Inconsistencies in the Enrichment Learning Environment
Though the benefits of after school and summer programs have been well established, the scope of efficient and effective skill development largely depends on the ability of enrichment teachers to management the learning environment by setting expectations early on the class session. While teachers always have the best of intentions, oftentimes they teach as they know how. The key moment to create a culture of expectation in the learning environment is at the first contact with students where the attention threshold of any class is at its highest. The following offers some suggestions and guidelines for enrichment teachers to follow in establishing rituals and routines early on.
Time Management and Organization
Proper planning is critical in order to efficiently manage a classroom. Skill development can suffer due to misbehavior in the classroom, unorganized class transitions and poor planning. A well-thought-out lesson plan is the first step to maintaining order in the classroom and ensuring student development. Providing structure helps keep the minds of students focused and therefore, lessons should be customized to age group, ability, and student interest maximizing class engagement. Children will let you know, often through misbehavior, that the activity you as the teacher have chosen lacks the their attention and interest. With planning and preparation, the teacher is able to shift and adapt the lesson transitioning to a better activity.
A teacher aware of time and pacing in the classroom can increase skill development over the course of a year. In fact, if a school teacher cuts one minute from ten transitions a day, by the end of the school year they would have gained 35 hours of instructional time. Furthermore, it is also important for teachers to repeatedly communicate high expectations for students and provide daily reminders of rituals and routines that contribute to order in the classroom. It is important to have several tools available to you at a moment’s notice but that is only possible with planning and continued teaching.
Behavior Management Tools
Positive reinforcement can be the greatest behavior management tool in a teacher’s arsenal, and it is often overlooked by inexperienced teachers. By praising a student that is focused on their work, for instance, it encourages those that are off-task to follow their example. Modeling is one of the most powerful ways in changing undesired student behaviors. It can also raise student’s expectations and improve their attitudes towards learning. The most powerful prize a teacher could give a student is public praise and prestige in the learning environment. Attention cues are also valuable means of maintaining order. Calls and responses such as claps and countdowns can help silence a rowdy class. However, many enrichment teachers resume instruction prematurely after using such a cue. For example, if only 50% of the class clapped in response, then it was not effective, and it must be tried again preferably using a different attention cue. Another common mistake teachers make is to take on all the authority and responsibility upon themselves, when in reality they could make classroom management easier and more effective by creating a collaborative environment. Finding ways to have have as many student lead moments in the classroom is an invaluable investment of teaching time, a moment of leadership for students, and an awareness that teachers are simply co-constructing the learning environment
Finally, an appropriate understanding of discipline and consequence will discourage bad behavior. To start, does the class know your consequence policy? If they do not, the teacher needs to assess how to integrate a clear and fair consequence approach to misbehavior in the classroom. Keep in mind, punishment is only effective as the threat of punishment exist. Oftentimes warnings and timeouts are overused and insufficient correcting student behavior. Only on-going modeling can prove sustainable long-term. Most importantly, teachers should remain calm and in control and they should make sure the student knows why they are being punished and how they should have behaved in the given situation.