Structure and Expectations

A lot of times I hear that kids don’t want to really learn.  That given the chance, they will twitter away and have no desire to ‘get’ anything from class.  I don’t believe this to be true.  Last week I was hired to teach 7-10th grade art.  There are three classes; 7th grade, 8th grade, and High School.  The school year is already a quarter in, and for the last two months there was a long-term substitute teacher in the classroom.  While I was very pleased about the relevancy of his lessons (hitting on value, proportion, color, and art history!), his classroom management was less stellar.  I do not fault him for this, as we learn how to manage a classroom not only through experience, but through training during teacher preparation programs.  All in all, he was fabulous and I couldn’t have asked for a better long-term sub to take the reigns from.

Classroom management is hard, though.  It’s a battle trying to find the right balance between being strict and yet still approachable to students.  While staying true to the rules of your classroom and school is important, it’s equally important for your students to feel as if they can ask questions, make mistakes, and express themselves not only creatively, but as young adults figuring out their place in the world.  From observing other classrooms, I think that this is where a lot of teachers struggle… and if you are struggling with your classroom management you cannot be giving students the best education possible.

I feel like it’s a child’s place and right to challenge the rules.  To see how far they can push.  It is the teachers place to let them know where that boundary is, and hold fast.  If you are unable to hold that line, students will not only continue to push, but your role as a reliable authority is diminished in their eyes.  Why should they listen if they don’t have to?  You cannot just will them to follow the rules, you have to show them how.  Once you show them how it’s much easier to do things like give directions, introduce new information, have students follow through on projects, and clean up after themselves (every art teacher’s nightmare, the destroyed room littered with your supplies).

Along those lines it’s so important to outline clear expectations… and high ones at that.  I was having a conversation with another elective teacher about my 7th graders.  The substitute had warned me that they were too immature for projects longer than 1 class period.  Having worked with 7th graders, I was doubtful.  After spending time with them I realized it to be untrue.  What had happened was the substitute lacked the training he needed to give them the discipline they needed, and the high expectations to strive for.  I told my colleague that “if I give them high expectations they will strive to meet them”, to which he responded “and if you give them low expectations they will meet those, too.”

How absolutely true.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *