Culturally Responsive Classroom Management: Awareness Into Action Response

The article Culturally Responsive Classroom Management: Awareness Into Action by Carol Weinstein, Mary Curran and Saundra Tomilson-Clarke is a really great read for teachers. Being aware and respectful of the diverse cultures in your classroom is so relevant today because of the vast and growing number of immigrant students in our country and province.

I agree with the article when it suggests that you should start out by having an inclusive and inviting classroom that all students feel comfortable in. I also think that a big idea in this article is that you must acknowledge the cultural differences in your classroom with all students, not just ignore their beliefs or culture because it is not the same as everyone else’s. 

Establishing expectations of behaviour and tolerance in something you should go over with your students on your very first day together. You should have a couple clear rules in your classroom with what matters to you the most like one person speaks at a time or being respectful. I think this is also important not only so students understand what behaviour is expected from them when interacting with their peers, but also very important for new students who are unfamiliar with your school or even Canadian schools in general.  I really liked the example of “Ms. Frank” and her class, and how she said it is important to be very explicit and clear abut what she expected from her students, and then solidified these expectations with examples. This is something I hadn’t particularly thought a lot about, but if students are used to sitting in class without speaking and then going home to do homework independently, and your classroom is entirely about participation and in class assignments, that could be hard for a student to pick up on or transition to especially if they are surrounded by people not speaking their first language. It is also useful for all students to ensure there is no confusion. In addition, knowing what is expected from the student at home is also something to consider as a teacher.

In that respect, teachers should try their best to introduce and educate themselves to that culture so they can try their best to make the transitions easier. They should also be educating their students about other parts of the country, and other parts of the world so they know that there are so many diverse people and cultures, and that is totally okay to do things. However, with that being said, I wanted to share my opinion on the example that was provided with the parent who was not comfortable with their daughter being sat next to a male in class. I liked how the teacher dealt with that; she tried to find some sort of a happy medium where she wouldn’t intentionally pair her up with males but told the parent that she would be involved with males in the class during group work and whatnot. I can’t say that I totally agree with that, because I feel like it is so important to be culturally diverse in your classroom in all ways – and that includes not changing your classroom to fit only one culture. I do understand that the teacher didn’t change her classroom rules at all, but the students who are coming into your classroom from other cultures also need to be respectful of the other cultures in the classroom. It is important to teach ALL your students to be culturally tolerant to everyone and their culture, and that also includes towards your culture and your classroom as well. It’s hard to explain, but I do like how that teacher tried to accommodate everyone’s needs in that situation.

I found Vinh’s example on page 272 really intriguing because his explanation is so completely true and happens every single day in classrooms, but is not helpful in any way at all! When he explained that he couldn’t speak English very well and wanted to improve but his teacher in America kept saying, “Your English is good! You’re doing great!” whereas in his culture, his teachers would tell him to go home and study. I think this is a great perspective to take into consideration because so much of the time some of us are worried about discouraging students or hurting their feelings, when in reality Vinh really wanted and needed some constructive criticism. You don’t have to tell him his English sucks or that he is doing great. You could tell him what areas he is doing well in and what areas he could work on, and maybe find some resources to help him. With any students new to your classroom, or to our country there are so many things to consider.



Field Experience Response: Week 3

This week, I felt like my second lesson went over a lot better. I took what I thought could improve on from my first lesson and tried to incorporate it into this lesson. I continued on with my poetry theme with creating a type of sensory poem. I kept the outcomes somewhat the same because I was disappointed that my “KWL” chart was unsuccessful the week before which was mainly what my outcome was about. This week instead of handing out separate charts for each table group, I would create the charts with the students on the board. This worked a lot better. We started out with finishing the first chart from the week before, to review what the first type of poem we did was and filling out what we learned. I wasn’t sure if the students would contribute anything because it was 2 weeks ago that we did the first poem. I was surprised that the children had lots of ideas that they were excited to share. We then transitioned to the next poem with completing a second “KWL” chart about sensory poems. Again, the students had lots of ideas to contribute with I was really happy with. I thought the charts worked 100 times better as a group on the board then individually.

