Philosophy on Classroom Management
As an educator, I have found great success in classroom management and creating a welcoming environment. I approach every day as a wonderful opportunity to work with caring people creating beautiful music. Based on this attitude, I work hard to create a nurturing, supportive, and joyful climate in my classroom where students feel free to take risks and be compassionate of their classmates. When a student enters a space where he/she feels appreciated, accepted, and feels that he/she contributes to valuable learning, he/she is unlikely to create a problem within that environment.
Creating this positive environment is hard work, but worth every bit of the energy it requires. I feel that the very first step should be to encourage the ensemble members to get to know each other. Although they take class time and may not be musical in nature, icebreaker activities are a fun way to help students start to appreciate one another. I like to move from get-to-know-you icebreakers to group and team-building activities. These activities help students understand that they need to play an active role in the class to ensure our success. At this point, the class is ready to move on to more specific classroom management, or as I call them, Ensemble Skills, discussions.
Together, as a choir department, we come up with our Ensemble Skills Contract for the year. This contract lists the behaviors that contribute to a successful choral ensemble. Often students will generate things such as, “I can eliminate social talking during rehearsal,” “I can bring my materials to class,” or “I can show up on time for rehearsals and performances.” Once we have our list, each student signs the contract.
Creating and supporting our positive environment continues throughout the year. Occasionally, we will re-visit the Ensemble Skills Contract. I will ask the students to self-evaluate their personal impact on the ensemble. I call this our Impact Surveys. I ask them what positive impact have they made? What negative impact? I also ask them to make suggestions to me on how I can foster a better environment for them. Again, I have found that students behave better when they contemplate their impact on the group as a whole.
Additionally, I feel it important to take class time to acknowledge the positive elements of being in our ensemble. After each performance or culminating event, students sit in a circle and take turns expressing their gratitude for something they experienced in our work towards our goal. I call this a Gratitude Circle. Occasionally, we participate in an Impact Circle during which students express the impact another ensemble member has had on them. These circle activities often evoke important and real emotion and allow students to feel valued and cared for. These and other activities create the feeling of “family” within the group. Countless students have told me that they simply would not have finished high school if it weren’t for their choir family.
Finally, I build on this feeling of family by creating lessons that keep students engaged and active – often by using unifying movements like folk dancing. As the teacher, I remain positive, compassionate, and available. I do my best to lead by example in understanding my impact on their educational lives.