editing disabled

In the summer of 2008 as I began to prepare for a career in education I found myself reflecting on those teachers and professors who I greatly admired as a student. Although I realized I needed to find my own teaching style, I wanted to possess some of those qualities that I admired in my former educators. I wanted my future students to say that I was a teacher who was organized, comforting, positive, and stimulating. After my practicum and student teaching experiences, I still firmly believe that effective teachers possess the previous characteristics I mentioned. However, now I have a much better understanding of the importance and necessity of classroom management in the elementary school environment.
kindergarten_kids_007.jpg Organization is a key element when creating an atmosphere conducive to learning. When a teacher is not properly prepared, unfortunately, the students are the individuals negatively impacted. I strongly believe that before coming into the classroom a teacher should have an idea of what material is going to be covered and have all the necessary resources available. However, I want to strive to be an educator who is organized but also flexible. Life does not always go according to plan and the same truth applies to the school setting. A teacher should be aware that on some days their lesson plans may not be fully covered and on other days students will have personal problems which may affect their school work. I whole heartedly want to be that teacher who can occasionally put a child’s life and emotions ahead of their education. I do not want to minimize the importance of a child learning the skills and content expected in their grade level, I just want to be a teacher who realizes that there are other important and powerful forces in a child’s life. Although I believe the basic purpose of school is to educate students, some of the educators who I greatly admire today taught me lessons about life that did not receive coverage on the SOL test prep book. However, years after I have forgotten numerous of the facts, dates, and formulas they taught me, I still remember their meaningful words of wisdom.

Although organization and classroom management are not identical, I believe they tend to coincide in the elementary school classroom. Previously, I believed organization was just as important as management, however, I considered them different topics. Now I feel that organization and management can go together and be very effective. Young children crave and need boundaries in the elementary school environment in order to have the most rewarding educational experience. I believe in taking a proactive and positive approach when it comes to classroom management. For me, pointing out students who are being successful is much more desirable than criticizing less successful children in the classroom. In addition, attempting to avoid the negative behavior altogether is much better than only addressing misbehavior after it has already occurred. I consider classroom management one of my strengths as an effective elementary school teacher.

I also hope to create a classroom where my students feel at ease and able to express themselves. From personal experience, I know that a class contaminated by fear is not a classroom where students excel to their full potential. When children know they will not be ridiculed for answering incorrectly or asking a “stupid” question, then learning and student curiosity will have a chance to blossom. As a teacher I hope never to discourage a child through my hurtful words or body language, but I would also like to create an environment where other students know the importance of respecting their peers. I will never allow a student to make his or her peer feel inadequate by calling them a name in class or making rude remarks towards another child. Students know in some classes they can get away with demeaning other students, however, that classroom will never be mine. While I cannot control everything that occurs in the hallways or the cafeteria, I can make my classroom a safe environment for all students.

I strongly believe that when a teacher gives positive feedback and words of encouragement to their students, both the educator and the child benefits. Students benefit because they have an individual who believes in their potential, while the teacher gains by creating a classroom of positive energy and morale. I honestly believe that some educators have no idea how helpful or harmful their words can be. For example, one of my Political Science professors at Longwood University told my parents I was the best student he had seen in years in his classroom. At times when I am feeling academically self conscious, I think back to his words and they truly give me confidence and inspiration. I would love to be a teacher who encourages my students when they are in a time of need, both personally and professionally.

Lastly, I want to be an educator who stimulates my students. I do not just want to lecture to my students and have them regurgitate the information I told them. I hope to stimulate their minds and actively engage them in the process of learning. Instructional methods that I prefer to use in the classroom to engage students include: hands-on lessons, mathematics using manipulatives, and discovery based learning where students create their own experiences. For example, I taught a hands-on science lesson about magnets to kindergarten students where I set up the lesson but they were responsible for learning about magnets through discovery. The lesson was a huge success! Another example of a lesson that shows my effectiveness as a teacher is a kindergarten mathematics lesson where I used gummy bears for graphing. The students were immediately engaged and were excited to sort and graph their different colored gummy bears. I strongly believe that mathematics comes alive with the use of manipulatives, especially with younger elementary aged students.

I want to point out that I mentioned the importance of content and engagement last because I believe these factors become easier to obtain once a teacher possesses the qualities I previously mentioned. Once a teacher establishes a level of comfort in the classroom, a willingness to be flexible in a student’s time of crisis, and a positive attitude, I believe engaging students in your content area becomes less problematic. Content knowledge is critical for an elementary school teacher to be effective. In order to teach a topic, the teacher needs to have a solid base of knowledge regarding the particular subject area. Without proper content knowledge, an educator could find herself/himself dwelling on understanding the topic instead of transferring her/his knowledge and information to the students.

I know there is no recipe or instruction manual for being a successful teacher. Also, the definition of a successful teacher would vary depending on the individual who was asked to define the term. However, I do believe an educator who is organized and manages the classroom well; is able to create a comfortable learning environment, is positive in her remarks, as well as stimulating to her students is on the right track to becoming an effective teacher. As I begin my career in the field of education next year, I will look back at those teachers who inspired me and, perhaps if I am lucky, I will influence my own students along the way.