Teaching doesn’t only refer to educating students on a school subject.
If you want to become a teacher, you will be expected to manage your classroom and implement your rules and values to be upheld by the pupils at all times. Jobs in education often come with a variety of responsibilities, and discipline is one of them.
While the group of students may behave a certain way in another class, when they enter your classroom it’s down to you to lay down the law and ensure that you provide an atmosphere conducive to learning.
Your route into teaching might help provide you the tools you need to implement your values successfully, without having your authority be undermined.
Figure Out Your Teaching Style
Teacher training equips you with everything you need to know when it comes to managing a class, but here are some questions you can consider to establish your particular style:
What’s your teaching style?
What values do you want to be upheld in the classroom?
How will you turn your classroom into a great learning environment?
One of the most important things you can do, even before you first set foot in a classroom, is figure out your teaching style. This will be something you’ll likely be tested on in your teacher interview too, so it should be clear in your mind by time you get to the classroom.
Are you going to be a fun teacher that encourages questions at all times, or will you be more of a disciplinarian and adopt more of a traditional teacher-student dynamic?
Both of these methods and plenty of others have their merit, but determining which one is best for you can be difficult. One way to get closer to knowing which teaching style best suits you is to see which resonates best with your personality.
If you want to come across as natural in your role as an educator, then think about how you would explain a topic to a peer. Do you assume the more dominant role and assert how things are, or are you more likely to elicit the correct answer from them with clever questions?
The teaching style you become most comfortable with will inevitably have a significant role in how a few things play out in the classroom.
Depending on how you teach, you will naturally end up with different types of class interaction.
If you value cooperation in the students and believe they should be able to work together well to solve a problem, then maybe group work is something you will initiate often.
If you are quite relaxed in your manner, and treat your students more like peers than subordinates, then perhaps you will try to spark debates and get the whole class to participate.
As a disciplinarian on the other hand, or someone who believes the students need to soak up the information from a knowledgeable source, you might do a lot of the talking and elicit questions to gauge the level of student comprehension.
You might also consider bringing interactive activities or online games into the mix should you have an approach that respects the value of play in the learning process.
Your style of teaching will also greatly impact the way you implement discipline in the classroom.
Discipline is a huge part of classroom management, and can be broken down into several elements.
From the moment you first enter the classroom, you need to have it clear in your mind what values you want to instil in the students. Students, especially those in the younger age groups, are very impressionable.
As an authority figure in their lives, you have the opportunity to help shape who they are and they become.
One way you can do this is by stating and emphasizing certain values. These values will largely depend on your teaching style, and they can range from patience and respect to open-mindedness and healthy scepticism.
What’s imperative with these values is that you are consistent with them. If you talk about the importance of scepticism for example, but then dismiss a student’s suggestion or question as silly, then you are sending out mixed messages.
Likewise, if you let the students know that bad behaviour will not be tolerated, but then you let certain things fly then they will doubt your conviction.
Consistency is key. Figure out the values you want to uphold in the classroom, dictate them and even write them up on the wall if necessary, then be consistent about reinforcing them at every opportunity.
- Rewards and punishment
Another aspect of discipline comes in the form of how you reward good behaviour and academic success as well as how you punish undesirable behaviour and unsatisfactory academic performance.
You might prefer to take a more traditional approach and clamp down on bad behaviour with punishments such as timeouts or warnings. Or you could take the more taxing but potentially effective approach, and try to ascertain what the real issue is behind the outbursts of any particular student.
As for good behaviour and effort, one option is to implement reward systems. You could opt for a basic sticker chart, or, if you want something more exciting for the students, you could use a website like ClassDojo which gives each student their own monster and uses a points system. This can actually be quite effective as both a punishment and reward system.
Whatever the case, however you decide to punish or reward the students in your classroom, you must avoid bias at all costs.
The moment you show that you’re less willing to punish a student that is normally very well-behaved or strong academically is the moment the class could lose respect for your authority. The other students might believe that you are being unfair. Especially if you are less likely to praise a student’s good work due to a history of bad behaviour.
Cater to Different Learning Styles
Sometimes it can seem like classroom experience has to follow the pattern of reading a textbook, completing exercises, and then reviewing them. However, there is a lot you can do to freshen things up and cater to different learning styles. By doing so, you can keep as many students engaged as possible and minimise the need to fight for their attention.
One of the major issues faced by teachers when it comes to managing the class is wrestling for the pupils’ attention. If they don’t feel intellectually stimulated by the material or it is simply beyond their comprehension, they might just switch off and become fidgety and distracted.
To prevent this from becoming a big issue in your classes, you can try your best to cater to the different learning styles your students may have to keep them interested.
While the idea of playing games in class might seem like a recipe for disaster, it can actually prove to be a great way of making the subject material enjoyable to learn.
Games don’t have to require a lot of running around and high energy, in fact, a lot of them can be played while students remain seated at their desks.
For example, if you are teaching the pupils about vertebrate and invertebrate animals, you can play sounds through the speakers of different animals and ask them to guess what it might be then identify the category it belongs to.
There’s a reason why a lot of learning is becoming ‘gamified’ these days and its because it’s fun. Many adults turn to apps like DuoLingo to learn a new language because it’s an enjoyable way of practising.
Use Online Resources
There are a wealth of online resources you can tap into that will help you cater to the different learning styles of students.
If you know that some students absorb information better through watching documentary-style video, then you could find a video relevant to the topic and ask a series of questions. Better still, you could search for a video that has questions built-in and provides multiple choice answer options - yes, they do exist!
Alternatively, a visual learner might appreciate visual aids to fully understand a topic. If you’re teaching geography then you might go for a virtual tour of the world on Google Earth, or use a tool like Seterra to test knowledge of places on the map or geographical features like rivers and mountains.
Some learners will appreciate a subject more if they are invested in it.
If, as a teacher, you tell a student how life is in a certain country or what the culture is like, they may find it interesting or they may not.
Chances are though, if you tell that same student to go off and research the country of their choice and come up with as much interesting information as possible, they will probably enjoy it much more and learn more as a result.
Sometimes it’s worth going off curriculum for a class or two and indulging in a project to really tap into the student’s creativity.
Maybe you’re studying oceans but the book only covers a few basic facts. To better engage the students you could have them ask whatever question they want the answer to about oceans, and then encourage them to discover the answers with experiments or research.