My educational philosophy is most closely aligned to “Existentialism”. Existentialism focuses on each individual student. As a teacher, my role is to guide them down the right path to valuable new learning experiences. Self-discovery is critical in existentialism. Students are challenged to explore questions and discover new concepts. Teachers provide students with support to help them probe deeper into a topic to enhance their understanding, as opposed to simply giving students the answer. Students must understand new concepts by applying their own, personal meaning, using their own background and previous real-life experiences. Students’ opinions and ideas are not only respected, but encouraged. Students learn to respect different trains of thought and are exposed to many different perspectives when involved in class discussion, such as a debate about the pros and cons of human cloning. For instance, in biology, this can be applied most easily through hands-on activities, such as inquiry-based labs, where students are challenged to formulate their own questions, design their own experiments and explore different explanations.
The existentialism educational philosophical view influences my approach to classroom management in several ways, which will be discussed in detail below. In order to achieve this classroom environment, I will implement a classroom management strategy that uses a combination of discipline plans. For instance, I will use a corrective approaches outlines in Canter’s “Assertive Discipline” plan, but I will balance this with Kagan’s “Win-win strategies”, where students and teacher work together to create a positive learning environment (Kagan, 2004). In “win-win discipline”, “responsible behavior grows when teacher and student work together to cocreate effective discipline solutions” (Kagan, p. 151, 2004). However, I am also influenced by Charles’ focus on preventative strategies in “Synergetic Discipline” and Albert’s “Cooperative Discipline” plans. Overall, my goal is to create a positive and supportive classroom environment where students feel respected, valued, and comfortable sharing ideas and asking questions and taking risks to be willing to try new things and make mistakes.
Similar to C.M. Charles “Synergetic Discipline” plan, my classroom management plan concentrates heavily on prevention (Charles, 2010). Preventive measures pro-actively remove common motivators of misbehavior. When planning is done carefully and correctly, disciplinary issues are minimalized because students have no reason to cause class disruptions. Concentrating on prevention by creating a positive learning environment and developing an exciting and engaging curriculum is closely aligned with the existentialism philosophy because students are motivated to learn through self-discovery.
1. My classroom environment can be structured in a way that provides a warm, nurturing learning environment. I will arrange students in groups to foster collaborative group work. By building a positive, comfortable environment and allowing students to build a community within my classrooms, students will feel more willing to participate in solving problems and engage in the material (Kohn, 2008).
2. To give students a sense of ownership and build a class community, class rules will be decided on, as a class, on the first day of school. In Kagan’s “Win-Win discipline”, “class rules are agreements worked out cooperatively by teachers and students,” (Kagan, p. 154, 2004). Giving students a voice and encouraging them to share their ideas is one of the principles of the existentialism educational philosophy. Consequences for each rule will also be planned and voted on, as a class. My expectations for the students and the students’ expectations for me as a teacher will also be discussed as a class and posted.
3. In addition to classroom environment and class rules, one of my responsibilities as a teacher is to make the curriculum fun and engaging for my students. This is one of the main ideas presented in William Glasser’s, “Noncoercive Discipline” model (Glasser, 1985). The content will be presented in a way that is relevant to students and is connected to their interests and backgrounds. Many activities, labs, and projects will be planned where students can work together in groups to “self-discover” biological concepts in exciting ways.
4. Remove causes of misbehavior. Students may be tempted by distractions, such as cell phones, notes, and toys. For instance, I had to remove a pile of toothpicks, leftover from a previous lab, when a student began building shapes and pictures out of them instead of working on his test.
5. Make learning goals achievable and the assignments doable so that students experience academic success and positive learning experiences. This can be accomplished by pre-teaching the content, using presentations or class discussions. In addition, the teacher can support student learning with supports, such as visual aids, handouts, and graphic organizers.
6. Get to know the students to build student-teacher relationships. Focus on listening to your students. Involve the parents. Some teachers even make home visits to better understand her students (Baeder, 2010). This builds trust and makes the students feel included, creating a positive classroom atmosphere. In addition, the teacher can better design the lessons around student background, interests, and needs. Finally, the teacher can guide the student to understand which learning styles work best.
