Sunday, January 25, 2009

"teaching is a cognitively challenging process"

i'm spending sunday working on grad school work (after becoming motivated by listening to educon this morning). in my (last!!) class we are assigned to do a research project. i'm not allowed to use my teacher research on the impact of a sound system on esol students' language development because i'd already started it (grrr...) that aside, i've settled on a topic i'm excited to be working on. i'm looking at the impact special education teachers have on providing support to classroom teachers in terms of helping them manage the behavior of the included students. as a previous classroom teacher i know what it is like to listen to people give advice on how to make everything run perfectly, and want to throw up my hands in frustration that i can't make their perfect advice work in reality.

i just finished reading a article from educational psychologist on classroom management (emmer, t. & stough, l, 2001). i was struck by quite a few of their arguments.

1- research has found that the teachers' instructional goals for their students and the characteristics of the students have to be congruent with teachers' management styles. too often they are not, which leads teachers telling students they encourage open-ended discussion but then punishing students when their voices are too loud during that discussion. or giving the students manipulatives and then yelling at them when they touch them. this struck a cord because i think this is where i struggled as a classroom teacher. everything i did was in learning groups- i was always putting kids together with a fairl open-ended task and then letting them go and solving a puzzle that would then prove the science/social studies/ or math topic we were learning. but i hated knowing that my room looked like chaos if someone walked in during the height of the creativity. so i'd let the excited voices or the chaotic environment drive me crazy and punish the kids for it, because i felt like i would be judged as a teacher for not having a quiet classroom instead of having a conversational, inquisitive classroom. my blog title actually came from one of these days when i knew i was in total control of the disastrous looking project that was going on in my classroom. every kid was engaged in discussion and was experimenting with art supplies to reflect a book character. one girl was wrapped up in netting because she was trying to measure it (i was making them use their math skills too) and had somehow ended up with it wrapped around her. she was, at that moment, totally in the world of measuring the netting for her book character, the netting being used to show some aspect of the character revealed in the book (can't remember what it is now), but, i realized how out of control she looked at that moment. she was applying skills, but it sure was messy. sadly i feel like i never really managed to feel comfortable with that being ok, and in turn drove myself out of the classroom.

2- research has also found that teacher perception of classroom management and behavior is key to good classroom management (which seems like a duh, but is kind of the idea behind my research- part of my job is helping the classroom teachers perceive my kids in a way that will help both my kid's behavior and the teacher's sanity). one research paper (from 1981, so very old) found that the best classroom management comes from teachers who are able to adapt and change to meet the context of their students, lessons, and can respond to events in the classroom immediately and appropriately (why your first years of teaching are so very hard). the quote that i love the most from this (which i feel should justify why we should stopped being looked at as a lesser-profession but equal to drs and lawyers) is that "teaching is a cognitively challenging process in which teachers are continuously required to make decisions" what it doesn't say is that these decisions are made under stress with 20 crazy children staring at you (or not when they should be) while you're trying to remember what's important to teach, when the field trip money has to be in, and how to best calm down a class.

alright, back to work...

1 comment:

allie said...

This all makes so much sense -- excellent points.