With all of the emphasis on testing in schools today, teachers are often forced to give too much attention to what is taught, which is what will be tested, and not enough attention to how to teach, and where to teach. By where to teach, I am referring to the learning environment that teachers and students establish in a classroom. By how to teach, I am referring to the strategies employed by the teacher, including what the teacher does and what the teacher expects the students to do while they are in his or her classroom.
The National Association for School Psychologists have published a handout which briefly describes strategies for effective classrooms. I have reduced their publication down to an outline. To view the outline, click on the link at the end of this post. The strategy includes three general areas of focus: teaching students how to be responsible, creating class harmony, and developing positive teacher-student relationships. One of the consequences of American culture and family structure is that children, for whatever reason, often do not learn ow to live responsibly. This may be due to an absence of role models, overwhelming negative influences of culture and media, an over use of electronic media at the expense of developing social skills, or any number of other factors. In the classroom, students struggling to exercise self-control have difficulty making good decisions, which negatively impacts their communication and social skills with peers and adults. When these problems are dealt with in a predominantly punitive way, students become further disenfranchised from the educational system, and slide deeper into discouragement, lack of confidence, self-identity crisis, and disengagement with their education. True self-worth is gained through substantive, self-evident success, and supportive relationships with peers and teachers that validate the person in sincere and believable ways. Students must feel like they are more than objects in a class, or widgets in a machine. When students are treated equally but impersonally, it is natural and easy for them to get lost in the crowd, and disenfranchised from most people who are trying to find entry into their life. The outline below gives tangible and practical ways teachers can develop and maintain productive, personalized classroom environments. I think that, like our students, we teachers all have our strengths and weaknesses. On the outline, I find my weakness is relationships. I have been working on this part of the outline during the current school year, and am starting to see positive results. I recommend that if you are a teacher, you look at the outline and find your weakness, and work to improve in that area, and also look for your strength and continue to build on that.