Teachers use supportive management approaches when they reward positive behavior. By ignoring minor infractions and focusing on exemplary students who model correct attitudes and behaviors, the whole class benefits. Many discipline plans emphasize focusing on rewarding positive behaviors and not focusing on minor infractions by swiftly correcting misbehaviors and moving on. Focusing on positive behaviors will allow students to have increased self-esteem. As a result, they will be more comfortable in the classroom and more willing to take risks to challenge themselves. This is an essential part of existentialism: fostering a supportive classroom environment so that students are willing to explore and try new things.
1. We will also spend time during the first week getting to know each other. I will continue to learn about my students and engage my students in group projects throughout the year. Fostering a class community means that teachers work with students to bring about classroom synergy (Charles, 2010).
2. Nelson’s and Lott’s “Positive Discipline” plan emphasizes building teacher-student relationships at the beginning of the year (Nelson & Lott, 2008). I want to become familiar with each of my students as individuals and also help build relationships between students. Getting to know each of my students will help me identify their learning styles and difficulties, allowing me to differentiate according to the needs of my students. I expect to effectively teach a diverse class, composed of many cultures, English-language learners, and students with learning disabilities.
3. Give students choices and include them in decision-making processes when possible. Although I touched on this above (“Prevention”), students can be offered a wider range of choices than just rule-making. Including students in decision-making is part of many different discipline strategies, but is clearly discussed in Kohn’s “Beyond Discipline (Kohn, 2008). For instance, students can have a voice in their choice of assignments, assignment due dates, and seating preferences. When possible, I want my students to choose from a small list of topics to learn about or activities to do.
4. Focus on model behavior and ignore (minor) misbehaviors. By pointing out exemplary behaviors to the class, students learn which behaviors to mimic. For instance, I might bring to the class’s attention that a particular student put forth extra effort on an essay by praising that student publicly or showing the essay on the projector so everyone can learn from it.
5. Use student’s preferred “currency” to motivate them (Jackson, 2010). Whereas teachers idea of good behavior and academic success may be a quiet classroom and high grades, a student may put more value in what their peers think of them and if the subject matter relates to them personally. By adapting and reaching a common, middle ground, the teacher can better motivate the students to focus their energy on the learning goals. For instance, turning an individual writing assignment into a group competition may drive the students to work harder on the assignment.
6. Give students frequent reminders and feedback (Crowe, 2011). Actively help the students tempted to misbehave opportunities to redirect their behaviors. For instance, reminding a student who tends to forget his homework daily reminders (written on the board) and a graphic organizer will give him support and help improve his behaviors in a supportive manner.
When students are not meeting expectations or are behaving in a way that disrupts the learning of the class, immediate and appropriate corrective action must be taken. My approach will be firm and consistent, yet fair, non-confrontational, and void of emotions, such as anger. There will be clear-cut consequences spelled out and posted on the wall (see “Preventive”). I really like some of the principles described in Canter’s “Assertive Discipline”, such as the “Disciplinary Hierarchy”, which explains a graded set of consequences for misbehaviors. Students have choices, and they make choices in their behaviors (Canters, L. & M., 2008). There are expectations and rules for students (just as there are expectations for the teacher), and there are consequences for student behavior (good and bad). The consequences of failing to follow a rule will be voted on together by teacher and students at the beginning of the year. The teacher’s responsibility is to enforce these consequences consistently, appropriately, and fairly throughout the year.
1. After discussing and posting the rules and consequences on the first day of class, use a graded consequences, or a “disciplinary hierarchy” to consistently, but fairly, correct misbehaviors. Using a set of disciplinary hierarchy is derived from Canters’ L. & M. “Assertive Discipline” plan where a disciplinary hierarchy is set, explicitly taught, posted, and followed consistently with all students (Canters, L. & M., 2008). At my site, our “hierarchy” is:
a. 1st offense—warning
b. 2nd offense—time-out/discussion with teacher/call home
2. Use appropriate praise when possible, particularly to students who have recently misbehaved. Find opportunities to praise students who have misbehaved to recognize positive behavior (Canters, L. & M., 2008). Praise publically so successful students can be models for other students.
