarize what skills a teacher must possess. Teachers have to understand their subjects, but remain flexible. Remaining flexible assists the teacher in helping students create cognitive maps, relate ideas, and clear up misunderstanding. Educators must connect teaching with everyday life. This assists in content. Assisting in content knowledge creates accessibility of ideas. Figure out what students know and how to make children excited about learning. Teach in ways that connect the child’s culture, social, emotional, and cognitive development into the learning process. Respect the child for who they are and never presume failure. Children will become who we believe they are. Be sensitive, inquiring, and structure situations where students talk about experiences. Motivating a child requires that we develop and appreciation and understanding for who they are. If we know what excites them we can incorporate it into the learning experience. Identify strengths yet address and strategist for weakness. Collaborate with students to teach teamwork. Collaborate with teachers for advice and support. Collaborate with parents to understand the home life. Be humble enough to analyze and change teaching strategies. Admit when a strategy does not work. Evaluation and observation is a constantly evolving process. As the child evolves so must the teaching environment, smile and show enthusiasm and the children will always smile back.
To all of you that make our society a better place by the contributions you make – thanks. :-0)
Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE
Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9