Standard 1: Roles and Relationships
Meeting Standard One
"The student teacher establishes a routine that students understand and respect. Activities reflect careful thought, take into account student development levels, learning styles and diversity, and create situations in which students construct knowledge. The student teacher exhibits respect and consideration toward colleagues, particularly in team situations, supports colleagues' work and contributes an equal share to team efforts. The student teacher encourages and elicits interaction with parents and community and makes herself available to those constituencies when and where appropriate. S/he clearly demonstrates leadership in the classroom, guiding and directing activities and interaction in ways that contribute to a positive and safe learning environment. The student teacher exhibits a clear sensitivity to issues of diversity, particularly regarding race, class, and gender, in his/her interactions with students, colleagues, and community. The standard is met if the student teacher consistently models appropriate decorum and exercises control without intimidation or domination, promoting a genuine democratically-based classroom."
-Brown University Teacher Education Handbook
A. Relationship with Students
One of my most important strengths as a teacher is the relaxed yet professional relationships I have built in my classes. At the beginning of the semester, my students seemed perilously quiet to me. I was worried that they would not engage with me and with other students, and thus would not engage with the content at all. In the first week, we did a community building exercise called Boundary Breaking, which is essentially a round of WHIPs using questions ranging from the mundane to the controversial. One of my class sections had several students who were immediately interested in answering the questions and hearing others’ answers. As a whole, this class seemed easygoing and fairly comfortable with one another even in the first week of school. My other class was much quieter. Many of the students in this group were shy and soft-spoken during the activity. Two students, who I later learned had IEPs, refused to speak unless I forced them or simply repeated their neighbors’ answers. This activity helped me to quickly determine a broad personality map in each of my two classes. This, in turn, has helped me adapt my teaching style to the general attitude of each section and to recognize the students who need extra attention. Further community-building activities such as “Circle Time” and journal sharing have strengthened my relationship with the students and their relationships with one another. Very few of them are consistently quiet anymore (which is both a blessing and a curse), and they are generally interested in one another’s ideas.
As much as possible, I have tried to integrate students’ own lives into the activities and assignments they complete in class. This is partially to ensure that they can relate to the material, but also to help me get to know my students as individuals. In lieu of an introduction letter, I had each student write a letter to an imagined peer about a class he or she had taken in the past. The student used details from the class to convince this new student to take or not take the class. The academic objectives of the letter were to practice persuasive techniques and use of evidence, but I also wanted to know what my students had liked and disliked about past classes and teachers. One student, for example, mentioned that he did not respect his last English teacher because she could not control the classroom and did not pay attention to his stated learning needs. Another mentioned that she liked a class she took last year because the material was interesting and they did not have to do hours of “busywork.” These persuasive letters were useful in helping me plan my lessons and general classroom management strategies.
B. Expectations of Students
The official classroom expectations I used are from my mentor teacher. They provide students with a straightforward guide to grades, assignments, and classroom policies. These expectations state that the most important principle in the class is respect. Since the students did not get to contribute to the general class expectations, I wanted to have them think about the concept of respect and how it could apply in the classroom. After reviewing the student information sheet and emphasizing the idea of respect, I had each student write down a definition of what respect meant to him or her. I led a short class discussion in which students shared their definitions and I added to or questioned their answers. I compiled the students’ definitions onto a “respect” poster, which hangs in our classroom. The next day, I had students read the poster and we had another short discussion to include some of the points that had not been touched upon the day before. All the students signed the poster, which serves as a sort of class charter to show that students will respect me, one another, and the materials in the classroom.
C. Relationship with Colleagues and the School Community
In general, I feel comfortable at Toll Gate and I am grateful to have such a good relationship with my mentor teacher. Observing his classes and consulting with him about my own teaching has given me invaluable insight into how a classroom can and should be run.
My observations of other teachers have also broadened my knowledge of various teaching styles and have helped me to shape my own. It is enormously advantageous to see what works and does not work well in other teachers’ classes. I have borrowed several activities and classroom management strategies from others, a practice that I believe has enhanced my students’ experiences.
Apart from the two classes I teach, my favorite moments during the day often come from talking with or simply listening to some of the other English teachers. They compare lesson plans, ask one another for advice, and provide each other with historical and cultural background relevant to the content. Furthermore, they encourage and reassure one another about personal struggles and congratulate one another for personal triumphs. I am motivated to try harder and do better at my job by this constructive and welcoming environment.