From Student to Teacher

Hi! My name is Brittany May, and I am an Elementary Education major at the College of William and Mary. This blog is all about my journey through education... the questions I have and the answers I find, as well as lessons learned along the way, in this never-ending learning process of being a student and becoming a teacher. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Kids Like Rules??

One of the things we've discussed at length in my Classroom Management class is the concept of rules and procedures. I always assumed rules were important, but I never realized how fundamental they are to the workings of the classroom. What REALLY drove this point home for me was a particular occasion that I wanted to share as an example...

During my second week of observing in my practicum, my cooperating teacher came down with the flu and was out for about a week. It was then I had the chance to observe a substitute teacher in her place. It was interesting, to say the least. :) At first, I expected the kids to play the stereotypical "take advantage of the sub" game and try to get away with anything they could. Much to my surprise, what I witnessed was the exact opposite!

The substitute began the day by following my teacher's instructions and lesson plans. As could be expected for anyone new in a classroom, it was still somewhat uncertain as to how and what the kids were supposed to do. The kids were very enthusiastic about trying to "help" by explaining their routines to the sub. At first she was appreciative, but things began to get a little out of hand as more and more of the kids were contributing their two cents. The sub finally resorted to doing things her way, explaining that because she was the teacher today, things would be different, and that was how it was going to be. No more suggestions or explanations... she was in charge! She changed the schedule for some of their activities, and conducted the lessons as she seemed fit... unlike how they were usually done. Everything was different, and no questions asked. I noticed from my little corner in the back of the classroom that the more she changed their schedule, routine, and activities, the students' behavior changed as well. They were antsy, acting up more, and seemed very defensive whenever corrected. I heard whispers like "She's mean", "It's not fair", and "I miss Mrs. Madison". During learning centers, some of the boys got into an argument. I wanted to jump in and intervene, but when I approached the sub her response was, "Let them work it out for themselves." One of the little boys began to cry, sobbing "I want my mom!" I felt sympathy for these students and felt somewhat relieved, myself, when I was able to leave!

After I got back I was reflecting on what I had seen, and I tried to put myself in the shoes of my first graders. How would I feel if a complete stranger came into my happy classroom and changed everything I was used to? And how would it feel if I was completely shut down and scolded for speaking up when I was only trying to help? I realized that these kids didn't see having a sub as an opportunity to break every rule and have "fun". They like their rules and routines because it's what they're comfortable with. They feel safe and secure in their routines and normal ways, and having an unfamiliar person with absolute authority come into their territory and tell them "this is the way it's going to be because I said so" is a threat to them.

It made me realize how valuable and powerful rules and procedures can be in the classroom, both for classroom management and for creating a specific atmosphere. But it also showed me the importance of listening to my students. I am certain that the substitute would have had a much easier time if she had just taken two seconds to listen to what the kids were telling her. I am grateful I had this experience, because it's convicted a belief I have... I may be the teacher, but I can learn just as much from my students, if not more, as they learn from me!


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