Individual Attention and Individual Relationships with Students
I have realized that it is so important to know my students. If I don’t learn to listen to them and try to understand them as human beings, I will not succeed in teaching them. One of the greatest things I have learned in this class is that I cannot make assumptions about students (or anyone) based on their behavior or their appearance. Each student as an individual deserves a teacher who will know their name, compliment them, speak to them and offer assistance one-on-one, and help them to feel valued, loved, understood, and important. I hope to manage my classroom in such a way that will facilitate me to spend a maximum amount of time with individuals, not as a lecturer at the front of a class. I believe that there is a lot I can learn from my students as I talk with them, not to them. They will all have different needs and I can best understand and facilitate those needs by addressing them with the student. By developing individual relationships with students they will feel more able to come to me for help and support when they really need it (even beyond issues in school).
Being an active advocate
This is a photo of a “Safe Space” sticker that indicates to students that the classroom is a safe place where mistreatment will not be tolerated and that all will be defended against such. I added this picture because I want to display this specific sign in my own classroom to send this message to students. Even more so, however, it is a symbol of being an active advocate in the classroom and in the school itself for what may be unpopular and difficult. As we have discussed, not saying anything sends a message of consenting to the abuser. That is unacceptable. Accepting gender-nonconforming students is one example of an unpopular policy in many schools but one which I must be prepared to speak for amongst my students and even my colleagues.
Using a variety of teaching methods
This image symbolizes that I will do all that I can to accommodate and make learning accessible for all my students. This will require me to do more than just default to my natural, “comfortable” style of teaching– the style that will mostly benefit me and the students which are most similar to me. Instead I will teach in engaging ways that will involve many of the senses. For example, I can use visual images frequently to help those who may be new to English or may have difficulty hearing. The possibilities for how I can vary my teaching are endless and I will base my teaching methods off of the needs and interests of my specific students and classes.
Student Interactions/ Seating Chart
Even though this photo is from a second grade classroom, I used it because I think it would be very beneficial to have students sit with others close together, facing one another, as these desks are arranged. Because students will likely form cliques and segregate themselves, I want to institute a seating arrangement that allows students to sit with at least three other students which they do not already know in order to help them learn to listen to and respect others who may be different from them. This arrangement also facilitates group work; the emphasis is more on one another than on me as the teacher. That is the kind of spirit I hope to encourage in my classroom: that we can learn together from one another and that even a teacher is not an absolute source of knowledge, but a learning growing human being, just like her/his students.
Books and Curriculum
I will teach the state standards in my subject areas by encouraging students to seek for knowledge and make analyses on their own. For example, while teaching history, rather than having students take the biased material of textbooks at face-value, I will provide them with a plethora of primary source documents that describe events and circumstances from many different, underrepresented groups including women, African-Americans, Native-Americans, immigrants, etc. In what we read and discuss, I will do all that I can to bring in many backgrounds and sources and not just teach history from the perspective of “rich white men.”
Photo source: http://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools/madison/241.htm
Things I changed and why:
- In general:
- My classroom looked like a typical, “patriotic”, American classroom which may automatically isolate or intimidate certain students, including those who are recent immigrants. It promoted a “single story” (rich white men) perspective of America past and present.
- My focus now is more on the individuals because I want to teach students and I realize how little I know about them and how much I can learn from seeking to understand and involve them. In general, in my new perspective of my classroom, I feel much more like a student than a teacher. Yes, I will organize and facilitate the class, but I will not be the single source of knowledge. I will use humility in my curriculum, decor, organization, and policies, and be open to experimentation, individual adaptation, and class change. I realize that I will make mistakes and I will be willing to recognize and apologize for such.
- Classroom Environment:
- In reimagining my classroom, I no longer have a vision of the classroom itself as much as I have a vision of the kinds of individuals-students- I will be able to interact with. The photos in my first imagined classroom portfolio seemed to focus more on how the classroom looks than how the classroom is. Almost all of my pictures did not include pictures of students. I recognize more fully now that a successful social justice classroom can be facilitated and encouraged by many things on the walls, the seating, and the general spirit of the space, but it is also much more inclusive in how I behave in that space. I tried to find pictures that included more of how my classroom would look and how it would be and feel.
- I will work within my school to actively promote desegregation. I will advocate for diversity in all of my classes and encourage minorities to take classes that may be predominantly white.
