by Allison Kutzki
Since wanting to be a teacher, I have always worked with high school students. Therefore, working at Leal has been a rather novice and insightful experience for me. Not only has it been a place for me to practice my language skills, but I have also learned a lot about how to deal with children in an educational setting. There is so much more that goes into instructing first graders than simply the content. While the main goal teachers have is to provoke learning, other smaller goals must be accomplished before the larger can be achieved. There is a psychology behind every direction and activity which helps shape not only the students understanding of classroom material but their behavior. Everything for these students must be done in an orderly, clearly directional fashion. Before going out to recess, there is a routine. Students must clean up their areas, go to the restroom and then get a drink of water. Students then line up at the door and those in charge of carrying out recess toys line up in the back. The students then sing a song which instructs them to stand in line silently; and only after obeying, do they proceed into the hallway and outside.
Being in this environment, I realized that I had forgotten a lot about how elementary school was. It occurred to me how crucial little things like this are in helping students to successfully learn, especially for those who may not have been well disciplined at home. Many students have parents that are first generation immigrants to this country and my not have the time or resources that other children have. They may live in smaller houses with many of their family members and they can often lack a certain structure and discipline. It is with this that it is so important to these students future education that they learn to follow this structure in school.
Being able to maintain order in a classroom full of six and seven year olds is not an easy job, but the teacher that I work with has done a fantastic job of doing so. She has created a certain dynamic with the students in which she commands their attention, but also has their respect. Students look to her with affection and are comfortable interacting with her, but when she says it is time to do something, the students willingly abide. Being able to control the students’ behavior has allowed for a proactive learning environment for the children, one with minimal disruptions and much cooperation. Although I aspire to work with high school students, I realized that this dynamic is essential to productive learning in the classroom. If students fear their teacher, it is unproductive because the only thing they learn is to listen to instructions, and cooperative learning between the students and teachers is inhibited. If students feel more powerful than the teacher, this is also unproductive because the students learn that they have the ability to control the classroom and as a result, the teacher is unable to share their knowledge with the students. In observing the demeanor my teacher has towards her students, I believe that I have gained some insight into how I can establish this same dynamic with my students some day. It is evident that while a something created to facilitate the broad task of learning, it cannot be done without attention to small details such as rules, order and mutual respect.