Saturday, May 11, 2013

Reflections on Behavior and Discipline - Notes on Teaching with Poverty in Mind (Jensen, 2009)

Well, I made it. I finished my internship. I graduated. I have a Master of Arts in Teaching degree. I'm so relieved.

It was a tough internship. My CT and I often talked about the fact that after experiencing the behavior problems there, I would be ready for anything! As I reflect though, I feel more confused.

As I prepare to begin interviewing, I wanted to look over my Classroom Management Plan I developed in the fall. I've been doing a lot of reading, and I wanted to see how the three things lined up: the ideals I set for myself, my experience, and the literature.

My ideals and the literature match up almost word for word. My experience, however, was on a completely different plane, and I'm not sure how to reconcile this.

I know there were things that were out of our control: a lack of consistency, various experiences in prior grades, unstable home lives. However, I think that we weren't approaching the problems in the best way. We got into the common habit of demanding our way, but that's not what research shows to be effective.

I just finished a great book Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen, and I'm currently reading Teaching with Love & Logic. These are fantastic books if you're interested in working in Title One schools.

Teaching with Poverty in Mind provided some insight I either hadn't considered or had forgotten. For example, when students act, for lack of a better word, "crazy," like they just don't know how to be students or friends or humans, we can't just tell them, "Do better!" We have to go back and teach those basic social skills. What does it mean to treat everyone with respect? When you talk to someone, make eye contact, smile, and so forth. It seems obvious right? Not if you haven't practiced it.

Also, we can't just forget the tough situations these kids are facing. As nice as it would be to say, "You're in school now. Forget your troubles, and do these math problems," a better approach is to practice problem solving using real-life scenarios. Share your problems or have them share their own if they're willing. Then give them time to work with each other to develop solutions. Share biographies of relatable, successful people to give them hope.

You might say, "There's no time for all of that! We have a calendar! We have testing!"

You know what we don't have time for? Telling students to sit down, be quiet, and do their work over and over and over again. When we fix the root of the problem rather than the symptoms, we can hopefully get back some of that time we were losing dealing with discipline.

I want to emphasize, my CT and all of the teachers at my school are not bad teachers. There are AWESOME teachers at that school with really cool ideas and fun effective lessons, but I think we have trouble reconciling our own childhood with our students'. Then, we go into a survival mode. We try to rely on our instincts rather than the research, and our instincts can't help us if we had such a fundamentally different school experience ourselves. Our instincts are wrong.

Now, I say things like "hopefully," "should," and "might" because I haven't had my own classroom yet. I find it so interesting though, that this is the way I felt before my internship, and I'm right back there. These are the types of things I want to try with my students. Maybe it will go terribly wrong. It will certainly take years of practice, but I'm willing to try because it's not just what's best for my students, it's what's best for me as well.

On another note, I have a lot of reading to do, and I'll be posting more about the books I take on over the summer. On my list are:
The Daily Five
The First Days of School
Bringing Words to Life

Any I should add to the list?

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