Standard 1: Roles and Relationships
Meeting Standard 1:
"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
Standard 1 was one that my teaching team thought deeply about before even first encountering students in the classroom, because getting off on the right foot in this respect makes a lasting difference. It fascinated me, in reading Bybee et al.'s Teaching Secondary School Science, to see that "adequate personal relations with students" was given topmost priority across the board by teachers and students of all levels, followed by "enthusiasm in working with students," both given consistent import over having adequate methodology, knowledge or planning. Not that these other things do not matter, but without a classroom community that is positive, safe, respectful and collaborative, students will not be encouraged to learn. Behavioral issues, I learned, are more often attributable to a lack of these traits in a classroom than any interest on the part of a student to cause trouble.
Understanding this, my team carefully designed the first couple of days to focus on creating just such a learning environment. Every student got a chance to tell us and each other a little bit about himself or herself, through icebreakers and activities such as the clock-making activity. We also sought out opportunities to converse with our students outside the structured context of planned activities. For instance, during break-time on the first day, I approached students sitting by themselves to strike up conversations about their lives and interests outside of school. I saw a definite increase in the comfort students had with speaking and participating during class activities, and I attribute some of that success to the initiative we took to engage them in conversation.
At the same time, it was important to establish a culture of mutual respect and orderliness in the classroom. To this end, we collaboratively created a classroom contract, with guidelines that both teachers and students were expected to follow. I was also careful never to abandon my role as a professional, such that students naturally respected my authority, and I worked smoothly with my teaching team so that we served as a model of collaboration. We witnessed few behavioral issues throughout the rest of the summer, and I believe we successfully created a learning environment that met the expectations of Standard 1.
In addition, we passed out a letter for the students to take home, to recognize that parents were an important part of the school community. During Friends and Family Night, when parents came to visit our classroom, I gave them my best in hospitality and my earnest interest. Lastly, I made sure to always interact with colleagues and the administration in a warm yet professional manner, completing the atmosphere of positivity and respect at Brown Summer High School.