Years ago I graduated from high school, eager to enter college to pursue a career in education. My mother handed me a scrapbook she had been diligently putting together as a gift. In the book, I turned to a page which included a small paper I wrote in second grade. The paper stated, “When I grow up I want to be a Teacher. I love school and my teacher. I want to be just like her.” That mindset fluctuated some throughout my school years but the yearn for becoming a teacher was ingrained inside me. My many experiences working with children of all ages and a variety of demographics has helped mold my teaching style. A teacher holds many hats. Teachers are educators, counselors, actors, comedians, etc. I think about that wonderful second grade teacher from time to time and the type of teacher I aspire to be.
The secret to working with children includes many factors as every classroom dynamic is different and each has individual abilities. Think about the age group you are working with and put yourself on their level. Be the teacher that you wish you had as a child. Use these ideas to help build your foundation for teaching.
Children tend to be extremely observant of their surroundings. Utilize their senses when working with children. Children notice your body language and the tone of your voice. Maintain a positive stance and calming movements while teaching. I tend to use my hands while teaching and move around to keep students alert. You want to recognize signals that certain students may show during the day. The actions could represent anxiety or disruptive behavior. Noticing the signal and the triggers can help you divert the child’s attentions to offer a more positive outcome.
Point of View
Individual Point of View-You think about how you view the world and what you know. You plan a lesson to address the standards and use your knowledge of the world to get your point across to students.
Student point of view- Have empathy and remember what is it like to be a child. The younger the child, the shorter the attention span. Plan lessons that allow students to move around and keep them engaged for short periods of time.
Observer point of view- When teaching a lesson or handling a situation in the classroom, imagine as outside observer such as a fellow teacher or an administrator being in your classroom. Think about what you would want the observer to see and take away from that lesson.
There are a variety of forms of communication. Body language, eye contact, and the way you speak to children are just a few.
You need to have positive verbal queues to get students attention and use your body language to uphold respect from your students. If you have posed a question and want to provide children a time to think, step back so not to intimidate any students.Create hand motions in the classroom to understand students needs and wants. For instance, children can raise their hands holding up two fingers to indicate they need to use the restroom.
Use eye contact with children to offer encouragement or to get students back on task. When using eye contact, avoid keeping contact for too long. That may give a child some anxiety and hinder the results.
Consider how you speak to students, whether that be individually or as a group. Praising all students for doing their best will inspire them to keep trying. Think about a particularly challenging student who may have difficulty staying on task or works at a slower pace. Find a way to praise that child and you will see better performance when completing the task. I may say to a student, “ I love how you remembered to put your full name and date.”, “ I see are have started answering number___, keep up the great work.” If a student is distracted during a lesson, I try to include his or her name into whatever I am teaching to help redirect the attention.
You have objectives that need to be taught and standards that need to be met. Children want to feel they have some control of their environment, so giving them choices in the classroom will empower your students.
Choices can be given during lessons and embedded within your classroom management. If a student has something they are playing with such as a necklace, scissors, or the ever popular fidget spinner; give them the choice of putting it in their backpacks or letting the teacher hold onto until the end of the lesson.
Provide assignment choices that still accomplishes the task but the students can select the assignment that works for them in the moment. For example, I will read a story and focus on story elements. Once the story is finished, students can choose to answer the comprehension questions or complete the story element graphic organizer.
I believe this to be the most important key to working with students. You need to get to know your students on all levels. Children want to feel they are understood and are appreciated by their teacher. You want to build that trust with your students on an individual level and as a group. Take time to talk to your students on personal level to learn students interests and understand their home lives. Children also want to know about their teachers lives, so providing some insight into your life with students can help build those relationships. I offer some opportunities to learn about my students with weekly star student and getting to eat lunch with the teacher. I encourage students to interact during snack and observe them during recess. This year I have a class that loves to dance, so everyday I play some type of guided dance song. We all look forward to some structured free time.
Think about our own performance during and after a lesson. Think about why a lesson went well or did not go well. Ask yourself, “what can I do as the teacher to modify or improve the lesson?” You should consistently reflect upon your teaching methods to create the best lessons, assignments and activities to fit the needs of your students.
The secret of working with children lies within you as an educator. Wear your many hats proudly and get to know your students. Remember you are teaching children, so active learning and being silly is completely acceptable.