“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela, political revolutionary, freedom fighter, and former president of South Africa
Our current President may not be able to continue progressive change in American politics but I believe this first year teacher can continue progressive change in the American educational system. See our current blog featuring Samuel Cole, 1st Year Teacher at Latin College Prep, East Point, Georgia.
S. Cole: Now that I have finally completed my first year as a classroom teacher I can fully reflect on my experiences. My woes as a first year, sixth grade teacher were many. I came in mistakenly thinking I was teaching college students who always sat in their seats and never interrupted the professor. I came in not knowing how to be firm nor what to be firm about. As a result, the 10, 11, and 12-year-old scholars I taught took advantage of that. There would be days I would think to myself “Why me?” when I found myself spending more time getting the class to be quiet than actually facilitating instruction. To compound my frustrations, I started to realize that some of the scholars did not give me the same respect that they gave my colleagues on our hall.
S.Cole: The biggest challenge I faced this year by far was managing the classroom. As a history buff and aspiring world changer, I did not find lesson planning that hard because I genuinely enjoy learning about geography, economic theory, and the colonial past of countries throughout the world. I began to realize that discipline and an orderly classroom environment are far more important than the content being delivered. At the beginning of the year I would allow students to interrupt me while I was talking and think to myself “Oh, they’re just excited. It would be mean to tell them not to interrupt you while you’re talking”. But as the year went on I realized I had to be firm because simple things like that can balloon into huge problems later on in the year. And though this was not my intention, it began to hurt some of the scholar’s feelings; especially, the girls because they felt like I went from being “nice” to being “mean”.
S.Cole: Though it was unintentional, I now realize I had so many problems with classroom management because I initially acted more like a friend to the scholars than the authority figure they needed. The scholars misbehaved in my room so much because I did not set a consistent expectation for their behavior from day one. I must be explicit about literally everything so there is no room for confusion; These expectations are necessary for an orderly classroom environment. And surprisingly, I learned the scholars crave the same peaceful, calm structure that I do! Additionally, I must involve parents more in the process of disciplining their children by calling them at the beginning of the year if I am having a problem. I initially hesitated to call parents because I thought I could get every student to behave by lecturing them and giving them a consequence. I quickly found out that some scholars could care less about losing their recess and even less about a lecture from me. I simply cannot get through to every scholar on my own. It takes a village.
S.Cole: I understand now how to assert my authority from day one and why it is mandatory that I do so. I look forward to implementing these lessons Aug 6th, 2018. Just like the scholars I teach, I want to see my own growth as well. I’ve learned from my first year that classroom management, organization and relationship building are critical to the success of your students and yourself.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.