We have all had that day. You are tired and stressed. You have reports to write, meetings to think about, lessons to plan, after school activities to do after school. You have answered more student questions than you can count, several questions being repeated and you start to realize the wisdom of Marge Simpson. Your class is also tired. Maybe they have had a day of assessments. Maybe it is close to the end of the semester. But for whatever reason, the students are on your last nerve. They can almost sense that as a teacher, you have reached your boiling point. Yet, they still may push a little bit.
I pride myself as a teacher on trying to stay calm and collected in the classroom at all times. If I am feeling over stressed in a classroom, I will let my students know that I am a bit stressed. I do this to show them it is okay to feel off a bit and to ask others to help give them some space. I sometimes end up raising my voice, but I try to do so in a controlled way. If need be, I will give myself a minute or so in between classes to catch my breath, usually with the help of Calm. For me, I know the strategies when I am getting frustrated. This weeks readings asked us to reflect on how we as educators are able to bring in current research into our practice. As a relatively new teacher on the block, I am not too far removed from my initial teacher training or my recent masters. However, I can understand that lacking the specific impetus, down the line I may have to make more of an effort to stay up to date. This week there was one set of readings that jumped out to me.
Edutopia- A Gift That Keeps on Giving
If you have not figured it out yet, the reading from this weeks COETAIL course that jumped out to me was Edutopia’s Brining the Science of Learning into Classrooms. Specifically, I was drawn to the discussion around student developmental variations and then into discussion on how to build positivity in the classroom. Riley and Tedera write that “A room full of 5-year-olds spans the gamut of skills, developmentally speaking, and that continues to hold true for 10- and 16-year-olds“. Working at an international school can mean that you have students coming and going; this can be tough for student joining classrooms part way through the year or being part of a school knowing you are moving at the end. How I interact with each student I work with differs based on how I feel they can handle different interactions. Some students you can be more honest with about their behaviour and others you may need to guide them to an idea through suggestive questioning. With Covid and the different hoops we have to jump through for safety reasons, there are more stresses placed upon students. This week the readings really made me reflect on the importance of positive interactions in the classroom. I remember when Covid first hit and the common theme was Maslow before Bloom.
Taking some time to explore the Edutopia resources linked to this weeks readings, a few videos/ideas stood out to me that I am going to try to make an effort to either start doing or do more of.
Ann Young, a middle school Math teacher, uses a cool strategy to encourage more participation by having students subtly use thumbs up to show understanding. This helps increase student engagement.
Falon Turner, a kindergarten teacher, greets each student at the door in accordance with how the student wants to be greeted. This helps build a stronger social connection.
Catherine Paul uses sentence starters to help student get engaged in class conversations and help get other students be engaged in conversations.
All three videos highlight simple techniques that can have an impact on how accepted a student feels in a classroom. In thinking how these small changes in behaviour could have a big impact on student learning, there is a connection to Living with New Media. Ito et al. write in Living with New Media that:
“in interest-driven groups we found a much stronger role for more experienced participants to play. Unlike instructors in formal educational settings, however, these adults are passionate hobbyists and creators, and youth see them as experienced peers, not as people who have authority over them. These adults exert tremendous influence in setting communal norms and what educators might call “learning goals,” though they do not have direct authority over newcomers.”
The more of a social connection teachers can have with students, the stronger social norms they can model in the classroom which will improve student learning. As well, with there being more of a shift where teachers are not the givers of information they were prior to the internet, the relationship between teachers and students is shifting. Essentially, teachers should try to be viewed more as experienced peers who are able to guide student learning and have a strong impact on setting communal norms and learning goals.
Digging into the Research
The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child wrote about the impacts and positives of having positive interactions and building resilience as a way to encourage student growth. There is a great idea here on how negative and positive interactions help determine a students outlook, balanced against each other on a seesaw. Yet, not all students have a fulcrum in the same spot. Meaning for some students, having one negative interaction/experience could outweigh several positive experience. The video below helps explain the concept.
Relating this all back to the idea of connectivism and the ability to engage with online communities based around shared interest, providing the ability and opportunity for a student to overcome challenges and show strengths is increased because of the proliferation of technology. In a previous post, Scared of Learning, I discussed the merits of having a Personal Project for students in Grade 6. This weeks readings only reaffirm this idea to me. Having more opportunities for students to plan out their own learning and work in tandem with a staff member who shares their interest would create more positive interactions and chances for authentic problem solving.
Can we plan positivity?
We take time to plan out the skills we want the students to learn. We take time to plan out the content standards we want the students to achieve. We take time to plan out are formative and summative assessments. We take time to plan out many things, but are we taking enough time to plan for positivity? If we acknowledge the importance of having a growth mindset, should we not be setting out more space in our planning for positive moments. As I work to complete Course 1’s Final Project, I am going to see how I can build in some moments for positive reflection and positive interactions.
What are your experiences?
I would love to hear you, the readers, experiences with how you try to create a positive classroom environment.
What small actions have made a difference in your classroom environment?
Do you feel that schools give enough time to building resilience?
Does the need for constant reports impact a students ability to build resiliency?
Should we spend more time planning for positivity?