Standard #3: Learning Environments
The teacher works with others to create environments that support individual and collaborative learning, and that encourage positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self motivation.
A teacher must have clear classroom management policies before all else to ensure a positive learning environment. If the classroom is disorderly then no learning can effectively take place. Students must understand the rules and expectations of the course, and the teacher must inform them of the consequences for breaking those rules. However, a classroom should not be run autocratically; rather, the teacher must praise good behavior and successes, especially for students who may not get recognition for their hard work in other classes, aren't popular, or often cause disruptions in class. Praise is an excellent motivator for learning and appropriate behavior. Furthermore, students should be regularly encouraged to support one another and include each other in activities both within and outside of the classroom. A teacher should take opportunities to observe student behavior outside of the classroom - such as recess or in the hallways between classes - to understand the social atmosphere of the school, as well as attending student events unrelated to music to show that the teacher cares about the students as people.
In order to keep students attentive and engaged, a teacher must have good teaching strategies for classroom management. Consistency in demeanor and consequences and clarity in instruction both play an integral part in the ability for students to understand and retain knowledge in a meaningful way. Two of the most important teaching strategies at an educator’s disposal for managing the classroom are proximity and pacing. Many young teachers are afraid to move around the classroom for a variety of reasons. For some, they are more comfortable being at the podium with their score and lesson plan as a safety net. For others, they may be afraid to move around the room because they may not be able to see every student as easily. However, I noticed that my cooperating teacher in my first placement during practicum (MS band) spent almost two thirds of his class time moving around the room and only a third at the podium rehearsing music. Simply moving towards a disruptive or unfocused student is enough to correct their behavior. Proximity also helps the teacher assess individual students or sections more accurately than standing at the front of the room. Pacing is equally as important, if not more important, for young adolescents. If the pacing is too fast or there is too much content or connections are not clearly made, the students will easily get lost and give up. On the other hand, if the pacing is too slow the students will get bored and it will be much harder to regain their attention. Non-verbal cues, such as a "teacher stare" or hand signal, can help alleviate behavior problems without disrupting or taking time out of the class.
Overall, I have not had too many problems with discipline in the classroom. I encountered some behavior problems at the beginning of my student teaching placement and the few instances when I would sub for a teacher, but I tried to prevent these by clearly stating my expectations to the students and what my policy was for misbehavior. One strategy for talking in class that I use frequently is the teacher stare. Simply acknowledging the student until they recognize their behavior is enough for most students. I have also implemented “quiet checks,” which was a school-wide strategy, and a three-strike policy. For my three-strike policy, the first strike is a quick verbal warning in class. After the first verbal warning is a call home to the student’s parents. The final strike is a pink slip, which is essentially a time-out trip to the office that’s less severe than a referral and doesn’t go on the student’s record. Most students amend their behavior after the first or second strike.