Thursday, April 14, 2016

Avoid the Drama: 6 Strong Tips From One Student Teacher to Another

Alyssa Crawford, Graduate Student, High Point University
Dr. James Davis, Associate Professor, High Point University

Each and every day, there a number of ways that students and teachers shine! There are a significant number of indicators that determine whether or not a student teacher will be successful in the classroom. I believe the most influential indicator is the efficacy of a teacher’s classroom behavior management system. Without taking the proper precautions, student teachers often chance to lose their class before they ever even have it. As a current student teacher, I feel that it is important to offer six behavior management tips for future student teachers to follow in order to maintain a happy and healthy classroom environment. Adhering to these suggestions will allow future student teachers to rest assured, knowing that they’ll be ready for anything that comes their way! The journey ahead will be a great one!


#1: Plan to be flexible.

First thing’s first. The key to any successful school year is the art of planning ahead.
Planning embodies every aspect of teaching- schedules, lesson plans, behavior management strategies, rules, opportunities for celebrations, procedures, emergency procedures, transitions, and so much more. Proper and proactive classroom planning will keep you on track and allow you to teach more comfortably, support students in reaching objectives more easily, and avoid frustrations and unpleasant surprises more frequently. With that being said, planning can only take you so far. Even more important than planning is the ability to stay flexible. Students have a tendency to throw curve balls when it is least expected, so flexibility is key. Finding the right balance between planning and remaining flexible might be difficult to grasp at first, but it is critical for your success as a student teacher. Just remember that flexibility is an essential element of planning and you’ll be fine!


#2: Establish clear rules and procedures from the get-go.

This is an area that should be thought-out before ever stepping foot in the classroom. Think ahead about appropriate rules and procedures that you deem necessary for students to follow. Think about these rules and procedures as boundaries. Without these clearly defined boundaries, students have no concept of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in the classroom. Every aspect of their daily routine should be broken down and discussed to avoid any potential confusion. Be sure to post these rules and procedures around the classroom for all students to see. This is a great way to hold students accountable for their actions and it eliminates any potential confusion or miscommunication. If you can take this suggestion to heart, the result will be a much happier, healthier, and more productive learning environment for you and your students.


#3: Implement an effective behavior management system that works for you and your students.

Without this component, the time spent creating rules and procedures is essentially a waste of time. A behavior management system is a crucial in the classroom. It sustains student focus and effort level on a daily basis, while also keeping them engaged in learning tasks. My recommendation is to get to know your students before investing time in a behavior management system. For the first week or two, use your cooperating teacher’s behavior management system. If this works for you and your students, great! If not, you’ll need to determine what you want to change, in conjunction with the cooperating teacher, in order to get the results you desire. Remember, without proper behavior, students won’t be able to apply themselves academically. It is extremely important to enforce some type of behavior management system so that you can keep an orderly and productive classroom.
Whether it’s a traffic light system (green, yellow, red) or a clip system (students move clip up and down during the day according to their behavior), just make sure that it works for you and your students. Lastly, make sure that your system incorporates an educational component, training students what to do, when to do it, and how to do things differently in the future.


#4: Think wisely about your incentives and consequences.

Just like your behavior management system, this is something that must be decided after getting to know your students. Figure out what motivates your students. Do they respond well to praise? Do they enjoy positive reinforcements like tangible items? Would they like to be your helper for a week? Would they like to eat lunch with you in the cafeteria? These are all questions that must be taken into consideration so that the incentives truly reward good behavior. If you choose an incentive that doesn’t motivate your students, you risk the possibility of eliminating the behavior you so desire. This also rings true for consequences. If you choose a consequence that has no effect on your students, the chance of eradicating the negative behavior is unlikely. Make sure that your consequences are enough to stop the negative behavior from occurring again. This takes time to develop, but it is well worth it when the result is a highly motivated and well-behaved classroom. Just like classroom instruction, your incentives and consequences must be differentiated in order to maximize success.


#5: Be consistent and stay firm.

When it comes to enforcing rules in the classroom, make sure that you are staying consistent and firm. As a student teacher, it’s easy to let students get away with things that they shouldn't, because the comfort level with disciple has yet to be established. Do not fret…this is something that develops with time and experience, but do not let this be an excuse to let students walk all over you. The worst thing you can do is let them get away with something that should be addressed. Once this happens, students will slowly begin to take advantage of you. It’s nothing personal, but if the decision is between wiggling out of trouble and facing a consequence, the choice is an easy one. Make sure that you are being consistent and firm when it comes to enforcing rules, otherwise students will notice the inconsistencies and take advantage of them. In addition, do not make a rule that you are not willing to enforce. This only makes it harder for you to stay consistent and firm. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Choose rules that are easy to enforce, and it will be smooth sailing. You’ll thank
yourself later.


#6: Build relationships with your students.

Last, but certainly not least, is the importance of teacher-student relationships. Believe it or not, building relationships with students will minimize classroom disruptions and improve student engagement. Students know when you are being authentic, so go out of your way to make connections with them. If it’s between eating your lunch in the faculty room or eating lunch with your students, choose the latter. You might feel like you need some time to yourself, but believe me when I say that students will appreciate the time you spend with them. Find out what their hobbies and interests are and speak to them about yours. Having these conversations with students allows them to feel more comfortable with you as their teacher. They will start coming to you more often and your cooperating teacher a little less (which isn’t an insult to your cooperating teacher…this is the goal in a student-teaching experience!). Understand that you have a significant impact on your students’ lives. Think about it: they spend more time with you during the weekday then they do with their own parents! This is a job that cannot be taken lightly, so make sure that you’re willing to devote yourself completely to your students. I guarantee that if you do, it will pay off tenfold.


In closing…
Prepare for a fun and meaningful journey! Don’t let suggestions and tips overwhelm you, but rather, use them as tools to improving yourself as a student teacher. Your students will benefit when you take matters into your own hands, so why go through the motions when you can go above and beyond to be the best that you can be? Good luck, stay calm, and avoid the drama!

Alyssa Crawford is originally from Delaware. Alyssa graduated Cum Laude from the University of South Carolina in December, 2012, as a Public Health major with a minor in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Most recently, Mrs. Crawford was accepted into the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at High Point University. Alyssa is currently finishing her student teaching internship at Southwest Elementary School. Alyssa Crawford will graduate from High Point University in December, 2016. 

Dr. James Davis (jdavis@highpoint.edu) has been an educator for the past 16 years, serving as a Professor, Educational Consultant, Principal, Assistant Principal of Instruction, Youth Director and classroom teacher. He is currently licensed to serve as a teacher, principal, curriculum specialist, and Exceptional Children’s Director.

Dr. Davis earned a bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education and a Master’s Degree in Middle, Secondary, and K-12 Education. He began his career as a teacher, in a middle school classroom. Dr. Davis taught English and Social Studies. While teaching, James Davis was accepted into the Principal Fellow’s Program. He completed a second master’s degree in School Administration and later completed his doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Urban Education.  Dr. Davis worked as an assistant principal of instruction prior to becoming a principal. He worked as a school administrator at both the elementary and secondary level. The majority of Dr. Davis’ time as a principal has been at turnaround schools, priority schools and “majority minority” schools. He has been named both teacher of the year and principal of the year. He has presented and been published at the state, national, and international level.

Currently, Dr. Davis serves as an Associate Professor at High Point University, working in the elementary, middle grades, and educational leadership departments. He consults with numerous states on school turnaround, effective instruction, and effective leadership, at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Dr. Davis lives with his wife and three daughters in NC.

He works daily on his personal mission statement, to "Love Kids, Support Teachers, Involve Parents, and Pass it On."

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