Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Necessity of an Environment Conducive to Learning in the Classroom

Student Achievement Best Practices

By Rebecca Lee Curry, English Teacher

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Student achievement best practices mean that students are in an environment for learning
Student achievement has always been considered the ultimate objective in the classroom, and rightly so.  It would make sense then to seek guidance from teachers who have had great success with their students.  I am a firm believer that no matter how much you “learn” about teaching, there is wisdom that cannot be gained but through experience.  Seeking guidance from the right source is always beneficial and has certainly been the case for me.  When I first began teaching full-time, I was blessed to learn from my dad, who is an amazing teacher.  He has been teaching for 39 years and has helped me more than he will ever know.  He has answered countless (literally, countless!) questions and has given me advice when I desperately needed words of wisdom. 

Casting together the advice I have received that has proven true again and again with my own experience, I believe that as a teacher, you must be able to manage your classroom.  Students are unable to learn in a haphazard environment, thus students will not be able to achieve their full potential.  Knowing this and making classroom management a priority has saved me and my students (though they are unaware of it) several times while going about day-to-day activities in the classroom.  Students simply cannot learn to the best of their ability in a chaotic environment.  I set high expectations for my students from the first day, both behaviorally and academically because classroom management is crucial to giving students a firm-founded learning environment.  If students know what is expected of them, they are then capable of helping create a positive classroom environment. 

Further, promoting motivation through good teacher/student relationships is important to be able to create a positive learning environment.  My expectations never change over the course of the year, but as each day passes, I learn a little more about my students and gain insight into what motivates them.  Motivation is key to student achievement, and we as teachers can easily facilitate motivation in our classrooms.  Classroom management is an integral part of student achievement even being possible, but forming good teacher/student relationships is also essential to motivating your students to be successful in their educational endeavors.

Though I’m sure it sounds cliché, I do always try to be exceptionally encouraging to my students because motivation stems from encouragement.  Before I left one of my student teaching placements, my mentor teachers asked the students I had taught for the past six weeks to write me a letter.  The overwhelming majority of my students thanked me for being patient with them.  I thought they would be appreciative of all the complex lesson plans I had created and stressed over.  I assume it is needless to say that patience was certainly not what I had expected to stand out to them.  Having taught for a few years now, I can see that it is easy to become frustrated in general, as is the case with any job (if we’re all honest).  Even if frustration isn’t directed at students, they are perceptive enough to pick up on this emotion.  I’ll be the first to admit that there are plenty of days when I struggle with keeping a consistently positive attitude and a pleasant sense of patience.  However, I have learned that my encouraging words and attitude put great vibes in my students.  Consequently, great vibes motivate students to seek success.  As Mr. Fred A. Manske wrote in his book Core Strategy for Success, “I’m convinced that there is considerable power in such positive ‘vibes.’  The more you do it, the more sensitive you’ll become to the needs of others.”  The more positive we are with our students, the more we will realize how much of an impact it has on them. 

Learning from other teachers and being willing to seek advice leads to continual self-improvement, and our students, in turn, are the ones who benefit.  Student success is hard to achieve if the students’ environment is not conducive to learning, but if a teacher has great classroom management skills and an encouraging and motivating spirit, student success is much easier to achieve.  Achievement is what every teacher strives for his or her students to experience, and having a heart to teach makes student success possible.

Rebecca Lee Curry teaches ninth-grade English at Columbia Central High School in Columbia, Tennessee.  She currently teaches both honors and standard classes and is certified to teach Advanced Placement Literature and Composition.  Rebecca is a member of the National, Tennessee, and Maury County Education Association(s).

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