Classroom Organization & Management

Beginning the eighth year of my teaching career, I have been exposed to several different classroom experiences involving both the Visual Art and Technology Education courses at the Dover Air Force Base Middle School.  While many of the variations in my classes occur from one year to another, others often happen within the academic year stemming from scheduling conflicts or overall enrollment concerns at a military school.  Nevertheless, each class continues to present a unique opportunity for implementing effective classroom management and discipline techniques.

A brief history of the exploratory program at DAFB Middle School reveals that each sixth, seventh, and eighth grade class has been reduced to a certain number of 'rotational' classes or sections; these sections are sometimes further divided across the semester or academic year.  Depending upon the yearly enrollment, the exploratory sections of the Essential Arts (Visual Art, Performing Art, Technology Education, Family Living and Consumer Science, Library Science, Guidance, and occasionally, International Studies) have usually consisted of fifteen to thirty-six students.

In the past, each section has generally remained in the assigned exploratory for a period of four and one half to eighteen weeks.  The current sixth and seventh grade arrangements offer students Visual Art, Performing Art, Library Science, and Guidance for one 9-week marking period, each.  Eighth grade students receive Keyboarding and Technology Education for one semester each, and Visual Art and Family Living and Consumer Science for one 9-week marking period, each.  This arrangement has placed extraordinary demands upon the exploratory teachers to develop exciting learning environments with the fewest number of disruptions and discipline referrals.

My past and present teaching strategies include the implementation of a designated set of classroom rules and policies as well as the integration of an exploratory curriculum that is both meaningful and applicable to each rotational class of unique student composition.  My students' perceptions of their learning environment has become increasingly important to me throughout the years -- I want my students to perceive each classroom as welcoming and inviting.  This educational environment should be a place that each child looks forward to visiting.  I have discovered through trial and error as well as in EDUC 658: Discipline and Classroom Management that my instructional lesson must have an importance associated with it for my classroom management plan to be successful.  Students often enter into the exploratory courses with the notion that they do not need to pass the course to continue onto the next grade level.  This presents, yet another obstacle for me to overcome.

As the sections of students rotate from one exploratory to another, additional concerns arise.  While the typical classroom teacher begins his/her school year with the philosophy of "Don't let them see you smile until Christmas" and may then transfer to a more, humanistic way of portrayal, the other exploratory teachers and myself must quickly establish an effective management plan coupled with developing a trusting rapport with our new class PRIOR to the end of their marking period studies.  (If the general classroom teacher has eighteen weeks to establish a management plan and another eighteen weeks to 'smile,' I usually only have one quarter of the time to accomplish both! -- and not every teacher can effectively accomplish this task.  Unfortunately, I usually inherit a section of students who have become accustomed to 'getting away with murder' due to the lack of discipline, effective classroom management skills, and respect from the previous exploratory teacher.

Sample Newsletter Pages

Syllabus1.jpg (107155 bytes) Syllabus2.jpg (95926 bytes)




Rather than lecture about safe practices and hazardous chemical instruction, I provide my students with the opportunity to create their own informative brochure.

Each exploratory rotation begins with the distribution of the Course-specific Newsletter that outlines my management and instructional philosophies as well as proposed curriculum focus.  Students are presented with pre-established rules and policies, but are given the opportunity to modify each through a healthy 'class' discussion.  Combining humor and genuine caring statements, procedures from Hazardous Communications and Safety Training to Restroom Visitation are recited and modeled daily.  I continually work at establishing my rapport with my students by tailoring their lessons to include the desires of my students while actively delivering the District's approved curriculum.

I further build upon the importance of the curriculum by relating concepts to their individual student experiences.  These meaningful acts often produce 'busy' class periods with few idle moments for disruptions to occur.  Students who complete projects ahead of schedule are presented with mini-activities to prevent their interference with others and eliminate potential discipline situations.  In the past I have given my students are the opportunity to actively 'teach' the class by presenting concepts in which they are proficient; these presentations have included demonstrations in paper folding - origami, weaving lanyards, or drawing cartoon animals.  These special days give the students a sense of ownership in their education.

