Tag Archives: classroom management

I AM A SUCKER FOR DEADLINES (THE RED FLAGS I MISSED)

28 Aug

assignment deadlineI entered the lecture room eagerly as I couldn’t wait  to see the presentations the students were going to make.  Boy, was I excited.  No one was present.  They were never usually late so that should have been the first red flag but pity me all wrapped up in my excited anticipation did not pick it up.

Twenty minutes later, they strolled in collectively.  It had never happened.  Another red flag but I missed it.   They were not their usual animated selves;  another red flag. I missed it too. I attributed the almost lethargy to them being tired from their involvement in the college’s events  of the past few days, and  earlier that morning.

I proceeded to give the ground rules and order of presentations then I sat  expecting  compliance. I was not prepared for what happened next.  NO. ONE. MOVED.  This was when I woke up from my excited anticipation to face reality.   As any responsible person would do i made an inquiry.  Quite bold and audibly, the spokesperson announced :

“Miss we are not ready. We are not finished so we can’t present today. Can we do it next week?”

My eyes opened,  my lips parted,  I instinctively clasped my hands, my chest heaved.  I slowly, softly and sternly uttered  “What. Did. You. Say”?  ( All this time in my mind I am praying “Lord help me find the right words. Let me not blow a fuse.  Curb my tongue”).

No one responded to my soft utterance.  I  stood, looking the all five feet, eight inches of me,  and strutted purposefully  to the front of the lecture room. I said calmly:

 “Today is the ONLY day we are doing this.  The person or persons who misses it, will receive a zero – even if it is the entire class”. 

The spokesperson opened ‘his’ mouth to speak . I stared at ‘him’.  He must have felt its poignancy because nothing came out. I returned to my sitting position.

It hit home.  They realized I was serious.  They started scrambling for their materials.  They attempted to do the presentation. They all failed miserably except two.

Two days later, in my office,  I was visited by two of the students.  I wasn’t in the mood to speak to them. I was still upset but they were persistent.  So I granted them audience but kept writing.  Again, I was not prepared for what I heard  next. One said:

 “Miss, I want to apologize for what happened in class but I respect the decision you made”

Now they had my attention. I placed my pen down looked at them. She continued:

“Yes miss I respect it. We have always relied on going to lecturers as a body; an entire class speaking with one voice. When we do that, we always get the extension. This is the first time it has never worked. We were not prepared for it”

I started laughing. I am still not sure why I was laughing but that was the only response that came out.

The other student joined in.

” yes miss it really surprised me. Didn’t know you would say no. I felt so bad.  But miss, I am starting your next assignment later”

I laughed again. “Lesson learnt”?  I asked  mockingly

“Oh yes miss”  they chimed alternately in varying tones of resolution

They then left.

The long and short of it is, ALL  subsequent assignments came in  on time and we well done.

While at Secondary  Level Education…

  • I was constantly accused by several individuals of being hard on my students when I:
  • Refused to accept late assignments
  • Deducted marks for incomplete assignments
  • Ignored parents pleas for mercy as they accepted responsibility for their children late or incomplete assignments.

I frequently  heard:

“you too difficult man”

“yuh hard eeh”

“you don’t belong in the classroom”

“so why yuh affi so hard”

“I don’t like her; she coulda well ah tek di work”

Thank God my mettle was made of sterner things or maybe I would have believed it all.

As I transitioned to tertiary education, I was even more convinced I was not hard on my secondary students.  I was simply preparing them for life after high school.

As educators, we need to set  and maintain standards. Be consistent.   If we do this, our students will rise to meet the standards.

I am a sucker for deadlines. What about you?

*picture taken from google images

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A TEACHER’S TIME

25 Oct

I never intended to have stayed in the classroom. I was suppose to teach for three years and then make my exit or so I thought. More than ten years later, I am still here.

There exists several assumptions that teachers are lazy and do very little work. In a dialogue with a friend – who is not a teacher-  he revealed that teachers are indeed lazy, and do not work enough hours in a day, gets too much holiday, and a host of other babble-about-nothing.

As I reflected on the conversation, it had me thinking and I realize just how much of my time I have given to my students. I was therefore compelled to share some of the these things with you, and discover how you spend some of your time as a teacher.

A teacher is always thinking about the next step

I spend all night thinking of strategies to motivate students to learn.

I spend every alleged ‘free time’ thinking what activities I should use for a particular lesson.

I spend my hours thinking how to handle the student who is emotionally and psychologically destroyed and has reached out to me for help.

I spend every waking moment thinking what am I going to do with the confidential information that students have bestowed upon me without breaking that trust.

I spend my holidays, afternoons, and nights marking papers, and designing plans just to reach that one student who is falling behind.

I spend my hours parenting students outside of regular school hours because parents simple cannot cope, and they needed me to help their child.

I spend my time planning my budget for the week to include that one child who will always come asking for lunch money. Each day I pack my lunch bag, I put something extra in it- not for me, but for the child who will come searching for me in a state of hunger.

