My college discussion board for my classroom management class this week was to think of and discuss ways in which a teacher should prepare for the beginning of a school year. This is my posting. I'm eager to see what responses I get. Unschooler's Warning: this post does contain educationalese (phrasing such as "students," "discipline," "rules," and "lessons").
This is an excellent question, but honestly one that I had never really given much thought to. As unschoolers, we do not have a start or beginning of a school year - following the philosophy that learning takes place all the time, not just during a school year and during school hours. My sons do have a school room, but we rarely ever use only it. For us, learning is about so much more than just a classroom and a school year.
That said, the best way to prepare for any important endeavor - including a new school year for teachers - is to pray and study the Bible. God prepares us spiritually for all undertakings. It is not only important to begin the school year with prayer, but to begin each day with prayer and to pray during any difficult situations.
When arranging a classroom, it is important to consider all learning styles. I was just talking with a co-worker and fellow college student last night at work. She was telling me that one of her professors brought in PlayDough for the students to work with as she lectured. Other students took notes. Others walked around the room. Each did what was able to help him/her comprehend the lesson. I told her I totally agree with this. I believe every classroom, regardless of age, should have activities for the students - not just lessons. My four-year old's children's church teacher is awesome at this. She has all sorts of stations set up in the classroom. As she reads the lessons, some of the students play at the sand table, some play in the kitchen area, some play on the plastic slipper slide, and some sit at the table and listen or color a picture. All children learn differently. Some need some type of physical activity when studying. A teacher should prepare the classroom and him/herself for these different learning styles and accomodate the students as much as possible. One activity that I have found my own sons enjoy is getting out blocks or Legos (which are wonderful for all different ages of students) for them to build with as I read. They comprehend so much more when they are able to do something with their hands. I also find it helpful to have models and manipulatives available with different lessons. Games and puzzles are also good ways for some students to learn. Other than just textbooks, I feel a good classroom should be stocked with all types of learning supplies.
This being said, I feel the teacher should also prepare for "out of the box," or, in this case, "out of the classroom" lessons. (S)he should be willing to take the students outside to explore and learn. Call it a field trip. Go on nature walks. Don't be afraid to do things differently. Outside days should definitely be something that a teacher should calculate into his/her schedule. Being outside in different types of weather, even, will stimulate students of all different learning styles and academic abilities to learn and take part. All students will be on an equal footing. Upon coming back into the classroom, the students could then journal about some of their experiences. My sons and I did somewhat of a directed reading assignment during our last hail storm. We took the umbrellas and went outside and collected hailstones. We brought them in and cut them open to see the layers and read two different trade books about hail and storms.
A teacher also needs to discuss behavior with the students. I feel it best to include the students in making the rules as much as possible. I do this with my owns sons whenever we go somewhere or even play outside. We talk about what some good rules would be that we should follow. I like to follow a positive form of discipline as much as possible - focusing more on good behavior than on bad. We also keep a helpfulness chart for each of my sons. Whenever they do something helpful or listen well, we write it down on the charts. Depending upon the teacher's methods, (s)he may want to include one big reward such as a trip to a zoo or a park day toward the middle or end of the school year (depending upon how many times the teacher wants to begin a new chart).
These are some considerations for any teacher at the beginning of any new endeavor (including the beginning of a school year). I feel that keeping in mind different learning styles, keeping discipline positive, and keeping the students involved as much as possible in all activities and discipline methods will make the school year run much smoother.
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