A few weeks ago, I observed my cooperating teacher handle a situation in our classroom with expertise and ease. I have learned much from her about creating a classroom culture and management that is calm, consistent and compassionate.
Student A came into class that day and sat at his desk as usual. But, as class began, he did not follow any of the instructions to pull out classroom materials, write down the assigned homework, and get ready to review the work from the day before. While circulating through the room, my CT gave gentle reminders to the students, Student A included, who had not yet prepared themselves for class. Student A refused, after several promptings, and sat with arms folded.
At this point, I think that what makes the difference here is the relationship that my CT forms with her students. She clearly spends time to ensure that her students trust her and that the lines of communication stay open.
My CT paused the students in their preparations for class, and reminded the class in general about their established classroom rules. These rules are posted on the wall, and include things such as “Come prepared to class”, “Follow instructions”, and “Treat others with respect”. She reminded the students that they are to come to class prepared, ready to learn, and to do their best while they are here. Along with this reminder, she said that we all have difficult days and that sometimes we find things to be hard. She continued that each day we make choices about how we want to be. She then briefly and directly reminded Student A that if he didn’t follow those rules, he would need to take a break from the classroom and come back when he was ready (an established consequence). Immediately after this reminder, she moved the class along to the next task she had planned.
I observed Student A quietly and slowly get his materials out and begin to follow along with the rest of the class. Once the class moved through their first tasks and onto the independent work, my CT approached Student A and they had a quiet conversation filled with kindness, compassion and understanding on her part.
So much about this situation informs the type of teacher I want to be. I want the rules and norms of my classroom to be clear and fair, and co-constructed with my students. They will be displayed where they can be continually referred to and remembered. We all need occasional reminders about what is expected of us, and that will be key to the culture of the classroom.
When situations arise, I want to be able to respond with care and compassion, as well as firmness and clear consequences. The consequences will be expected and understood. This will send a message to my students that I respect them and expect much from them. A culture of mutual respect in my classroom will create a safe and welcoming environment for my students.