My Classroom Management Plan
In the following semester, I want to focus on developing speaking skills of my students. Personally, I believe speaking is an important part of language learning since language is mostly used communicatively rather than written form. I want to benefit from previous grammar studies we have done before and I'm planning to connect all four skills in the lessons, with the focus on speaking of course. My students are at the age of 13 - 14 and at the 8th grade in Kocaeli in the same public school at which I studied when I was a child as well. There are 25 students; 10 girls and 15 boys in this classroom and they are now in relatively good position in terms of receptive skills; yet, they are not at that level in terms of fluency expected of their level, age and grade. This is the result of their previous English teacher who was strictly applying word for word what the curriculum says.
Walking through the door, the first thing to strike the students is vivid colors on the walls and there are some posters and drawings and maps. Thanks to enough number of windows, there is a good atmosphere for learning to occur; therefore the class should smell "learning". Since the activities focus on improving speaking skills, there is always interaction among students, which does not disturb me at all. Semi-circle seating provides great opportunities for me to monitor students closely and students sit in a face to face position which makes it easier to participate in the activities. Additionally, since circles are formed neatly, none of the students feel left out of his or her group and it is easier to join a group in semi-circle seating. All these create a relaxing environment for students. As I stated above, I like interactive lessons, I do not prefer seating on my chair behind the teacher desk during class time though I do it from time to time. Therefore I located my desk in the right corner where I still have control over the whole classroom. Another reason why I moved the teacher desk to the corner is I usually ask students to do act-out performing in front of the class so we need some space. I frequently use whiteboard to come back to problematic parts that occur during activities and discussions after they are over. On my desk, there is plenty of space for teaching stuff and for my laptop computer. I use my computer with projector to use multimedia. Far behind the classroom, there are 5 desktop computers. They are replaced by bookshelves nowadays and my students make use of internet during the breaks or for making researches for assignments and activities.
I am a rule based person in my personal life and accordingly, I got some principles and I strictly follow these rules. Thus, naturally, I want my students to be sensitive to the rules set for the classroom. Although I involve my students in decision making process, there is one rule I don't make a concession in any case, that is, my classroom has to be one in which learning and fun is inevitable. So after setting this rule on my own, at the beginning of the term, we set rules for my classroom together with the students. At this point, I consult to Weinstein's ideas on developing and teaching rules and routines. Her approach is quite useful: After inviting ideas from students, we state a rule, explain the rationale, provide example of an appropriate behavior and then point out the consequence for breaking the rule; in other words, what the punishment will be for misbehaving. We have come up with several rules including everybody is responsible for keeping classroom materials safe, cleaning his or her own zone, not to go to toilet during class time, to attend activities and responding when the teacher asks anything. Nevertheless, I don't consider wearing hat, crossing legs or drinking or eating something during the classroom as misbehaving. I don't think these prevent students' motivation or concentration. However, my second golden rule is to respect yourself, to others and to respect properly (1). So long as you are participating in the discussions and activities and you're not preventing others to learn, it doesn't matter for me to if you are drinking water. However, I cannot accept responding to the questions without raising hands, chewing gum, tapping pencil or tardiness. I believe all these reasons negatively affect learning environment and especially disturb me when teaching. Tardiness is particularly important for it's what makes a classroom with teacher and students, otherwise students would still be learning by not attending to the sections. However, I believe in that students do not have any reason for misbehaving if they see classroom and learning as fun, then they would be very enthusiastic about attending to lessons. We have a checklist next to the door and on every Thursday, we do control it if the rules have been broken or not. This is like a time of confession and it decides what kind of activity students will have on Friday. To illustrate, if there are less than 15 cross for the whole class, they will play their favorite activity, if there are more than 15 to 30 crosses, we will have an activity which I will decide on and lastly if the number of crosses are more than 30, there will be no activity on Friday, instead, we will talk about what went wrong and regulate rules altogether. If there are many complains about particular students, I prefer to let them speak first to me, than to the class and if it doesn't work, I contact to their parents. I have no tolerance for this misbehaving because of that I believe if the teacher's rules are broken once and not corrected immediately, he loses his credibility in the eyes of his or her students, which directly affects their motivation negatively. Likewise, classroom procedures are important in terms of flow of the lesson and management of time. Again spending some time on this issue also helps the teacher during the semester. For example, everybody knows what to do when we are done with one group activity. It's time for teacher to speak to the whole class and students do not have to be told to shut up and listen to the teacher. Other issue related to classroom rules is incentives. I strongly believe that prizes destroy intrinsic motivation so I prefer not to use tokens and generally, I prefer verbal praises. I believe in that when students study for getting AA, they just get AA; nevertheless, if students really study effectively for themselves, they'll learn it and also get AA. So getting a comment "Well done" must really be meaningful.
I don't want to follow what books say to me regardless of the knowledge that every learning environment is different from each other and the best way to do your best is to adopt yourself to the conditions not vice versa. Therefore I'm different from many teachers who are not paying attention to his or her classroom dynamics. For example I'm trying to do my best for relating topics to my students' personal lives. I know it when students feel something is really meaningful to them, they take it serious and this helps their learning. I want to point out that I use authentic materials, popular topics to make activities more meaningful for students. Furthermore, I'm a supporter of i+2 or more rather than i+1. So while trying to get more out of my students in terms of language, I design my activities, questions and I choose my topics among those to develop their critical thinking skills because I believe teachers are responsible for students' holistic development. Being interactive, my lessons don't give me enough chance to deal with every error or weakness in my class. So I monitor errors and try to work out on them with students when the right time comes. I also disagree with the idea of evaluating students with one written exam for the whole semester. I think evaluation is something done only for administrative requirements. Especially in my classroom, I don't want exams to destroy the relaxing atmosphere. So I divide grading into many criteria such as following classroom rules and procedures properly, participation in activities, regular attendance and portfolios. Portfolios can be great for they need continuous effort and keep student on task for a long time during the semester. However, I wouldn't accept any late submission since it's similar not to attend to the class on time.
Yes, I am different but I'm not a selfish and headstrong teacher. I like cooperating with families and I meet with families face to face at the beginning of the semester. Here I understand what expectations they're holding both of students and me and I explain them my personal aims and goals, then we set our objectives for the end of the semester. In the middle of the semester, I inform them about how his or her child has been performing via individual meeting, telephone or e-mail. At the end of the term, I send them a letter about how much of the goals we've fulfilled this semester and I think this cooperation really works.
These all are for that I take my job serious and I want to be good at it. Therefore I make use of my experiences by keeping them regularly. I'm an active member of Language Teachers Association in my hometown and so I'd like to work with my colleagues in order to improve our efficiency by regular meetings. Moreover, thanks to technology, it's easier to learn about new trends in any subject including language teaching so I'm following worldwide popular portals for teachers. By means of them, I find many sources, ideas and practical solutions. Since I don't think our official curriculum is enough for students' development, I benefit from all these researches and findings a lot in my classroom.
Finally, I see each of my students as unique individuals and behave them accordingly. Knowing their weaknesses and strengths really helps me in designing activities, planning assignments, choosing topics and making error correction. I want to make my students feel important; thus, I refer to them during the class time, in activities by their names, I ask them about their personal lives and also allow them to inquire about mine. I try to balance the pace of the classroom so I spend more time with the ones who need more time and guidance during the activities. I believe that the key is to "catch" students. One student comes to class just to play games and have fun, another wants to be with his or her friends in the classroom. Another one would be in classroom just for he likes his teacher and the other one is there for he respects the teacher. So if you know your students and motivate them, they will help you by learning everything in the classroom while you're trying to do things to make them learn.