“Well, may the teacher fling
O’er land and sea, his bait
But if the stream does not respond
How is the teacher great?” – Sant Kabir
This doha by Kabir perfectly captures the idea of what makes a good teacher. A good lesson plan alone does not do the trick. Her students’ reaction to that lesson plan, their behaviour, attitude, emotions and interactions with their teacher, and their peers are as significant to the teaching-learning process as the classroom transaction. Classroom dynamics, therefore, play a pivotal role in the smooth functioning of a classroom and create a healthy atmosphere of teaching and learning.
This letter from one teacher to another might give the reader an insight into the nuances of improving classroom dynamics.
Your letter comes to me as a total surprise. It is no wonder that the education fraternity, especially teachers, are finding it challenging to deal with 21st century learners. I’m surprised, rather shocked, to hear from you that you are frustrated because you don’t find your classes as engaging, riveting and involving as they used to be a few years ago and that the expectations from students, parents and school are high. You are one of the finest teachers I have known, Nucie. But don’t worry; we’ll try to work on this. At times, my classes are monotonous too and you’ll be astounded to hear that I was once a frustrated teacher as well. I had asked my students to give me feedback and mention my shortcomings. One student pointed out that I show my frustration and that I need to “spice up” my patience levels.
On receiving this feedback, I had to seriously examine why it was so. I thought training, experience and proper academic planning were enough to make a good teacher. How wrong I was! I realized that my knowledge about children’s psychology, their growth, their problems, and my approach towards them were as important as my expertise in teaching.
In order to make my classrooms productive spaces, I had to better understand classroom dynamics and my own role as a teacher in creating these dynamics. Here are some things I learnt.
Opportunity, productivity and recognition
As human beings, we all seek involvement. The moment we feel productive and our efforts are recognized, we are happy. Recognition comes from productivity and productive thinking comes from opportunity. I asked myself if I was practising the core component of the ‘egalitarian approach’. Was every student in my class getting an opportunity to ask a question, to read a paragraph, to answer or maybe just talk to me for a while? Noticing an uninvolved student is the first step in managing one’s class.
I understood that children need friends and that peer group relationships play an important role in their development. A student without a friend will be less productive and possibly also emotionally disturbed. Academic performance often determines peer group relationships. A high achiever in the class has the opportunity to make more friends whereas those needing academic support are usually neglected. A fair idea of sociometry helped me develop a greater understanding of group behaviour and once I identified stars, cliques, pairs and isolates in the class, I could group them and make seating arrangements accordingly.
Discovering the child within
‘Discover the child in you and you will discover what a child is.’ This line from the book, The open classroom, transformed my idea of a teacher. I sought out the child in me again. Discovering the child within me helped me look at each child with compassion. Their little joys became significant. Their fights and arguments were channelized through dialogue and debate.
Seek help and collaborate
My colleagues come from diverse backgrounds. Some are highly qualified and come from popular schools and some are from the vernacular mediums. But believe me Nucie, every teacher, irrespective of her educational background and experience has got something unique in her. Everyone has something to teach us. So whenever I come across a problem, I make sure that I resolve it with someone’s help. Collaboration brings in synergy. I learn a lot when I discuss issues with my colleagues or when they observe my class.
My personal life also mattered in giving the best to my students. It might startle you a little and you may wonder what one’s personal life has got to do with classroom management. Nevertheless, when I began to take care of myself, appreciate who I am and give enough time for family, I felt energized. You will laugh if I tell you that one day when my domestic help didn’t turn up, my whole day at school was ruined.
Values and philosophy
I think our values and philosophy of life are important in improving classroom dynamics because they determine our approach towards children. I felt more at peace when I began treating each child equally, without any prejudices.
Nucie, we belong to a community of learners because we benefit the most from teaching. Keep your zest for learning new things alive and inevitably your classrooms will be engaging, involving and riveting.
When teachers are organized, plan their lessons well keeping the time factor in mind, the content can be disseminated effectively. The focus has to be on making students autonomous learners. Just as values cannot be taught, students’ behaviour cannot be corrected in one session. It is a continuous effort. Students with behavioural issues shouldn’t be discussed out of context. They must be given an opportunity to taste success. This enables them to reform their attitude and raise their aptitude for learning. Learning and living go hand in hand; therefore the curriculum chosen has to correlate with their lives.
Finally, the personal, social and psychological well-being of the teacher is vital for effective classroom management.
The author is a teacher at Delhi Public School, Vijayawada. She is also a storyteller and teaches theatre art during her free time. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.