I am really happy with the lesson, and everything went as planned. One thing I have noticed that I am struggling with is only being there once a week. I am finding it hard to create a lesson that can happen in just one day without going back to it. I am finding that so many of the lessons could easily continue on to the next day, or how it would fit into an entire unit plan.

If I could change the lesson in any way, I would try to maybe incorporate more information about sensory poems so the children could have had a better idea on why we were making a poem about our hands. They understood that we use our senses and that the poem was supposed to be about, but some did not turn out that way.

I learned this week that planning lessons do get a lot easier; I am already feeling more comfortable planning lessons just after 2 weeks. I stressed out so much about my first lesson, and of course as a teacher it is so important to be organized and prepared, but I no longer feel overwhelmed or stressed. Our coop teacher told us she thought we looked a lot more comfortable this week and I am glad she noticed because I do feel more comfortable each week as we get to know the children and their classroom!

Field Experience Response: Week 2

Yesterday morning, I taught a lesson about concrete poetry. I was very nervous but I feel like it went well, considering it was my very first time teaching. What went well in my lesson is that all of the students were engaged in the topic, and were eager to create their own concrete poems. I first asked the students if anyone knew what concrete poetry was, and I received complete silence from each student. I was able to grab their attention by reading a book that was written in all concrete poetry, and it was also a good way of showing numerous examples of what concrete poetry could be. After the story I asked the same question again, and this time many students put up their hand to explain to me what concrete poetry was. I was happy and relieved that the book as an example worked to help me explain it.

However, there were a few things that didn’t go as I planned. Mostly, my estimated time length of the lesson was way off. I estimated it to be around 27 minutes, and it ended up taking about 3 times longer. It turned out to be more like an hour and a half lesson. This wasn’t a huge deal because my coop teacher warned me in our pre-conference that she anticipated it to be longer so told me to expect it to go longer than planned. Something I found challenging that I had not even thought about at all, was the fact that some students came late. This was one aspect that led my lesson going a lot longer than planned because I had to talk with those students privately because they missed the explanation of the lesson entirely. Then I had to spend time with them discussing what they thought concrete poetry is and what they wanted to do their poem on. I was happy that my off estimation didn’t affect my partner’s time or interfere with my coop teacher’s morning because she was really great about it all. I also had incorporated “KWL” charts into the lesson that I had the table groups fill out after explaining what to do with them, and they were a good idea because it was able to get the table groups engaged and talking about what they knew however, we weren’t able to fill out the “L” because the lesson was taking so much longer than expected and by the time students were finished their poems many were already onto the next task because every student finished at different times. I also struggled with the noise level. Since it is a one-roomed school with only dividers in between classrooms, the noise levels get really high at times. I did my lesson at the beginning of the morning as soon as the kids came in, and the kindergarteners were still settling down and so they were very noisy. My coop teacher stopped me because she said she could hardly hear me and told me that she was going to get me to stop until the noise went down because she wanted to kids to be able to hear me so they could understand the lesson. I really appreciated that because it wasn’t entirely my fault, it is just an obstacle that the teachers at this school sometimes face with it being one roomed and she didn’t want my lesson to fail. I could have tried to talk louder, but I would have literally had to scream the lesson, waiting for the noise levels to decrease was just an unforeseen circumstance that is a great example of how teachers need to think on their feet in unexpected situations.

If I were to re-teach this lesson, I would change quite a few things about it. I would obviously change my time limits and would allow more time because some students were able to create a poem in a shorter period of time, but lots of students needed the extra time. I would also incorporate a “KWL” chart in a different spot in the lesson because I think it would work better at the very beginning of the lesson, therefore they can think about what they want to learn or what they think it is and then after I explain the lesson they can write down what they learned instead of waiting until after they created their own poems. Or else I would leave out the “KWL” chart until there was a time I could continue on with it the next day, and then get them to fill out the “L” the next day, perhaps if we were continuing on with poetry it would be a good way to refresh their memory. I found it was a tough strategy to use in one lesson, and that it works out better if they are actually doing some research, getting info from a story, or something like that as opposed to an activity that they are completing and creating themselves.

