Thursday, May 7, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Katy Lungren

Why do we teach? Is it for the accolade? The public praise? To get summers off? For the hefty paycheck? Or is the reason we do what we do each day for the students? A teacher that creates and sustains a student-focused learning environment is one who answers every “why?” with: “because that is what’s best for my kids.”

A student-focused learning environment begins before the children even walk in the classroom on the first day of school. Prior to the students arrival, the room must be arranged for and be conducive to active movement, open dialogue, shared spaces, and private, quiet areas. When the students begin the school year, the focus is put on them and their learning from the get-go. The students work together to create community standards and expectations. They determine what the class rewards and individual consequences will be. Routines and procedures are set and practiced so that every student feels safe and aware of expectations. When working on academics, students discuss strategy ideas, talk about different ways to solve problems, read and laugh together, and support one another when questions arise. The students share their opinions, hearing one another and compromising rather than just waiting for their turn to talk. The children set goals, individually and as a group, and then reflect on the progress they are making. Classroom resources are readily available for students needing additional enrichment as well as for students needing more help or support. Students are given time to work, process, and reflect individually and time to share, communicate, and review in groups and as a whole class. Students work together to become a classroom community, preparing them for a role in the global community. Access to and regular use of technology exposes the students to more of the world, allowing them to hone skills vital for success in the future. Students see and experience the wider global community through learning materials, classmates’ traditions, and multicultural literature and activities, thus developing culturally diverse knowledge and attitudes. The students’ families play an integral role in each student’s success, being an active member of the essential triad – student, teacher, family.

Sustaining a student-focused learning environment can be a bit of a challenge for me. At the beginning of each school year, I feel refreshed after a summer of rest. Reflecting over the past year and making plans for how I will do “it” better over the summer inspires and invigorates me. This optimism and belief that the ideal (as Vanessa so articulately described it) is possible sustains a strong student focus in my classroom from September through January or February. As the weight of added responsibilities, high-stakes testing, fifth-graders’ hormones, and other stressors build up mid-year, I have noticed that I fall back into poor teaching habits at times. To combat this, it takes deliberate, specific actions, built-in reflection time, and careful planning to ensure my classroom remains student-focused. I have also found like-minded colleagues to be life-savers. We share ideas, plan together when possible, commiserate if necessary, and (I believe, most importantly) hold one another accountable. We ask each other, “Why are you doing this or that?” If we are doing our jobs and doing them well, the answer will be, “because that is what’s best for my kids.”


Anonymous said...


You have hit the nail on the head! Your dipiction of a student-centered classroom is very similar to mine. I believe that when teachers are driven by the question "what's best for my kids?" they are committed to providing students with an environment, tools, and instruction that will give students the opportunity to shine. Your example puts students first, allows students to display their personal best, and allows the teacher to act as a coach.

Christina Spencer said...

Previous comments posted by Christina Spencer

Megan Ackerman said...

I do know of an acquaintance who absolutely loves fishing. He has been thinking of a job change that would accommodate his love of fishing. I could only shake my head and laugh when he mentioned going into teaching, because he would have summers off. I could not believe his ignorance, because teaching is so much more than have the summers off. It’s about doing what is best for our students and to constantly reflect on ways to be a better teacher. It does amaze me how there are quite a few people who do not get the meaning of teaching. I am looking forward to delving into bettering my teaching practices over the summer and that everything I do in the classroom will be for my students.

Darren Hunter said...

Hi Katy,
During this time of year I am swamped and sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed by the day to day grind. Falling into old teaching habits is a teaching pitfall. I like your plan to stay focused. The end of the year brings a lot of different stressors, but the ability to focus on “the now” of teaching takes a lot of practice. You put a lot of reflection and thought into what is best for your students and that is essential and admirable. Thanks for sharing.

Natalie Bowers said...

I recently read the book, Teaching with the Brain in Mind, in it the author discusses how when humans learn new things the synapses that develop connecting this new learning are very weak. In comparison the synopsis connecting our old understandings are very strong. As a result when we are under stress we tend to revert back to the old understanding. This explains why breaking habits and changing behavior can be so difficult. It also explains why, in February, it suddenly becomes so easy to revert to "old" ways of teaching (methods we tend to be EXTREMELY knowledgeable of because our teachers used them with us). Despite this, it looks like you have some great systems in place to really combat regression! Congratulations and good luck!