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Good classroom management is a key component of a successful classroom. A disorganized classroom will not function, and the students will not learn. Children must be explicitly taught the rules they are expected to follow. I believe that students will rise to what is expected of them. If we as educators allow them to “get away with” disrespectful behavior, sloppy homework and poor manners, they will never grow past this stage. However, if we set standards for them (in the form of school-wide rules, classroom rules, and classroom procedures) students will rise to meet those standards. They will grow academically, as well as in self-discipline. Students have unlimited potential, but they require boundaries and supports to help them meet their potential.

Competency 19: Builds positive rapport with and among students fostering an environment that values and encourages respect for diversity.
During my elementary student teaching experience, I spent time getting to know my students and building positive relationships with them. In order for them to respect me, it was crucial that they trust me. In particular, I spent time with one difficult student using the “2x10” strategy, in which I spent 2 minutes a day for ten consecutive days talking to him about anything he wanted to talk about- and listening. The purpose of this exercise was for him to learn that he was important, and that I valued his thoughts and opinions. I believe that my time spend with this student was beneficial- we had a great relationship for the duration of the semester. My reflections on this strategy illustrate my ability to build positive rapport with my students.

I my future classroom, I hope to create a positive atmosphere of respect and acceptance among all students. I will accomplish this by allowing my students to get to know each other at the beginning of the school year- through “get-to-know-you” games and “All About Me” projects. I will instill in my students early on that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses- we are all different! They should be respectful of each other’s differences. I will explicitly teach them ways they can be respectful and use their strengths to help others.

Competency 20: Organize a classroom for effective instruction through appropriate physical arrangement and grouping of students for optimal learning and safe movement around the classroom.
Classroom organization is a fundamental component of classroom management. A classroom should be arranged so that the teacher can see all students from her desk and from the front of the classroom. Desks should be arranged so that students are not distracted doors, windows, or high-traffic areas, such as the pencil sharpener or cubbies. There should be adequate space for moving around the classroom and lining up without cramming or bumping into things. If desks are in rows, they should be able to be arranged into clusters quickly and easily. Supplies should be clearly labeled, well-organized, and easily accessible. Here is a diagram I created of my ideal future classroom. It is based on the classroom of a 3rd grade general education teacher I collaborated with during my student teaching placement, and incorporates the principles previously described.

Student groupings (for partner work, reading groups, math stations, etc) should be flexible. In many situations, it is optimal for students to be grouped based on ability- so that each group can focus on the skills they need the most work on. This prevents the less advanced students from feeling frustrated and falling behind, and the more advanced students from finishing early and getting bored. Groups should not be fixed- students should be able to move up or down between groups their skills develop, and based on subject or topic. In other cases, it may be beneficial for a more advanced student to be paired with a struggling student, so that one student can help the other and their differing strengths can both be utilized.

Competencies 21 &22: Use effective routines and procedures and maintain effective and efficient use of time.
Taking the time to establish classroom routines and procedures at the beginning of the year will provide clear expectations and smooth transitions. Classroom routines should be created for what to do when entering or exiting the classroom, where to turn in homework or notes from home, how to ask for help, and how to ask to use the bathroom, among other things. A full list and description of classroom routines I plan to use in my future classroom can be found in my Classroom Management Plan, linked below.

All classroom routines should be explicitly taught to the students. They should be modeled- both by the teacher and by the students. The students should understand the importance of these routines. If effective routines are established, the teacher will save endless amounts of time answering questions such as “where do I put this?” and “where should we line up?” because the students will already know what to do!

Competences 23 & 24: Develop and use a classroom management plan that provides clear expectations of student behavior, including appropriate responses to inappropriate student behavior.
During my graduate work, I created a comprehensive Classroom Management Plan that I intend to use in my future classroom. My management plan was largely based off ideas and management styles of my cooperating teacher and a 3rd grade general education teacher I collaborated with.

Clear expectations of student behavior should be established during the first week of school. Classroom rules should align with school rules. Students should have a say in the rules for their classroom, but the teacher should have the final word. Classroom rules should be few in number, positively worded, and clearly posted. Time should be spent during the first few weeks modeling and demonstrating the rules. Students can perform skits of what to do, and what not to do!

Class rules provide clear expectations of student behavior, and ideally, they would always be followed. However, times will arise when students do not meet these expectations. In these situations, there needs to be a discipline plan in place. Although it is meant to deal with inappropriate behavior, the system itself should be overwhelmingly positive, focusing on the good things that students do instead of only reprimanding the bad things. Verbal praise and small rewards go a long way. A classroom behavior management system should contain positive, rewarding elements, as well as consequences.

CEC Standard #5: Learning Environments and Social Interactions
The learning environment of all students is important, but the environment of students with special needs requires extra attention. Everything, including the organization of the room, the materials used, and the instruction, should be tailored to meet the individual needs of the students. For example, walkways should be wider and spaces kept especially clear for students in wheelchairs. Students with learning disabilites may benefit from the use of extra manipulatives or modified tests.

It is important that a culture of respect and understanding be established in the classroom. Everyone should be valued and no one should ever be teased or made to feel less important by another student. This may require explicit instruction on respecting other’s differences. Students should be encouraged to help one another and build each other up!

Students should be encouraged to be independent to the greatest extent possible. Encouraging students to do small things, such as taking the responsibility to write down their homework, encourages independence. Assistive technology items, such as the Fusion typewriter, can increase independence for a student who has difficulty writing by hand. Self-monitoring systems, such as a list of “Calm Down steps” inside their desk can help students to manage their own behavior.

Finally, to create the best possible learning environment, collaboration is crucial. Whether the students are integrated in a general education classroom, pulled out to a resource room, or a combination of both, communication between the special educator, general educators, and others, such as the speech and occupational therapists, are important to determining how to best serve the students and meet their needs.