Surviving the Classroom
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Mention departmental course policies. Explain procedures for waiting lists, adding and dropping courses, and so on. Know where to refer students with such problems. If your course consists of multiple tutorial sections, describe the relationship between the course and its tutorial, and how tutorials will be run. It is also beneficial to have the teaching assistants introduce themselves.
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Review any prerequisites for the course. Let students know what skills or knowledge they are expected to have and whether alternate experience or course work will be accepted. Is help available for those who do not possess all the prerequisites? Define your expectations for student participation. Besides submitting written assignments and taking exams, what do you expect of students during class?
Tell students about campus policies on academic integrity. State your expectations, and let students know what you regard as cheating and impermissible collaboration. Hand out and discuss the course syllabus. Invite students to attend your office hours. Be sure students know where your office is located and encourage them to stop by with questions and course-related problems. Determine the best time during the week for "online" office hours. Review safety precautions and emergency procedures.
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If your course requires lab work or fieldwork, review safe practices for using equipment and supplies and discuss emergency procedures. Bring copies of the required texts to the first class meeting. Know which stores besides the campus bookstore carry the texts. Are used copies available? Is the textbook on reserve in the library?
VCE Chemistry teacher in Melbourne, Australia
Setting course expectations and standards Discuss the objectives of the course. As specifically as possible, tell your students what you wish to accomplish and why, but also inquire what they wish to learn and what problems they would like to tackle. Ask students, in small groups or individually, to list the goals they hope to achieve by taking the course.
Describe how you propose to spend class time. How will sessions be structured and how will discussions be organized?
When is it appropriate to ask questions? Give your students ideas about how to study and prepare for class. Tell your students how much time they will need to study for the course and let them know about campus academic support services. Ask students to do a group exercise. Select a key word from the course title and have students generate word associations or related ideas. Put their responses on the board and use the list to give a thematic overview of the course.
Work through a problem or piece of material that illustrates the course content.
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Engaging students in actual work during the first class session gives them an idea of what your class will be like. Give an assignment for the next class session. By moving immediately into the first topic, you are indicating to students that the course is worthwhile, well organized, and well paced. Make sure that the assignment is ungraded, however, because students may be adding or dropping your course during the first weeks.
I live in New England, and I love taking advantage of our gorgeous falls. Taking students outdoors for a poetry reading or class discussion is a treat they'll definitely look forward to. I know my students' behavior will be angelic afterward because they enjoy the experience so much. Plus, studies show that learning in an outdoor environment has positive effects on students and teachers.
Why not get into the spirit by creating classroom activities that reflect the season? I know an elementary school teacher who uses pumpkins to teach her students about fractions. Like many teachers, I explore the poetry and prose of Edgar Allen Poe at this time of the year, and I often challenge my students to memorize "Annabel Lee. There are also many writing assignments and presentation topics to choose from across grade levels that can spark students' interest and keep them on task. Prompts about the Salem witch trials, the origin of superstitions, ghosts and the supernatural, or local mysteries can get students excited about learning.
Relationship building is the key to strong classroom management. Take time to meet with each one of your students for a personal conversation about their work, their conduct, and their effort.
If a student is veering off track, now is a good time to help them refocus with an action plan that clearly delineates your expectations. When you meet one-on-one with a student and work to build a relationship, students are less likely to act out in class. They know you believe in them and are on their side. It's easy to start to let things slide as the year goes on, but it's important to stay consistent and fair with your classroom rules.
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Students are hyper-aware of what happens in the classroom, especially as it relates to classroom management, and if they notice that rules and policies are only randomly enforced, they will react. It's easy to fall behind during the month of October. Do yourself a favor and carve out a chunk of time to grade, organize, answer emails, and get prepared. While it might be a buzzkill for your weekend, the stress relief will most definitely be worth it. An exhausted and overworked teacher will be impatient and cranky with students. Make sure to take some time for yourself , especially since you've probably been going nonstop since the first day of school.
So go on a hike one weekend or treat yourself to that cocktail night with friends. Whatever activity you choose, spending time decompressing pays huge dividends in the classroom. If you follow these simple steps, you'll be able to sail right through October unscathed. And now I'm off to work on my Miss Havisham costume—in addition to being an awesome intro to the reading of Great Expectations , it's sure to net me the best costume prize in our school's Halloween contest!
She holds a B. Beyond the Classroom.