Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Managing classrooms in a smart manner

Managing classrooms in a smart manner

DH, Oct 16, 2014 :
Controlling a classroom does not mean yelling and punishing. It is devising innovative methods to make students feel belonged, writes Dr Aradhana Mudambi.

It is a universal fact that classroom management is hard, no matter what anyone says. A teacher may know his or her subject matter, be eager to make a difference in the lives of his students, and have graduated from the best of colleges; and yet he may still find it difficult to control his students without losing his temper. 

Fortunately, however, teachers at any stage in their careers can learn how to better handle  their classes without resorting to yelling at students.First, it is important to understand why beyond the institution of recent regulations that prohibit teachers from scolding their students, constant yelling in the classroom is inappropriate. Yelling turns even the most talented teachers’ classrooms ineffective. 

A classroom in which the teacher feels he must yell is one in which he or she has lost control. This means that precious, instructional time is replaced with discipline issues, so students lose out on learning. Furthermore, a disruptive class takes the fun out of teaching.

Effective classroom management requires teachers to develop within every student, a sense of belonging to the classroom. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, every human being, in order to be happy, should have certain needs met in a specific, hierarchical order. The first set of needs is physiological. People need to have basic food, water, and clothing. The next set of needs is the need to feel physically and emotionally safe. For the sake of this article, let us assume that the above two sets of needs are met. The third rung is the need to belong. Classroom management is based on this social need.

Teachers who take advantage of students’ need to belong have a much stronger control over their classrooms. In the modern world, the need for belonging is highly unfulfilled for children due to the recent surge of nuclear families. 

Undoubtedly, most parents do their best. Nevertheless, with extended family members living far away and time that primary caregivers can give their children being limited, students no longer feel that they belong anywhere. Hence, they tend to seek out acceptance elsewhere, and often in the wrong way. For instance, by misbehaving in class, students obtain approval from their peers. Also, it gets them attention, albeit negative, from their teachers. 
Applying a formula

To combat this phenomenon, teachers should turn the classroom into the students’ own club where they can belong and where only appropriate behaviour is acceptable. A teacher can apply this formula to accomplish this task:

First, the teacher should carefully create a class theme that encourages appropriate classroom behaviour. For instance, a class theme could be cats since they are clean, independent, and quiet. Teachers need to visually reinforce their themes around their classrooms. For instance, a teacher who embraces the cat theme needs to have pictures of cats, stuffed animals, and a sign that says, “Welcome, Ms Padma’s Cats.”

Next, teachers need to induct their students into the special club. When students walk into the classroom, teachers should tell them that they belong to this special society. For instance, if we continue our cat theme, students should be told that the second they walked through the door, they became cats.  

The teacher should also introduce students to rules, which in turn should revolve around her theme. For instance, if a teacher has the cat theme in her room, she could post the following rules:

n Cats purr quietly.n Cats are neat and orderly.n Cats treat each other as a loving family.n Cats work independently with the support of the parent cat.
A conversation could then ensue, revolving around the characteristics of the theme item, and how those characteristics relate back to the students and the rules. For instance, when describing the first rule, “Cats purr quietly,” teachers should ask students to think back if they can remember a cat that meowed so loudly that people in the hallway could hear. 

This is obviously rare if it ever happens; therefore, everyone in class will also talk softly. When describing the third rule in the above example, “Cats treat each other as a loving family,” teachers may explain how the parent cat takes exceptional care of its children and how the kittens love and respect their parent cat. 

Then, she would relate the characteristics back to the classroom by stating that similarly, the teacher, who is the parent in the room, will love the students, who are the kittens, and the students will return the affection. 

In practical terms, the students and teacher will talk respectfully to one another and help each other when appropriate. All rules should be reviewed for a week and then, tested before the teacher holds students accountable. Take note from the above example that the teacher must also be part of the unique society.
Revision for sustaining

Finally, the classroom theme should be revisited constantly. Younger children in a second standard class can be asked to decorate paper cats and write their names on them. These cats can be displayed throughout the room, allowing students to take ownership of the classroom. Older children in a classroom with cats as the theme may be asked to read a passage about socialisation among felines.

Teachers, especially of older students, may believe that their students are too savvy for this set up. Older students will inevitably look askance at their teachers when the classroom theme is introduced, but all children, regardless of how grown-up they think they are, quickly take a liking to the idea because of the psychological need it fulfills. 

And as the theme slowly becomes a part of their identities, students actually want to behave as to not jeopardize their membership in the classroom. Of course, as children, students will make mistakes now and then and some, more than others. However, if the theme has been properly incorporated, rather than yelling, a teacher can simply redirect the student in a soft voice, and the student’s response will usually be favourable.

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