I spend my time sacrificing to save an extra dollar to pay for at least two (2) CSEC subjects per student.

I spend my time watching, and nursing the child who is too ill to be at school but parents send him/her anyway.

I spend my time thinking how to help a student to see the best in him/herself.

Simply put, teachers spend most of their time taking care of student’s needs – whether they are at school or otherwise. I can hear some saying it is their job and they are getting paid to it; But teachers are also humans who need time for themselves and their families. For some teachers their families are often left behind because the teachers are often busy with other children.

If you are a teacher, or you know anyone who is a teacher, share what do you or they spend most of your time doing?

*image taken from google image

THE KINGDOM CALLED CLASSROOM

11 Jul

The classroom is not the teacher; it is not the students and it is certainly not the building. Why not you ask? Teachers need someone to teach or facilitate; students need someone to facilitate them and lastly, teaching and learning does not always take place inside a building. I will not expend the energies to give a definition of classroom management as several scholars have posited various definitions for this terminology. All of them may not agree as to what the definition is but the fundamental thing to note is that they all have similar underlying meaning or suggested purpose. According to Evertson and Weinstein (2006), classroom management has two distinct purposes: “It not only seeks to establish and sustain an orderly environment so students can engage in meaningful academic learning, it also aims to enhance student social and moral growth” (p. 4).

I believe all educators should re-orient their thinking and not see themselves as mere teachers but managers. Yes! That’s right. Education Managers. The teaching profession is a whole conglomerate by itself. This is because teachers are managers of time, content, people, behaviour, resources, process and the list goes on. When this happens, they will take a more holistic approach to tasks or the roles they play in the education process. Please note that if a classroom is not properly managed, then effective teaching and learning will only be an elusive concept desired by many.   By properly managed I mean, rules, regulations and procedures to guide actions. Mind you, these may exists but not enforced. Thus a part of properly managing a classroom is to ensure these rules, regulations and procedures are enforced. Once these are absent, then disruption, chaos, disorder and even dis-respectfulness reigns supreme as lord & King in the kingdom called classroom. When these undesirables take charge of the teaching and learning space, then teachers struggle desperately to impart knowledge; students are not engaged in the learning process, hence do not grasp adequate content; the result of which is frustration and demotivation for both parties. Conversely, a well-managed classroom results in productive teaching and learning. May I point out that productivity is not easily achieved with the wave of a magic wand, or utterances over a crystal ball. It takes hard work. Being an effective class manager/education manager is not a hereditary trait that inevitably misses some persons but more so one that grows and develops as he/she proceeds in this role.

Being a good classroom manager is not as difficult as it may seems and neither is it a walk in the park BUT with consistent practice, you will eventually become an expert at it. There are some basic things that a teacher needs to do to set him/herself on the path to becoming an effective classroom manager.

Yup! The tips/rules are important.

  1. Your first task is to establish expected behaviour for both parties in the teaching and learning process. This is best done with the input of students. This gives them the opportunity to not see themselves as mere subjects and you the teacher as general King-Kong but more so as subjects with voices and equal privileges in this kingdom. As a drama teacher is training I was advised to employ this strategy using what is called a “Drama contract” created by both teacher and student; In other words, an agreement between teacher and students. This worked perfectly well while in training. When i got into the system as a fully fledged licensed teacher, I suddenly grew a chip on my shoulder: “I’ve got this. I don’t need to do this anymore” or so I thought. As quickly as it came, that chip fell away when I realized I was not in control of my class.

Others include:

  1. Make promises and follow through on them. Whether this be promise of reward or punishment. It sends a message to students that you mean business.
  2. Be consistent. For e.g, if you have a rule that students should form a line before entering your classroom, stick with it and do it all the time. This will help students learn about the culture of your classroom. Additionally, sooner or later you will not have to tell them what to do. So that is one less task on your hand. With you employing consistency, your job has just got easier.
  3. Ensure you plan interesting and exciting lessons that keeps students engaged. If students are bored, they will sleep or become disruptive.
  4. Lessons should not only be exciting but they must be at a level appropriate for age group. In other words, they should be too simple not should they be too difficult. The degree of difficulty should be so that students are challenged in the process but it is not beyond their abilities to grasp and comprehend.
  5. Ensure particular life skills are employed by students such as the ability to manage time through tasks given, make notes without being prompted, etc…
  6. Create and utilize special coding procedures for example, when the teacher hold up her right hand, students know that they should all go quiet; or the teacher may employ a counting methodology where he/she counts to three. This must be understood by students and established at the beginning of a class if it is to be effective.

These are by no means the ONLY classroom management strategies but these are basic strategies that any education manager could start with. I am sure you will explore others. Some may be just a basic but I know you will develop others that are more intermediate and advanced. In this Kingdom called the classroom, the management of it is flexible and allow each educator to stamp his or her own creativity and style. Just remember, the aim is to effectively manage the classroom or should I say the teaching and learning process.

