This week’s reflection is based on challenges; beginning with teaching Grade 4/5 Phys. Ed. Initially being assigned this task excited me, I thought implementing exercise through circuits and games would be a blast for my students. Looking back at how the period went, they did have a blast, was it an easy task for me though? Not so much. I went into the class feeling well prepared, had my equipment ready, used a whistle to maintain classroom management, but setting 28 nine and ten year olds loose in a gymnasium was not nearly as simple as I had imagined. It was extremely stressful for me to keep kids on task at their own stations during the circuit and not running around bothering their buddy, there were times when I would have to stand there for minutes with my hand in the air waiting for everyone to settle down and regain their attention again. Did I expect these students to be very attentive and lazy in the gym? Of course not, but at the same time reality did hit me harder than what I was ready for.
Another challenge and teaching insight I learned this week was through observing how students react to the way you talk to them and treat them one on one. My initial co-op in my Grade 4/5 classroom had a prep period for an hour so she asked permission for my partner and I to help in a Grade 8 classroom. Right off the bat the teenage girls seemed pretty snarly toward their teacher, lots of attitude and back talking. There was a group of boys off to the far corner who were fooling around and they were all supposed to be doing an independent research project. I realized they had never seen me before so they probably weren’t going to take me seriously or do what I told them. Since I have only been out of high school for two years now, it is easy for me to remember how I felt with interns and how I would appreciate teachers treating me. So instead of being rude to them right away and being strict, I approached them like a friend and acted interested in their research, asked a few questions about their topics and would joke with them to lighten the air. Not only was it uncomfortable that a random intern was constantly walking around their classroom, but it was nerve racking for me as well to step into a class without knowing any of the students for the next hour.
Inside and outside of school I have always had a natural tendency to communicate well with others and most often through humor. I realize that in the classroom we must be aware offer a safe, sarcasm free environment where everyone is welcome and will not be afraid of being judged. But to me, appropriate humor is a common language spoken by everyone. Building relationships with students is a priority, especially with teenagers I find. Being able to be trusted, respected and appreciated by our teen students (any age technically) is a huge boost towards a less stressful environment all year round. Relating to students yet being a professional about it may not always be easy either, but if one can master this task I believe it will be a strong aid to being a high school teacher for sure.
Neither of the situations discussed above were easy for me, but I’m grateful for both experiences. I strongly feel that I now have a better realization of how classroom management will vary from venue to venue in the school. There is a great difference in how students will behave seated in rows in a math class versus a wide open playground at recess, or in the library reading books versus a large gymnasium in the afternoon. Using common sense I could have figured that out on my own, but dealing with it in reality is a lot more complex! I was also very confident in how I dealt with the Grade 8 students, noticing I was a new to them and they were new to me. By the end of the period there were students working better than they were before because I didn’t reprimand them for their behaviors, I approached them in friendly manner, made a few harmless comments about them being the ‘chatter boxes’ of the room, they giggled, and carried on with their work. As I am still a teenager, just out of high school, I still remember how much more willing we are to complete a task when we’re not constantly reminded or yelled at to do so. If we are asked politely or a task is suggested to be accomplished, there is a better chance of us choosing to do it, and well, opposed to being forced and rebelling. I’m not sure if anyone will truly understand the teenage mind, but it definitely has to be taken into consideration while dealing with 25+ of them on a daily basis.
Like we always share when people ask “why did you want to be a teacher?”, nine times out of ten it was due to a great inspirational teacher we once had. In this particular instance, my high school math teacher was unbelievably well with connecting with his teenage students, taking about topics he knew would interest, playing trivia games every once in a while that had nothing to do with math, but instead actors/actresses that we enjoy watching in movies. He knew what would grab our attention and then since we respected him being so “cool” it made it that much easier to show respect and listen throughout his math lessons. If you are going to go into a classroom and be strict, down to business 24/7 without any humor to lighten the mood or provide enjoyment for your students who come there every day, chances are you will be shown little respect and few will be willing to come back each morning. I have learned and now experienced that we must know our students, learn about each individual fairly, and show them as much respect as we would like back while maintaining our professional role as their educator.