3. Use the negative consequences sparingly. Discipline must not interfere with motivation to learn. Misbehaviors are seen as teachable moments, where as a teacher, I can use the misbehavior to help the student identify her problem. Consequences are logical and immediate. (Curwin, R., and Mendler, A., 1989). In my classroom, we use a type of “conventional consequence” when we send a student away until he is ready to participate”.
4. When using corrective measures, respect student’s dignity by maintaining student privacy. Teacher can use proximity control, “give the eye”, talk with the student privately, or after class, or even “send a secret signal”. (Albert, 1989).
5. Help students see what they did wrong. Give students ownership of the problem they created. Help them find ways to solve these problems. (Coloroso, 2008).
6. Don’t make too big of a deal over minor mistakes (Jackson, 2010). In addition, show students who have made a mistake, a clear path so they have an opportunity to redeem themselves.
7. The teacher should ask herself and the student, “Why are you acting this way?” (Crowe, 2011). This engages the teacher to consider how the student’s background is motivating the behavior and also allows the student to use self-reflection, a metacognitive skill, in order to learn from his mistakes.
Through a balance of nurturing support and high expectations, my goal is to engage students in the exciting field of biology, while teaching them important life skills that will help them develop into self-regulating, autonomous adults. My goal is to teach them to self-correct themselves and build a community where learning is a priority, and the motivation for misbehavior is low. Not only does having an effective classroom management plan foster better learning, but it also builds class cohesion, community, and respect as well as a personal sense of commitment and responsibility. These are tools that will help students become successful adults, no matter what career they choose.
· Albert, L. (1989). Belonging and Cooperation. In Cooperative Discipline. (pp. 93-99). PA: American Guidance Service.
· Baeder, A. (2010). Stepping into Students’ Worlds. Educational Leadership. 67(5), 56-60.
· Canters, L & M. (2008). Discipline through assertive tactics. In Building Classroom Discipline. (9th ed., pp. 65-69). New Jersey: Pearson.
· Charles, C.M. (2010). Discipline through synergy and reducing causes of misbehavior. In Building Classroom Discipline. (10th ed., pp. 245-262). New Jersey: Pearson.
· Coloroso, B. (2008) Inner Self-Control. In Building Classroom Discipline. (9th ed., pp. 99-104). New Jersey: Pearson.
· Crowe, C. (2011). When students get stuck: Using behavior agreements. Educational Leadership. 68, online.
· Curwin, R., & Mendler, A. (1999). Discipline through dignity and hope for challenging youth. In Discipline with Dignity (2 ed., pp. 168-183). Alexandria, VA: Assn for Supervision & Curriculum.
· Gordon, T. (2004) Discipline through inner self-control. In Building Classroom Discipline. (8th ed., pp. 79-84). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
· Jackson, R. (2010). Start where your students are. Educational Leadership. 67(5), pp. 6-10.
· Jones, F. (1987). Positive Classroom Discipline. Santa Cruz, CA: Fredric H Jones & Assocs.
· Kagan, S., Kyle, P., and Scott S. (2004). Discipline through same-side win-win strategies. In Building Classroom Discipline. (8th ed., pp. 151-165). New Jersey: Pearson.
· Kohl, P. (1992). I won’t learn from you! Rethinking Schools. 7(1).
· Kohn, A. (2008). Beyond Discipline. In Building Classroom Discipline. (9th ed., pp. 84-89). New Jersey: Pearson.
· Nelsen, J. and Lott, L. (2008). Encouragement and support. Discipline through belonging, cooperation, and self-control. In Building Classroom Discipline. (9th ed., pp. 104-109). New Jersey: Pearson.