“Do you differentiate in class?”
“What’s your classroom management plan?”
“How do you do student-centered activities in class?”
“But can’t you just do cooperative learning?”
“What about ICT integration? Just use tech to make things easier.”
Many teachers are plagued with questions like these. It’s as if being the only adult in a room with x number of kids isn’t overwhelming enough. From rewards, punishments, classroom management, and teaching a concept – how on earth is it humanly possible to keep all of these in mind?
From the eight years that I’ve been in the education sector, there’s one thing that many teachers aren’t taught explicitly – how to build class culture. I’m a firm believer that before innovation and success can happen in a classroom, the culture has to be set.
The Teacher as a Leader
As a teacher, I firmly believe that you have to be a leader. This translates to having a vision for your students. What do you want them to be at the end of the year? What kind of values should be given importance in your classroom?
Identifying these values may be easy but the tougher job is breaking down each value into concepts and concrete actions that your students will understand. Below is an example that my co-teachers and I made.
As a group, we came up with three core values. I just added the last one so that we would focus on one value per quarter. You might say that this is simple enough but, wait, there’s more!
Breaking It Down
The order in which I taught each value wasn’t done randomly. I’ve assigned one value per quarter:
- Magalang (respectful)
- Masipag (hardworking)
- Matapat (honest)
- Matatag (resilient)
Each value builds on another and is also in line with their personal and group development inside the classroom. For example, being respectful means that they know their classmates’ names and that they follow the class rules that we made. It was important for me to set this early on because of what I’ve learned before about their lack of socio-emotional skills. This is why respect was highlighted at the beginning of the year.
Next would be the value of hard work. This means attending school and doing your assigned tasks. Halfway through the school year, students are called to reflect about themselves by thinking about their strengths and weaknesses in line with their performance in class. This is what it meant for my class to be honest. And lastly, the value of resiliency is taught because the school year is ending and it means that they would again find themselves in a new environment with new challenges to face.
Breaking down the values makes it easier for the students to understand. It also becomes easier to integrate it during class discussions because the actions and qualities are clear. Posting it inside the classroom also helps a lot because I refer to it from time to time – even when I’m angry! My usual practice is to define each word as a class and we do this at the beginning of each quarter. Giving them the opportunity to define the way they ought to act is giving them the responsibility to own up to their actions.
Lastly, I’ve always instilled in the minds of my students that we are one family. This defines the way we relate to each other inside school. The kind of relationship you create with your students, and the relationship your students have with each other, will determine how successful you will be in applying any kind of teaching strategy or innovation inside your classroom.