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Virginia Journal of Education


Your Classroom

Redefining Classroom Management

On the surface, effectively managed, learning-centered classrooms may have the look of no management at all, but they are carefully orchestrated at a complex level by the teacher so that learning can occur. Teachers use a variety of classroom management strategies:

Building community. Classroom community arises from the shared ways its members develop for relating to each other. Building community begins on day one and continues throughout the year.
• Teachers explicitly develop students’ understanding of what a classroom community is and how it functions.
• Teachers recognize and encourage positive community behaviors, such as helping teammates and volunteering for chores.
• When things go awry, teachers and peers can appeal to students’ sense of responsibility as a corrective strategy.

Establishing norms and rules. Negotiating and communicating norms and rules is an essential aspect of community-building. Teachers alone do not establish norms and rules; the responsibility is shared, and students play a vital role in both development and enforcement.
• Clear guidelines are jointly negotiated about functional things, such as acceptable classroom noise levels and how to get help on content or procedures.
• Academic standards are negotiated and understood by all. Social standards are equally important.
Practicing procedures. Participating in a learning-centered classroom involves knowing complex procedures, because a variety of activities, involving different resources and movement patterns, occur simultaneously.
• Students need opportunities to practice routines, especially at the beginning of the year.
• Practicing parts of a more complex procedure, and allowing students to have success with each part, may encourage a more thorough understanding.

Handling conflict. However effectively a classroom functions, conflicts will inevitably arise, and students must learn how to handle it. Some conflicts may arise as the natural outcome of an environment that fosters the exchange of ideas. Other conflicts arise as students encounter problems in learning to regulate their behavior and work responsibly with others.
• Depending on the situation, teachers may lead group discussions of problems as they arise.
• Sometimes, it may be better for teachers to engage in private discussions with students about their behavior.
• Peers are encouraged to assist each other in managing conflict.

Sharing authority and responsibility. If students are expected to develop into autonomous human beings, teachers must relinquish some control and share authority and responsibility with students. A dilemma teachers face is finding the right balance of direction and open-endedness.
• Teachers give students more opportunities to develop their capacity for self-regulation and a sense of responsibility toward others.
• Teachers encourage students not only to take responsibility for their own learning but also to support and monitor the learning of their peers.

--From the NEA Research Brief “Looking into Learning-Centered Classrooms: Implications for Classroom Management.”

Pitching Pennies for Progress

A little extra copper can be a very important element for environmental change and conservation, as schoolchildren around the country will prove in this year’s Pennies for the Planet campaign. Now in its third year, Pennies for the Planet focuses on environmental education and action to protect wildlife and habitat. The program is an Audubon initiative, in partnership with Toyota.

Last year, the school that collected the most pennies in the nation was Columbia Elementary School in Annandale, Virginia, which raised nearly 77,000 pennies. That distinction won Columbia students the program’s grand prize—an Audubon BioBash, an assembly of environmental learning and fun.

This year’s campaign is centered on protecting migrating wildlife and the funds collected will be split among three projects: a bird nesting area along Nebraska’s Platte River; a butterfly habitat in Arizona; and an oil spill-ravaged wetlands area on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

To learn how to incorporate Pennies for the Planet into your classroom, and to help raise funds, visit www.penniesfortheplanet.org.

Counselors Urged to ‘Own the Turf’

The College Board’s National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA) has launched a new campaign to help counselors better prepare students for college. Called “Own the Turf,” the campaign offers a toolkit designed to help inspire and prepare students to further their education.

Counselors have quite a task, with a current nationwide student-to-counselor ratio of about 467-to-1 and, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, only 29 percent of their time to spend on college counseling activities.

Developed in consultation with counselor leaders and educators, the Own the Turf toolkit contains materials that will offer counselors new strategies related to college and career readiness counseling, as well as the opportunity to become part of an online counselor community.

For more information, visit www.collegeboard.org/nosca.

Unsung Heroes in Our Schools

Some facts about our education support professionals (ESPs): 
•   More than 78 percent work to ensure student and staff safety. 
•   They average more than a decade of experience and a 40-plus hour workweek. 
•   The average age is 51; 86 percent are female 
•   Four-fifths work full-time; 72 percent in a school building. 
•   Close to half (43 percent) work in a preschool or elementary school. 
•   Sixty-one percent give from their own pockets (an average of $170 a year) to help students with things such as classroom supplies and field trips.

What We Need Most

Here are the commonwealth’s top 10 critical shortage teaching endorsement areas, according to the Virginia Department of Education:
• Special education
• Elementary education, preK-6
• Middle school, grades 6-8
• Career and technical education
• Math, grades 6-12, including Algebra I
• Science, grades 6-12
• Foreign languages
• School counselor
• Health and physical education
• English, grades 6-12

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