The fact that lessons do not go how you plan them out on paper definitely was solidified after teaching my first lesson. However, I also learned that it is not as scary as I thought it would be and that as long as you have some sort of plan you will be able to go with whatever the day or the students throw at you. I also learned that you must always be on your feet because you can never know what to expect. With all that being said, I am really excited to continue to gain experience and keep learning new things with each lesson I prepare and teach. 

Field Experience Goals

 #1 – Becoming More Comfortable and Confident

I still struggle being completely comfortable and getting up and speaking in front of students; they are quite intimidating for young children! My mom has always told me that I need to go into the classroom looking confident and like I know what I am doing even if I am freaking out inside. I can achieve this goal by ensuring that I use a loud, audible and clear voice, being prepared ahead of time and practicing the lessons, having a back up plan at all times, making eye contract throughout the room and always showing confidence even if I am not. I also think getting to know students as best I can, will make me more confortable in front of them, which can also tie in with my second goal.

#2 – Classroom Management

As my fellow students have also expressed, I am extremely nervous to try and have control of my classroom. I find that it will take some time to transition from a student to a teacher. Even on my first day in the classroom I kept catching myself because I wanted to introduce myself to the kids as “Tessa”, and I had to remind myself that I was now “Miss Thacker.” Its challenging because you want your students to enjoy their time with you, so it will be hard for me to be stern at times. I can achieve that by ensuring there are clear classroom rules as well as carrying out the consequences when those rules are not followed.

#3 – Organization

I like to think of myself as a very organized student, however as a teacher, I will have to take organization to an entirely different level. Being in the classroom with more responsibilities is already showing me how organized a teacher must be – not even just with the lesson plans but also having back ups upon backups upon backups because a teacher must also be prepared for things to go the other way. I can achieve this by preparing my lessons early in the week, not waiting until Sunday night, as well as keeping everything I can because as I get farther in my teaching journey, I am sure I can reuse or build from lessons. Having a safe and organized place for these will be helpful for me in the future. Having lists and organizers and calendars also really help me by letting me plan ahead so I don’t forget about anything. 

Field Experience Response – Week 1

Yesterday morning was our first day in the classroom and it went really great! I was pretty nervous at the beginning, but started to feel comfortable right away. The school only has 40 students, and it is very much a community vibe. We started the day off with introductions to the students about who we were. We then observed the morning routine, and then were able to start our icebreaker activity. In our class, there are 17 students’ grades 4 – 7. It is really interesting to see the range of ages in the class and how well they interact with each other. The activity we decided to plan was making a “question ball”. We wrote various questions on a plain rubber ball and tossed it around in a circle. Whatever questions their thumb landed on, they would tell us their name and then answer the question out loud.  I think the students really enjoyed the activity, all very exciting to share their answers with us. Perhaps next time we should plan something for students who are shyer because there was one little guy who really didn’t want to answer any of the questions out loud.

After we were done playing that game, the students went back to their desks and filled out a questionnaire that we created for them. The reason we decided we wanted to have them fill these out is so that we had something to take with us so we could look over them and get to know the kids better. My favorite part of today was coming home and reading over their answers, because each child is so unique from the other. I think this will be a good thing to have to look back at if we are struggling to get a child engaged in our lessons, because then we can come back and look at what they are interested in and perhaps can try to spike their interest that way. It also is a good way to find out what is going on in their life, for example one student put one of their wishes would be for their grandpa to become healthy. We weren’t expected answers such as this, however I think it is something we should know about because obviously this is something that is impacting their life at the moment.

I was really happy with how the first day went, and I am super excited to continue in their classroom. One challenge I think I will encounter is speaking loud enough and ensuring that students are understanding the lesson because it is in a one-roomed school. There are grades K-7 so with all the classes being in one room, it can get loud at times which isn’t just a distraction to the students, but also with myself. A second challenge that I feel I will struggle with is that it will be such a challenge to engage and relate the lessons to each student because they have such a range in ages and grades. I am also kind of confused with how I will use indicators and outcomes because as I said, there is such a range in grades.

Next week we are supposed to plan a lesson relating to valentines’ day. I am excited to create this lesson connecting the holiday to English. It will be great experience to start teaching some English lessons.