Much of my philosophy of classroom management relates to the Kounin Model as I have discovered in my studies in EDUC 658: Discipline and Classroom Management.  Placing a great deal of emphasis on 'preventing' disruptive situations through adequately planning and delivering lessons, my management plan embodies the teachings of Jacob Kounin.  The ability to implement alternative plans further reduces possible interruptions.  Using techniques that Jacob Kounin referred to as 'withitness' and 'overlapping,' the Visual Art and Technology Education classes tend to operate smoothly, except of course, during a brainstorming session!  Nevertheless, minor incidents do arise that require me to deliver reprimands or disciplinary actions.  (The aforementioned delivery of consequences may stem from my first year of teaching where the Cantor Model ruled my classroom, but not my heart.)  Though these classroom management and discipline incidents have diminished over my brief teaching career, my concern for their importance remains high.

I dislike having to discipline students, but recognize that it is an important aspect in developing an adult who will contribute positively to our society in the future.  Concerned with society's view on child abuse and the increasing rise of the lack of discipline from parents/guardians due to the aforementioned concept, I stress the need for establishing a working environment where students feel comfortable in confiding their inner-most thoughts; these students must also recognize that their actions do produce certain reactions (or consequences), whether positive or negative.  If a situation cannot be resolved between the student and myself, then I will not hesitate to summon assistance from parents and/or administration.

Students who are treated fairly and with respect will often reciprocate the same attitude!  With so much confusion in their lives (teenagers as well as sons/daughters of military personnel), it is imperative that they receive consistency and order.  A teacher does not have to be 'nasty' in the delivery of discipline, but they do have to be firm and fair ... always.  Two years ago I received a package of 'Thank You' letters from my sixth grade students.  Among the many 'good wishes' one little boy who had been a major discipline problem for every teacher in the building wrote, "PS - Thank you for being the only teacher NOT to tell me to go away or get lost."  I began to get teary-eyed.  By keeping this student busy with seat work that was perceived as interesting and fun by the student, I rarely, if ever, experienced a disruption stemming from this boy.  He was able to conduct himself appropriately through my modeling of procedures and my consistent delivery of 'preventative' discipline.

Last year presented quite a unique situation for the staff at Dover Air.  Recent news from my Principal revealed an administrative transfer in which he and another principal would 'trade places.'  For a small faculty accustomed to the 'familiarity' at the school, this had a devastating effect on everyone, including the two administrators.  This administrative turn-over coupled with the revision of the Technology Education curriculum to a 'self-directed delivery system' require some management modifications to the existing classroom policy.  The modular arrangement of the Technology Education Lab allows for rotating pairs of students to experience a new 'career pathway' every eight days.  Students receive the necessary technological concepts through guided curriculum via computer software.  Teacher directed activities may be integrated on the eighth day and at the end of the semester. [Please visit Teaching Using Self-Directed Delivery to view these Discovery Day Activities as developed for my classroom.]  Students begin their Lab experience with two weeks of classroom modeling of the Modular Lab rules and procedures.  During this time it is crucial that I effectively deliver and establish my discipline philosophy for my students to ensure that the new curriculum is delivered ... and, that the expensive equipment remains operational.

Reflecting on a quote that I discovered some years ago, Michelangelo once said "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."  Possibly originating from my educational conversations with my husband, we equally admit that neither of us is willing to lower our standards to conform to another's belief of what can or cannot be achieved, rather we continually seek to raise other people (in this circumstance, my students) to a level at which I am comfortable and they are capable.  My students witness and model excellent work ethics and decent morals each and every day at the Middle School.  I strive to create an environment that is inviting and fun, yet educational and disciplined.  Not every day is perfect, and my pre-established list of consequences, positive phone calls home, A+ Card distribution, and other forms of positive feedback encourage students to be the best that they possibly can be.  These real world applications are referenced to constantly enforce the need to produce competent individuals that can think critically and utilize problem solving techniques to not just reach those stars ..., but excel beyond them!

These two students work cooperatively
to problem solve and program
a robot in Technology Education.

The Visual Art classroom provides students with
wide-open spaces as well as individual
desks for private time.

The new Technology Education Lab
provides separated modular areas.

Nevertheless, the wide-open space
provides for easy monitoring
of students for appropriate behaviors.



The Visual Art classroom is extremely versatile ... the large tables may be pushed together to form a centralized seating area, may be grouped, or may be separated as seen below.  Students may elect to sit at one of three individual drafting tables for privacy.  A teacher desk at either end of the room provides access to required material while 'working' the room during the instructional process.



The A+ Card  given to students who excel intellectually, physically,
and emotionally for their improved efforts and/or display of kind acts.
I designed this card at the request of my former principal, Mr. Paul Van Horn
who was always in search of providing his students with the opportunity
to achieve greatness and 'feel good' about themselves.