Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday! Wrapping up 2014 and Anticipating 2015!

For my final blog I will attempt to review a few select but meaningful concepts and ideas that we have learned throughout the semester and discuss how I will try to apply them in the future.

As we gathered for our last Morning Meeting excitement seemed to be radiating out of the group. Today was our final day in Classroom Management and while our cohort will meet again next semester a three week brain break is both favorable and bittersweet. We have spent this past semester building our Morning Meeting leadership skills primarily through trial and error but also through narrative and research-based text. What I gained out of todays Morning Meeting has not been something I’ve witnessed or read about. Today I learned that there will be times and circumstances that lead to fluctuation in the manner these discussions are led and carried out. We covered current events that are both emotionally and politically charged which led to many opinions be shared and concerns being raised. As our professor (and the majority of us would agree) felt this was an urgent topic that deserved more time to cover than the normal rigidly structured Morning Meeting suggests. By deviating from the structure of our Morning Meeting I felt a deeper bond with my peers..it was as if we had evolved into a group of deep thinkers who could share potentially differing ideas effectively.

For my future teaching strategies I will strive to develop my Morning Meeting practices into something that not only provides students with structure and consistency but into something that when needed can be altered without causing a disturbance or challenge to the bunch. While I do understand time plays an integral role in the classroom structure and that planning is crucial in facilitating lessons it is equally as important to me to know that there will be times in which subject matter can overrule the clock.

Once released from Morning Meeting, our class was structured using a cooperative learning style. True to form, our professor grouped us for scenario practices using a little colored plastic frog as the determination of who goes in what group. Each group was matched with the other three students who had the same colored frog. In the past weeks our professor distributed the colored frogs either randomly or with intent but either way without any input from us (the students). What differed in her style today was that she used a more teacher guided/student led approach. She allowed us to select the frog of our choice; presumably knowing that we knew we would be partnered with those whose frog color matched ours. While many educators feel that students grouping themselves only leads to a greater likelihood of problems; others recognize the value of putting students in a position in which they’ve been conditioned to a set of expectations and trusted that they will honor and uphold these. Allowing students to group themselves is acceptable and can teach accountability but not until the students have had substantial experience working in mixed and diverse groups and have a thorough understanding of their group work learning expectations (Weinstein & Romano, 2015). In other words, students must earn the privilege of selecting their own groups by proving their willingness and ability to effectively navigate and learn during the cooperative learning structures.

I will make a conscientious effort to teach students the value of group work which is heavily backed by the research of Vygotsky and numerous others from the modern trends of education. By helping my students to recognize the value of working with not only their friends but also with the diversity of culture and experiences their peers have to offer I can establish an environment in which students are allowed choices and flexibility.

The last topic I will cover today is the idea of power base structure in the classroom. Let’s recap this concept! According to Levin and Nolan (2014), “The effective teacher is aware of the type of power he wants to use to influence student behavior and is also aware of the type of power that is implicit in each of the techniques available” (p. 84). One thing I have noticed about the teachers I find myself inspired by is that they are thorough and consistent and quite aware of the behaviors they exhibit. I assume this is not always the case but their confidence would make nearly anyone believe it so it works. During our group work the professor made a request that reminded me of her referent power. She politely but firmly asked if we could use our “group work” voices as the volume had become so loud she could not hear what the students in the group she was working in were saying. (Let’s all keep in mind it was the final day of the semester so if you can imagine the volume in the classroom was uncharacteristically loud) As soon as the words fell out of her mouth, everyone honored her request and I wouldn’t be surprised if other students were just as grateful she asked the favor because it had become unusually loud. When students willing carry out teacher’s request its usually a matter of the amount of respect they have for their teacher (Levin and Nolan, 2014).

I know that my future students may not be able to identify why I apply the strategies I will in the future in the same way I’m learning to do in this program but thats irrelevant. What will matter to my students is how I make them feel and I how I engage them in learning. I hope to achieve a level of respect from my students in which if the classroom volume becomes so loud I cannot hear some of my students and I acknowledge this to the group that they will WANT to tone it down. I have so many memories in which students would laugh at teachers requests or feel forced to act a certain way and in both situations the opportunities for deep and meaningful learning were disturbed.

It has been a wonderful semester. I have had the opportunity to work with expert teachers and dedicated professors in addition to the students at the elementary school where I’ve been able to observe at. I didn’t realize the capacity I had to learn so much detailed information in such a condensed period of time but I’m without a doubt coming out of this semester confident that I know more then I did at the beginning and that I will learn so much more which will shape me into becoming the teacher I envision for myself.

Levin, J. & Nolan, J. F. (2014). Principles of classroom management: A professional decision- making model, (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Weinstein, C. & Romano, M. (2015). Elementary Classroom Management. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Until next year,

Erica

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