Filed Under Behaviour Management, establishing a respectful classroom, maintaining a safe, motivating students, positive climate, Special Education, special needs students, underachieving students | Leave a Comment
Given that school is about to start up again, I thought it useful to repost this article about using 21st century students’ expectations to inform our teaching practices.
Usually during the summer break after I’ve been away from the craziness of the June classroom for a while, a good long while, I begin to reflect on my teaching practice for the previous year. Usually this reflection includes reflecting on expectations, mine and my students. I want to be sure my expectations are reasonable given the nature of the changing 21st century classroom and students. I’ve taught for 30 years so some things have really changed and some haven’t. Today, I’m reflecting on things my students have told me they expect from teachers that really have nothing to do with cell phones, ipads, tablets etc or the 21st century. Students have told me they would like teachers to
- not abuse their power and order students around as if they control their lives;
- respect students personal lives and not bug them about personal things that are none of their business;
- not yell at students because that just makes them mad and not want to listen;
- not talk about themselves all the time and show that they’re smarter than students are because students find it discouraging;
- not treat students like they don’t know anything;
- have respect for students no matter what they’ve have done before;
- listen to both sides of the story;
- be equally fair to all students;
- try to help all students have the best results in class;
- give less homework because it is hard to do homework by themselves if they cannot ask the teacher;
- give more free time in class to do homework;
- give less homework because it is boring and takes away from time with family and friends;
- let students eat in class because sometimes they are hungry in class and can’t stay awake in class;
- not give homework before the holidays;
- let students listen to music while working in class;
- let students watch videos in class and not have to write about them;
- to want students to pass their classes;
- to be helpful, respectful, and fun to be around.
Basically students want teachers to respect them, but then of course teachers want students to respect them, too. Respect is a two way street that is constantly under construction. My students’ expectations help inform my teaching practice and enables me to create an inviting classroom where my students and I can do our best.
You might want to ask your students to tell you what they expect from teachers. I found students are not shy about revealing their expectations. The expectations also make good starting points for discussions.
I think it prudent from time to time to re-examine my philosophy of classroom management. My philosophy of classroom management has changed over the years. When I was a newbie teacher, I thought if I used the right techniques for classroom management everything would be OK. Well, I’ve learned and used many classroom management techniques over the years, but I have come to the conclusion that while excellent management techniques are necessary for classroom success, they are not sufficient for classroom success. I found that developing an authentic relationship with my students helped my classroom management more than any of the latest classroom management techniques. When kids saw that I cared about them, they better managed their behaviour in class. I start to develop positive relationships with my students on the first day of school by asking these nine questions. How do you develop positive relationships with your student?
Of course I want my students to be successful. All teachers do. But, I think the Ministry of Education and I have different ideas about what student success means. I don’t think students are successful if they only develop intellectual skills. Earning a high school diploma may be a necessary condition for student success, but it is not a sufficient condition for achieving student success. Students aren’t just one dimensional beings. Students, like everyone else, are multidimensional. We all have an intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimension that needs nurturing. Students need help developing intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually (not in a religious sense but in the sense of dealing with alienation, with sense of identity, ) . So Ministry of Education, what are you going to do to help meet the spiritual needs of students?
“Significant work related stress may take 2 months leave of absence” the letter said. I never would’ve thought this type of letter would apply to me, but its my letter from my doctor to give to my school.
I’ve been teaching high school students almost thirty years and still love teaching. I’ve chosen to teach high school students who are at-risk academically for most of my career because I felt I could make the most difference teaching academically at-risk students. When my students ask me from time to time, why I teach high school instead of university, I always tell them I teach high school because I love teaching teenagers. So what happened? Why did I crash and burn that Tuesday after school?
Why did I crash and burn? I think the following contributed to my burnout:
- students’ disruptive behaviour in class;
- students’ verbal abuse and threats of cyberbullying;
- students’ considerable, constant emotional demands;
- students’ special needs and the expectation to differentiate teaching and assessing and evaluating students’ work;
- heterogeneity in abilities of my students;
- conflicting demands made by my students, parents, and administration;
- ever increasing paper work, reports, and report card comments ;
- new discipline policy for students regarding lates, incomplete or unsubmitted assignments that some students think the new policies absolve them of the responsibility they have for their own learning.
Now, of course I know I also contributed to my burnout. I’m just a teeny weeny bit type A personality. I worked hard to do my best and try to motivate my students to do their best, but despite my best efforts I couldn’t motivate many of my students to take more responsibility for their own learning. In desperation, I tried to ignore these troublesome, troubles and troubling students, but I couldn’t. I felt it my job to get them to do their best, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I ignored them. When I called home for support, many of the parents were not surprised by their kid’s behaviours and tried to be supportive but most said they didn’t know what to do. Sometimes when I called parents, some parents didn’t return any of my phone calls. I learned to call cellphones and not leave a message at home because the kids would just erase my message before their parents got a chance to hear the message.
Anthony (not his real name) , one of my students, skipped almost a third of my classes, repeatedly came late to class, and didn’t submit most of his work. When I talked to Anthony about all this, he asked “What is your problem?”. My problem I thought?
Another one of my students, Darren (not his real name) told me repeatedly he hated my classes and that I wasn’t any fun. I was giving the class too much work. I should be more like his teacher last year and let the class watch movies on Fridays- in a math class?
Tom (not his real name) another student in my class had a hair trigger temper and would throw things around class. Students were afraid of him; I was afraid of him. You just never knew what would set him off. He asked me one day as he came into the classroom, what I would do if he refused to go to the office when I asked him to go to the office. I told him I wasn’t even going to consider that question because I didn’t expect to have ask him to go to the office. I really try hard to start each day with a fresh slate. So, what happened yesterday does not affect today. I don’t usually send students to the office. I try to deal with any issues myself in class. But on rare occasions, I feel I have to send students to the office. Later in class that day, Tom chose to behave inappropriately, and I asked him to go to the office. He refused. Two behaviour support teaching assistants came to escort him to the office , he wouldn’t go either. He refused despite everything. Then five minutes before class was over, he announced, “Now I am going”. The learning environment was totally destroyed in that class and in future classes. Students were either waiting to see what Tom was going to do and couldn’t focus on their work, or after an incident they were afraid and couldn’t focus on their work or they talked about the incident after it happened and couldn’t focus on school work. I admit, I had a difficult time myself focusing.
Another student, I’ll call her Jenny, would skip classes, come late to class or sneak out of class when I was helping another student. One day I noticed Jenny was out of class and went into the hall to see if she was there. I saw her and told her to come back to class. Jenny just laughed and ran down the hall laughing more loudly as she opened the door and ran down stairs. I called home and left a message on her parent’s cell phone , but never heard back from the parent.
Other students have come to class high on some substance or another and have destroyed the learning environment as I dealt with the situation.
These are just some of the things that happened this semester in class. I don’t want to discuss any more hings that happened in class because I find it too upsetting.
I’m just thinking how much teaching has changed over the years. I’m surprised I still like teaching, but right now I can’t even think about teaching. That’s so sad. I’ve been teaching for so many years and have loved it. I’m a life long learner myself and keep on top of things by doing my own research on how to improve my teaching practice. I’ve had students who were at-risk academically and have graduated from high school come back and tell me how much I helped them while they were in school. I’ve even had students who didn’t graduate from high school tell me how much they appreciated what I tried to do for them. And, now all I can do is cry when I think about it all.