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Culturally Responsive Classroom Management

       The article Culturally Responsive Classroom Management: Awareness Into Action by Carol Weinstein, Mary Curran, and Saundra Tomlinson discusses the importance of teachers being aware of their students’ cultural backgrounds when making and enforcing classroom rules and atmosphere.

        I liked this article because it stressed the importance of open communication between teachers, students, and parents, which I find many articles about culture in education lack.  Without this open communication a teacher must rely on stereotypes and generalizations if they want to teach to individual needs and open communication will help both teachers and students understand each other and see what is needed and expected of them.  As the article discusses, communication between the teacher and the students guardian allows for both sides to see where the other is coming from as well as giving an opportunity for any questions or confusion to be dealt with.

       The article also focuses on how teachers who are unaware of their classroom diversity could be unknowing punishing students for things that they cannot help.  It discusses how different cultures have different beliefs about how their students should act or behave in a classroom setting.  The article states that “parents from traditional Asian and Latino backgrounds may expect students to be quiet and obedient, not to contradict the teacher, and not to ask questions” (5).  In a classroom where the teacher marks for participation and has not explained why, this student will be penalized for something that they have been taught as good for their entire life.  I believe that students who experience this often give up in school, as without the open communication they may not understand why they are losing they are being penalized.

       I plan to use the ideas presented in this article in my own teaching as I feel that all students deserve to learn in the best possible way for them.  Individuality is so important in the elementary and high school years that I feel treating students all the same is doing a great disservice to both them and the classroom teacher, who does not get to know their students on a meaningful level.

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Week Two

       This week was my second week of teaching, this time my field partner and I taught a math lesson.  We had a substitute teacher in place of our Co-op teacher as she was at a conference for professional development.  Our lesson was about how to create an equation using a variable from a word problem.  Both my field partner and I set our target as audibility, we both did really well at this and made sure we spoke clearly.  Students really became engaged when we played the math game where they got to match the equations to the word problems.

       The only thing that didn’t go as planned was that our lesson took longer than expected.  We spent more time making sure the students were understanding the lesson and wound up running out of time, and didn’t get to do our assessment/exit slip.  This is why I have decided to focus on time management as my target for the next time we are in the school.  If I were to redo this lesson I would spend a little less time walking around the class and checking on every student, and rather ask at the front of the class if they understand, this would allow for more time for the assessment/exit slip.

       This week I learnt that students learn much faster when the learning was fun for them.  The math game we played, renewed an interest in math that many of the students had forgotten.  The game encouraged the students to think open-mindedly about a subject that is difficult for some of them.  I also learnt that I want to include this type of engaging activity in all of my future lessons in an attempt to foster a love of learning in all of my students. 

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Becoming Ms. Milligan

 

       Tuesday February third was my first day in my ECS 300 field with a grade five class. The grade five class began the day with “O Canada”, which they were either allowed to sing or sign.  Once the song ended they silent read while my field partner and I talked to the Co-Op who informed us that one of the students is deaf and has a full time interpreter at the school.  The interpreter had also been teaching the kids some basic sign language, to encourage communication.  After reading, a woman who had been teaching the students Urdu arrived and we took the students down to the staff room where she baked them a traditional Urdu snack.  At the same time my field partner and I would walk around the tables and ask the children who were waiting for their food multiplication questions to keep them busy as a form of classroom management and to prepare them for a math assignment later that day.

       After a quick recess it was time for our lesson.  My field partner and I began with re-introducing ourselves and then I introduced the warm up/drama game called The Wind Blows.  This game involves students lining up along the walls of the classroom and the leader of the activity would call something like “The wind blows for anyone who has a family pet”. I feel I could have explained the game better, which would have lead to the students needing less clarification.  I love this game because you get to know the students a little better and get them out of their desks and moving around.  This game led in to the next activity, which my field partner introduced.  This activity was a worksheet that asked the students five simple questions such as what they wanted to be when they are older.  We started this off by sharing our own answers, which gave them the chance to know us a little better.  Once the worksheets were handed out the students got to work filling it out and when finished we asked them to draw a picture on the back.  When everyone was finished the students each chose one answer to share with the class.  I liked this lesson because the students had fun and we got to know more about them and their sense of humor.  In the future I might change it to allow for more questions that spurred the creativity that I saw expressed in the drawings on the back.  

       This classroom experience really enforced my love for teaching, although I still want to teach high school.  I love that when teaching is done well it encourages learning in the teacher as well as the students.  I am also improving in confidence in the front of the classroom, which has been something I have been challenging myself with since my ECS 100 field experience.  I can see improvement in this aspect as well as with my ability to communicate with students, as one of my goals in my future classroom is to create an open environment where students feel safe.  This was demonstrated when the students appeared comfortable sharing their answers from the worksheet with the class.  Becoming a teacher is not something that happens overnight but I feel I am well on my way to becoming Ms. Milligan.