 Stay tuned for more in this special feature…in the mean time. feel free to share your thoughts.

*Picture taken from google image

When Did Discipline become a Dirty Word or a Forbbiden Act?

1 May

The days when kids were kids

“Friends, Romans, country men, lend me your ears.” That is the opening line of Anthony’s speech in the classic Julius Caesar when he addressed the crowd on behalf of a deceased Julius Caesar. I have not the wit or oracular skill of Anthony to wow you with but nonetheless, I ask for your indulgence. It is one year since the attack. If you want, you could call it an anniversary. Under other circumstances, there would be fanfare & lavish celebration accompanied by smiles & well wishes some from the four corners of the earth but not the case. April 27, 2014 marked one year since the vicious attack on former dean of discipline Gavin Myers of the Aabuthnott Gallimore High School that landed him in the hospital with broken bones and other injuries; One that got national attention and was aired by all major media houses in Jamaica. As with most things in Jamaica, ‘chirpings’ could be heard from every ‘nest’ in every ‘tree’ but only for ‘nine days’. Today, those physical wounds have been healed but I certainly cannot say the same for the psychological & emotional wounds as the ghosts that come with this memory are many and varied. As Myers reflects on the incident he can’t help but feel he was robbed of a part of him that he is waiting to return to normal. The incident is a painful memory he live with daily with a smile…a smile that not only served as a facade for the pain but also one of disbelief & confusion about what really happened. Here is a man. A flawed man, who renders service, yet was inhumanely hurt by those whom he served. The 27th of every month persons look forward to enjoying the joys of their salaries-no matter a small; Mr Myers was robbed of that. Some look forward to spending quality time with their kids; Mr Myers was also robbed of this. And why? All in the name of discipline or the lack thereof. The incident is prime example of the degradation of discipline among our youths. So I asked when has discipline become such a dirty word and a forbidden act that the least attempt at instilling is met with unmistakable scorn? When students can so viciously and fearlessly attack their dean of discipline who stands as a symbol of law and order in the education institution shows how much they have scoffed at and spat on discipline. How did we get here? We did not just get here one year ago as nothing degrades overnight nor at the spur of the moment. Like a sore that remains untreated and festers to puss & gangrene and before you know it, such area is in need to maximum potent anti-biotic or complete amputation, that is how this degradation of discipline in our society has happened. With schools a microcosm of society, could we them summarize that it is just reflecting what is happening within the wider society? We have become a nation of indiscipline and any force that serves as a symbol discipline must be cut down and cast aside. There are elements in society that continue to turn up their noses, scoffed at and shun discipline like it is a muddy, germy piece of cloth or a contaminated terminal disease. Instead they embrace & relish the stench of lawlessness & disorder. It is this kind of indiscipline that has spilled over in our schools. The sad thing is that we can forecast a cyclical action if stringent measures are implemented. These youths within our schools that view discipline as dirty & forbidden, are the same persons who later become integrated into the wider society and will influence other youths. The litmus test is, how do we claim back beauty & cleanliness of discipline? Or is it too late? There may not have been other incidents that are perfect carbon copies of Mr Myers but there have been other severe disciplinary problems within and out of our schools. So one wonders what is it that we are not doing that we should be doing; or what are we doing that we should not be doing? Strong intervention strategies are needed to put an immediate stop to this problem. One main such will be a consistent collaborative effort of all stakeholders: parents, teachers, board members, community members, etc… This will not change overnight but is still attainable with persistence and if all parties are singing the same tune. That way the attraction in indiscipline will be removed and persons especially our youths will realize the glory & glow in being disciplined. Myers may have been scarred by this incident but that has not stopped him from relentlessly pursuing his passion for working with youths (and lord knows he has every reason to quit). He is surprisingly not angry but is determined to continue the work that he is doing and in the process, demand the discipline from youths despite their background. Having been one of the recipients of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) he is currently pursuing a Masters degree at a South Korea university. Inspite of his resilience and sagacious response to the situation, until we start to take firm corrective actions, this incident will always be a reminder of how much discipline has become a dirty word and a forbidden act.

EMPOWERING OUR STUDENTS

25 Nov

Often as teachers we become frustrated with our students who refuse to follow our directives.  Sometimes, their unwillingness is not out of a desire to be rude and disrespectful but more-so a deep rooted self-doubt. We are unable to turn their perceive negative attitude into a positive one.    The reality is, there is always a strategy to combat every challenge. It is for us to find it.  We need to empower ourselves to overcome these challenges so we may empower our students.

As I was browsing my news feed on facebook, i came across this video posted by Drama in Education lecturer extra-extraordinaire Dr Brian Heap.   As i watched,  I immediately thought it was worth sharing with you my faithful readers.  Please watch this video. I know you will enjoy it as much as I did.  And please do not forget to share your thoughts.

KUDOS TO THE CREATORS OF THIS VIDEO. WELL DONE.