- Managing the classroom and Classroom Policies:
- Instead of creating many arbitrary rules and regulations for how I would like students to behave in my classroom, I will have on principle as an overarching rule: respect. I will be flexible in my policies and procedures and do my best to understand and accommodate students’ known and unknown issues. I will recognize that not all students have the resources of others and I will still strive to facilitate their success by providing additional help and late work and “redo” policies that focus on rewarding student efforts rather than punishing them.
- I will seek to praise each individual student far more often than I give them negative responses or feedback. Students will be more trusting and acceptive of suggestions to improve if they first know that I care for them, see them as successful and intelligent, and want the best for them.
- In the assignments and projects I give, I will be flexible and allow as much student freedom and creativity as possible. I will not create “nit picky” requirements, but will encourage and celebrate diversity of thinking and creating.
- I will make my tasks–whether given to be completed in or out of school- manageable and there will be freedom of choice in the topic and method of completing the assignment.
- When behavioral issues arise, I will treat the individual(s) with respect. I will do my best to speak to them one-on-one and to work out a solution rather than humiliating them in front of the class. I will give students choices in their own behavioral management.
- I will never name call or bully a student. When I hear or see bullying occurring I will actively stand against it and discuss with the class why the behaviors are unacceptable and what the consequences for those behaviors may be.
- Although I recognized before that my classroom would be very diverse, I did not recognize what implications and responsibilities that would hold for me, as the teacher. As explained above and in my pictures, I think my greatest responsibility is to honestly and sincerely care. If I care about my students I will know them and I will continually create and recreate lessons that are structured around them. (I will teach students not lessons). This semester I realized how vitally important it can be to accept and appreciate individual circumstances and to have humility–and teach students to do the same. If all students could understand the ways in which they personally are “the other” they would be more inclined to affect change and acceptance within the classroom and the school. Adolescence is a vulnerable time of life and adolescents need all the support they can get–especially from stable adults. I have changed, or rather, specified, my policies as outlined above and in the photo descriptions, in order to better see all of my students.
A Sample Lesson:
- I would teach my students about different types of sources and how to evaluate and use sources in historical research and writing. After explaining the difference between primary and secondary source documents, I would ask my students for examples of all kinds of primary sources they have seen or read and we would list the types (at this point I would encourage and bring up different types of sources from different cultures for discussion). We would talk about the value of using primary sources and talk about how they give us different perspectives on history and people than secondary sources often do. I would ask students to discuss in their tables what some of the primary sources they have created might be and how those could be telling for researchers in the future. This will give more students an opportunity to contribute and participate and see the relevance of the subject for themselves. We would then talk about bias and how that affects primary sources and the need to learn from many different sources. I would ask my students to relate this to the importance of being able to see things from many different perspectives today. I would ask them to think about that on their own and to write or otherwise create a response to that question (in a way in which they feel comfortable and capable). As they do so, I will move from individuals and groups to provide assistance and feedback and promote discussion. We would conclude the lesson by each group reading a different account of the same historical event. The group’s’ documents would come from a variety of racial and gender minorities and will demonstrate the ways in which history is made up of individual accounts and records and the importance of each voice. We will then have a short class discussion about the importance of each voice in the classroom in order to help us learn all that we can and better understand one another. During this lesson, the students will have many means to participate. Some who may be reserved will not contribute to the class-wide discussion, but will be able to talk to their smaller group and record feelings and thoughts independently (and then share them). Through a variety of class, group, and individual activities, the students will be engaged and involved in the lesson. Some of my students will be motivated to work on the assigned tasks, while others I will encourage by changing the pace and mode of classroom activities. When evaluating the student’s engagement and understanding, I will rely on their personal responses, taking into account the fact that each comes from a different place with different experiences. At the end of several days on a certain topic, I will give students the chance to write or explain everything they know about a certain topic. This gives them choices and freedom to express things the way they see them and in the ways that make the most sense to them. At the same time, it also helps me see what and whether or not they learned important material from the class. These types of assessments will serve as my “exams” and will help students see the value of their personal perspectives and abilities. In addition, I will give students opportunities to self-grade so that they will be encouraged to focus on self-improvement, rather than competition. I will create a rubric and students will give themselves point values and also simple justifications for why they think they deserve the grades they gave themselves. I will help to mediate this to make sure that students who are working towards improvement receive the points they deserve and are not too hard on themselves. It is important to have a variety of “assessment” methods, including group and individual projects that involve expression, so as to not give preference to those who are more prepared for traditional testing.