 

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My Teaching Goals

  1. My first goal is to always conduct myself as a professional.  This is very important to me as a future teacher because of my height, being five feet nothing I know that it is more difficult for me to command the respect needed by a teacher.  With my past experience as an assistant teacher at Globe Theatre it was much more relaxed, the kids calling us by first names and being more like a friend to them, but I know that this will lead to problems when I am in charge of my own classroom.

Steps

– Incorporate the method of getting their attention that their teacher uses.

– Communicate with students in a way that shoes them that I am their teacher and    not their friend.

– Dress professionally every class.

 

Data collection

-Discuss with Co-op how she feels I have done with these steps during our post conference as well as taking note of how the students act when they are talking with me.

 

 

  1. My second goal is to encourage a love of learning in my classroom.  This love of learning will in turn spark student interest and engagement.  A classroom of students who enjoy learning is important because it will increase the classroom atmosphere.  From my own experience as a student I know how important a love of learning is, and how important it is to instill this love at a young age as it leads to less drop out rates where the students then become a community of adults who are happy critical thinkers.

Steps

-Make sure to keep my own dislike of math out of student’s knowledge, but rather show them where subjects like math and English can collide, such as books that incorporate math in a fun way.

-Show my own love of learning by being passionate about what I teach.

 

Data collection

-Ask field partner to reflect on if I am upholding these steps as I teach.

 

 

  1. My third goal is to become more confident in the classroom.  I am an introvert, which in an extravert-oriented society is difficult and often is seen us un-confidence. Being confident is important in the classroom because it shows the students that you know what you are teaching and that they can trust that you are teaching them something that is correct and important.  I feel that this is where my training in theatre has been especially useful, as it has given me the confidence in myself that I now must work to show in the classroom.

Steps

-Being prepared for my lessons and having backup lessons in case the first does not pan out.

-Have my lesson plans filled out with detail so that I am never left not knowing what to say.

 

Data collection

-Looking back at my lesson plans and see if they were detailed enough.

-Reflecting on the lesson and writing how I felt the lesson went.

-Ask Co-op or Field partner to write a reflection on if I portrayed confidence.

 

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Response to implementing assessment

I really enjoyed these weeks’ readings as I feel that change and adaptation are integral parts of education.  Both readings discuss what assessment is compared to what it should be.  The focus on changing current use of Assessment is very important because it currently tends to be very judgmental, based on personal characteristics, and is not ongoing.

When discussing her experience with assessment, Tomlinson states, “It was difficult for [her] to move beyond their judgmental aspect” (2).  I had never thought of assessment as being judgmental as that is all I have known.  The types of assessments seen most often only cater to students who are able to memorize facts and copy them onto the test paper.  Through my own experience I know how difficult this is.  I am the type of learner who understands the large ideas of a unit but has difficulty memorizing the small details.  Tests cause me to freeze up and are not really an accurate depiction of my knowledge.  I did have one English teacher in high school that did a wonderful job of incorporating all of the learning styles into our assessments.  We were permitted to pick a novel, allowing us to explore our own interests, and pick out of a list of assignments to display our understanding of the book.  Kinesthetic learners could perform a scene from the novel, a musical learner could write a song, and a visual learner could draw a reimagining of the cover.  This type of assessment encouraged students to have a choice in their education, which encourages interest and is something I plan to use in my teaching career.

Another common problem with assessment that both readings discuss is that rather than assessing student knowledge it focuses on the students’ traits.  Much like assessment being judgmental this occurs so often that we do not even notice it.  The most prominent example being when teachers grade for participation, which does not show if the student has learned anything.  If the student is an introvert, being told they have to speak in front of the class is detrimental, and will most often result in the student feeling uncomfortable and not speaking at all.  The calm and open atmosphere you want in a classroom will be quickly filled with nervousness and anxiety, at least for that specific student.  Being an introvert I have experienced this for many years and would dread going to class where I new I would be pressured to speak, but would relax as soon as I attended Drama or English, classes where I knew that there would be no pressure to talk.  It was there that I would feel more comfortable and share my ideas with the class.

Traditional assessments are also very final.  However, when students are tested at the end of a unit with no assessing throughout, as is common practice in our school systems, the results will be skewed.   As stated before, I am personally not a very good test taker, partially because my learning style does not match the type of exam that is commonly used, and partially because I feel rushed.  My grade three teacher was the first to notice my struggles.  She noticed the difference between my worksheet marks and my test marks, and made sure to allow the entire class as much time as needed on tests, which improved my marks.  This would not have been caught without assessment throughout the year.  The ongoing assessment allowed my teacher to observe the differences in learning and test taking styles within my class and adapt to better meet students needs.

I find the reading in “Our Words Our Ways concerning.  The chapter discusses education needing to address the needs of First Nations students.  This concerned me because I am worried about assessments creating these cultural labels and stereotypes.  I believe that since every student’s upbringing is unique one must account for all of his or her differences, regardless of what cultural norms have been set.  I believe that culture alone, is not the only unique aspect of students.  Even when they have the same cultural background, they still have different learning styles.