Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Creating a Positive Learning Environment - Peace, Brother, In the Classroom, that is

To be perfectly honest, it didn't occur to me at first that it would be necessary to manage problem behaviours in the adult classroom. This is naive, I know, but I spend so much time managing child behaviour, that time with an adult is a form of respite and rarely gets out of hand.

But now that I think of it, there were plenty of people in university who would have fallen in this category -- people who were overzealous, excited to be in school, nervous to fit in and achieve -- and they consistently spoke out of turn, tackled the teacher with questions about work that had not yet been covered, and attempted to dominate the conversation with their own experiences. (See, it is all coming back to me now ...)

This article examines practical techniques aimed at managing behaviour before it becomes an issue, non-aggressive techniques for addressing behaviours without embarrassment or shame, and ensuring students remain engaged despite being corrected. I can definitely pull some techniques out of the article, such as acknowledging excitement, stating the classroom culture, and being mindful of my own presentation and how this is affecting or coming across to students. School can be so difficult for people of any age -- I paid particular attention to the techniques centered on eliminating embarrassment.

Much of the advice in the article applies to the same rules I use coaching minor soccer -- when someone loses interest or wanders off change the subject; ask the so-called "trouble" students to help or participate in a deeper way to give an outlet for the extra energy and enthusiasm; and, set the culture of your learning space from day one. The article suggests giving students a few weeks to "settle in" and I don't disagree, but I would also set the tone from day one as I have found this remarkably useful in my own teaching and learning settings. We teach people how to treat us, of course.

I also enjoyed this article about using humour in the classroom. While I recognize different uses of humour work differently for certain people, my own style and opinion is to keep humour condusive to learning -- it is a wonderful way to engage and inspire students, and can lead to some fantastic discussions once the tension is broken. I often use self-deprecating humour to diffuse difficult situations in my teaching and personal life and can see myself using this in an adult classroom as well.

I was reading about diversity in the classroom and creating a safe, inclusive space and I came across this article, which links to a number of resources on techniques for supporting racial, sexual, socioeconomic, and otherwise diverse learning environments and I came across this link to managing hot moments and turning them into teaching moments.

There is nothing more profound than coming out the other side of a difficult situation with a deeper, more appreciative understanding of something. People carry experiences like that for life. In this article, there is a story about some students who had racially motivated argument in the classroom, and the teacher handled it by connecting the students in a teachable moment. The article says, "He did it by keeping his head, not taking sides, and letting both groups know that they would gain immeasurably by understanding the arguments of the other side."

This example and its advice is priceless and I hope to achieve this level of calm and inspiration as an instructor.

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