Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Building Fences

I've learned, through my love of disaster films, that a well maintained electric fence will deter velociraptors from escaping and wreaking havoc all over a fictional theme park.   They will test the fence over and over again to make sure it is electrified. They will test it even it it results in pain. They won't stop testing it.  It's in their nature, they're intelligent beings. They are looking for their boundaries.

In the very real world of a school, a well maintained metaphorical fence will deter your students from wreaking havoc in your classroom.  (If you teach kindergarten, you will understand that there are many parallels between raptors and kinders.)  

Many new teachers don't understand the relationship between forethought and classroom management.   I have had conversations with new teachers who think they need tricks and training in behavior management in order to have a controlled, seamlessly functioning classroom.   While it's not a bad idea to understand the basics of classroom management and behavior control, the trick is in building and maintaining the fence.  

Before it can be maintained, your fence will need to be built.  The elements of your fence will include the following:
  • Well rehearsed procedures.
  • A sense of community that has been deliberately created.
  • A classroom set-up with purpose and forethought.
  • And, of course, a behavior plan.
The fence is built early in the school year.  The set up is thought through, the furniture is moved again and again to make sure there is a clear, clean traffic flow and inviting learning spaces. The procedures are rehearsed, over and over again.  You will do numerous community building, and team building activities with your learners.  You will review the school's or the district's behavior plan and rehearse it in your mind.   But, even though you have taken care to build a solid fence, your little raptors, will attempt to tear it down.  Why?  They are intelligent beings.  Like the raptors, they are going to constantly push to find a gap or hole in your fence.  Once they find a hole, you're in trouble. Your learners will continue to look for holes.  You will need to maintain your fence constantly. Here are a few maintenance tips: 
  • Solid lesson planning, leaving no time gaps.
  • Preparation of materials needed to carry out lesson plans
  • A toolbox of solid instructional strategies and practices

If your fence includes all of the above components, it will not only be functional, but it will be a beautiful learning space.  Of course, as a new teacher, you will need to build your personal learning network in order to find the resources needed to build the fence.  

I can point you in the right direction for some:
  • For procedures, look for the book The First Days of School by Harry Wong
  • For community building, refer to anything Kagan.
  • Classroom set up ideas can be found online; Pintrest, Teachers Pay Teachers, etc.
  • Your behavior plan should follow your school or district recommendations.
  • I'll plan on writing a whole blog on lesson planning, but just remember this; ALWAYS, ALWAYS OVER-PLAN.
  • For instructional practices, and strategies, you can't go wrong with the gradual release model and any of Marzano's nine practices. 

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