My educational philosophy is a combination of progressivism and existentialism. As a history teacher I believe that it is my responsibility to inspire my students to be active members of society. I like to empower my students to make choices on their own behalf. I also believe that students can make their own path through life once they learn to realize how precious this life is. The following strategies are used in my class to build a community. Building a community creates an environment where learning can happen. Environments where learning occurs teaches lesson that last a life time. Positive, inspirational classrooms also limit the oppertunity students with "abilities" have to misbehave. In order to be the best teacher that I can be, I have listed some strategies that I use throughout my class that elaborate on how I plan to communicate these expectations to students.
Develop a Social Contract: Communities are based on shared expectations. Students in my class will have a chance to create some of their own classroom rules. This strategy allows for full accountability on the part of both students, teachers and parents (Collaborating with students in Instruction and Decision Making, 175).
Predictable Procedures and Routines: In order to create a cohesive classroom, students will know what to expect upon entering my classroom. I have developed a routine where I show a video clip each day which is followed by a photo lecture. This strategy allows all of my students to become comfortable in the classroom ( Collaborating with students in Instruction and Decision Making, 177).
Know Your Community: Each year may begin with ice breakers or other activities that ensure all of my students know one another. A community can only truly develop equitably when all of my students know each other by name and interests.
Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Good Night: I welcome my students into the classroom for each period. I think it is important to start the period this way to make students feel welcome and valued. This strategy models respect and appreciation, but primarily serves as a bright point in each of my students day.
Seating Arrangement: Seating arrangements are very important to a properly functioning classroom. Although this strategy is dependent on the type of desk I am provided, the general idea is to provide seating that promotes group work and allows me to easily walk throughout the class in order to monitor students success.
VanDamme: I have incorporated the term Van Damme into my class as a signal for students to compose themselves and focus their attention back on the teacher. Some of the students knew of Jean Claude Van Damme, a 1980-1990's action star, but I explained and presented an image of his stern, emotion free, rock solid facial expression. They found this signal somewhat odd but funny and interesting at the same time; it gets their attention.
Discipline: A well behaved classroom is a product of good teaching. In most cases, good teaching will eliminate the need to carry out dramatic disciplinary action. In my classroom, “Discipline is not a verb, but a noun. It is something students acquire, not what educators do with students” (Win-Win Discipline by Spencer Kagan, Patricia Kyle & Sally Scott).
Provide Engaging and Challenging Curriculum: History is full of opportunities to bring content to life. For a lesson on the Progressive Era, I created a photographic slide show of images taken by Lewis Hine in the early 1900's. Students analysed the photos and decided what was not socially acceptable about them. Providing students with a lesson that fully immerses them into the content will limit the possibility that a student acts out (Win-Win Discipline by Spencer Kagan, Patricia Kyle & Sally Scott).
Cooperative Discipline: Throughout my teaching day, I make eye contact with each one of my students. In some cases the eye contact I give them is telling them that they are doing something that is not appropriate at that moment. I may also give students eye contact that confirms what they are doing or how they are acting is appropriate Cooperative Discipline, Albert, Linda (1996) Cooperative Discipline. Philadelphia, PA: American Guidance Service).
Do the Unexpected: Doing the unexpected is the most powerful strategy that gains students attention and affection. Students enjoy a laugh or doing something that seem “wrong.” As I walked between my students desks I asked them to look at things differently, I walked up to my desk and stood on top of it. I asked my students to stand on their chairs. The students were shocked that we were standing on our chairs and desks but at the same time, were surprised at how the classroom looked from a few feet taller. They remembered to always try and look at things differently (Mr. Keating, The Dead Poets Society).
Take a Meta-Moment: By the time students have reached their high school years, the RULER strategy will need some modification. The strategy provides a reminder that each student does face their own life challenges which impact their emotions. The Ruler Strategy can be used as a mental checklist to gauge students emotional state at a high school level (Brackett, Marc A., Kremenitzer, Janet Prickard. (2011). Creating Emotional Literate Classrooms: An introduction to the RULER approach to social and emotional learning, Port Chester, NY: Dude Publishing).
Anxiety Reduction: Most of us suffer from some form of anxiety. Whether its very mild, moderate or severe, anxiety can hamper out emotional state. Once our emotional state is effected negatively, our performance tends to suffer. When things get really tough, I like to think of the people I know who work even harder than I do. My anxiety level decreases because I feel like I am not alone. This is a strategy I like to tell my students about and is also suggested by the, “Its ok” strategy (Daniel Wendler's website Improve Your Social Skills).
Inspirational Videos Showing inspirational videos in class is a personal favorite. There are a large number of phenomenal videos that can be found online that quite literally “blow your mind.” I have shown two of these videos clips so far and my students love them. One particular student has even told me that he watches the video almost daily. Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot video as well as an inspirational speech by Charley Chaplain.
Seeing My Students Eye to Eye: Taking a moment to speak with each student on an individual basis is imperative in a classroom. Students must feel like they are seen and heard. There is no greater life lesson than showing students compassion and empathy. Meeting students face to face reduces barriers and creates understanding. I like to take moments throughout the day to speak one on one with my students.
Seek Wise People: Surrounding ourselves with positive energy is a very important skill most of us do not learn until we are in our mid twenties. No one ever suggested this to be before, or perhaps they did not explain it enough. Reminding students to surround themselves with positivity is an important strategy that builds a peaceful classroom environment (Peace Builders Program Strategies, p10).
Somewhere Else PLAN
No Missed Class Time: In order for students to be successful, students must be attending class. Disciplinary actions such as suspension diminish the chance a student has to recovery and make progress. “A body of research indicates that lost class time due to suspension and expulsion results in alienation and often early involvement with the juvenile justice system” (Patricia Brown, Opening Up, Students Transform a Vicious Circle). Instead of suspending a student, students could work with another educator so that the student does not feel neglected or simple moved “somewhere else.”
The Circle: In the event that a dramatic event has occurred between students and or teachers, several meetings will be held to resolve the problem and to move forward. Rather than assigning students detention or a suspension, students and teachers can resolve the issue in a civilized communicative manner that builds respect upon reflection (Lynette Parker. Copyright 2001 by Prison Fellowship International)
Utilize Support: Students with IEP's are often provided an instructional aid. Many teachers do not utilize these aids in a beneficial manner. Some students can be diffused by having the instructional aid take a student who is having a “moment” to another setting where the student can take a moment to compose themselves.
Wrap Around Support
Restoration: The restorative approach suggests that any damaged relationship can be restored. The strategy does not focus on punishment as the means to a resolution but rather promotes restoration on the basis of understanding to resolve a damaged relationship (Jeffrey Sprague, Integrating PBIS and Restorative Discipline, p12).
Intervention: Although it may be difficult to intervene before a behavior occurs, intervention that creates prevention is a solid strategy that can limit the need for a strategies to reach level five. “Intervene before (behavior) becomes a full-blown problem” (The Special Edge, p15)
Manifestation Determination: This strategy must be used if a student with an IEP misses more than ten days of class time. The strategy assesses whether the student is missing class due to a “ability” or not. If the student is missing class because of an “ability” then an IEP modification must be implemented. If it is determined that the student's behavior is not a result of the students “ability” then a behavioral assessment and plan must be implemented (The Special Edge, p7).