At the Berlin British Primary School, there is a school wide behavior procedures, but each teacher has their own classroom management techniques! At the beginning of my placement it was not obviously clear what the school wide behavior policy was. I am used to seeing signs in the hallways, students who have had experiences with these types of rules throughout their entire education, and “common language” used by the teachers! For example, the students back at home must walk down the right side of the hallways- keeping everyone moving in an orderly fashion, even in between classes! However, here the students sometimes skip, run, talk, or even sing! I was not used to these types of things happening. I thought, there must be a school wide behavioral expectation. There is, and it is clearer now that, teachers are hanging signs in their room with the policy outlined for the students step by step! These signs display the consequences of inappropriate behaviors within the classroom.
For the student who is not acting sensibly, there are a possible 7 steps of consequences for their behaviors. The first in a reminder from the teacher, reminding the student to correct his/her behavior. Often time students just need a quick reminder and they are back to work! The second step of inappropriate behavior would be the teacher writing the students name on the board. With additional reminders, the teacher would make a check mark next to the student’s name. If the behavior continues, the students is sent to another teacher to complete work and/or think about his/her behavior. If that is not effective and the behavior(s) reoccurs over the next two weeks, the student’s parents and the Assistant Head of the school will be contacted. If the student fails to correct his/her behaviors the student, his/her parents and the Assistant Head of the school will have a meeting. If none of the above is effective, the Head Teacher of the school is informed.
At any point, if the student’s behaviors improve they are able to “return” to the step prior to being reminded, the process is over. I have not ever experienced a student getting past the second step of the behavior policy!
The students carry merit cards to each class with them throughout the day! These are similar to “catch you being good’s!” However, it is more of a school-wide, team achievement instead of an individual. The students receive merits for acting sensibly, working hard, doing something nice, helping others, etc. The teachers and staff simply ask the student for his/her merit card, and initial in the squares! The entire school is divided into “house teams!” These house teams are made up of students from each grade level, Year 2 up through Year 6. For every ten merit points the student’s earn individually, they receive 1 “house point!” These teams house points are tracked throughout the year. Students who receive house points are recognized at the assembly on Monday mornings! It is a great way to get students working together, and the competitive edge of the house teams is an incentive to continue to work together, individually as well, to keep earning merit points!
With this in mind, I reflect on the past week of teaching on my own, having taken the role of main teacher! The students have been great, but it is a bit trying at times! I have recognized that behavior management is not just being able to have these types of policies, but to effective and be able to recognize why the students are acting the way they are. Have they been sitting too long? Is this information a review? Is this activity too difficult that they are not interested? What is causing a distraction in the class? The main question, “What can I do right now to refocus our attention and make a connection between what we are learning and the students?”
I have reflected during the past week and realized how I have implemented new, different types of classroom management. The students I am working with are younger, and often become a bit loud while working. I have begun using clapping a rhythm to get the student’s attention. Whichever rhythm I clap, they respond by doing the same. I like using the same concept, but with snapping my fingers, especially for a small group setting. The students are very quick at listening and responding to me when I use these techniques to get their attention! I have a nonverbal approach as well. Wherever I may be standing, I simply raise my hand. The students see me with my hand raised, and mirror me! They are quick to see my hand up, look around the room for others to do the same, and listen for the next directions!
The most simple classroom management is to use proximity as students work. I hardly ever sit still, even when they are working on a project or activity! Being up and walking around, watching students work, more often than not, is a simple incentive to stay on task!
I have not had to put a student’s name on the board. I do not like the approach of sort of calling out a student and putting it on display for the class. If the students are interested in what I am teaching, are engaged in the activity or project, and focused we are learning. When students have the opportunity to become distracted, empty time in the lessons will likely lead to inappropriate behaviors.
Throughout the past weeks, I have really tried hard to keep a tab on the interest and attention of the students while I am teaching! Some days they are really focused, but other days are not so easy. For example, the other day we were talking about comparative adjectives. We had been sitting on the carpet for a little too long, and we were beginning to become a bit restless. I had every student stand up, grab a chair, and create a semi-circle (a shape we were learning in Maths). They were so excited to sit in a chair that was not at the desks. We continued on, and the students were refocused! This only lasted a short period, and I realized I needed to mix this lesson up! I had them use their arms while learning about the rules of comparative adjectives. I introduced the rule, “If the adjective ends in y… change the y to an i, and add –er.” As we were saying this rule together out loud, we raised our arms to the y shape (like in the YMCA song), arms together above our heads for i, and hands up excitedly for the add –er. It was so much fun, not only for me, but for them to be moving (in a simple way) and learning at the same time.
Classroom management is not reprimanding students with behavior policies after the behaviors occur (by then it’s too late), but being able to recognize when the presentation of information, activity, or lesson needs to be modified to match the needs of the students at any moment! The students cannot be to blame for all inappropriate behaviors, but the teacher must reflect. As we know, not every lesson goes exactly as planned! Being able to think “on my toes” was a bit difficult at first, but I feel I am improving and naturally making changes during lessons or activities when needed.
In order for a classroom to be a safe environment for the students and learning to take place, the class must have a strong foundation. Rules made with student input, agreed consequences, opportunity to change behaviors, and respect between the students and teacher are key elements to creating a unified classroom. If the students share ownership in the rules and decisions being made, they have increased pride, strive to work hard, and hold one another accountable. Teachers must be able to reflect on their teaching in order to change and make the learning experience relatable, interesting, and valued by the students! The combination of short-term management goals that are directly connected to the long-term goals create a uniform, evolving program that grows with the class throughout the year.
I am looking forward to seeing how our class grows in the next month, and how much they will teach me about myself as a teacher! I often feel like they teach me more than I teach them!