Saturday, July 31, 2010

Responsive Classroom

As an avid believer in the methods of the Responsive Classroom, I’ve decided to use what I know in run-in situations while subbing at the Wes-Eind school. Every time we have gone there, a teacher has been absent and we’ve had to take over…no lesson plans, no curriculum, basically we had to wing it during every period for the past few days. Lucky for me, these kids have never been exposed to a morning meeting and since they lack many social skills to help them succeed in life, I figured it would be a fun way to get them to interact with one another. For all of my non-teacher friends, the Responsive Classroom is a method that focuses primarily on creating a safe, welcoming classroom community while promoting social awareness and academic growth. During a morning meeting, the students must greet one another, share something about them, read a message describing events for the day and participate in an activity. Though it took a while to break through the language barrier, the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students that we had morning meetings with seemed to really enjoy it and begged for more. What I found to be the most interesting is that these kids loved the greeting. I honestly don’t think they’ve ever gone around and said a simple hello to one another. It was funny to watch the first group because they were so silly and shy, almost embarrassed to say hi to the person standing next to them. Makes me wonder who, if anyone is teaching them how to be citizens in this ever changing world? How will they go on a job interview if they can’t look a superior in the eyes? Sadly, the majority of these kids will not continue school past the seventh grade. When we asked three of our tougher seventh grade boys what they want to do when they grow up they turned their heads and laughed. Finally, one said he wanted to go to the army, the other said he’ll just work on a farm. These kids have no support…there’s no one around to tell them to dream big and that this is not the only life they should want to lead. I’m still dreaming big and want more, and could never imagine a life where I thought I was only supposed to do one thing. We are so, so lucky. These children are stuck, and they need someone to guide them and pull them out. It should be their teachers, but the teachers have a hard enough time teaching what’s expected of them, that crowd control becomes the existence of every school day. Even the way these kids interact with each other is extreme. Boys hit girls, girls hit boys, sixth graders push first graders…it’s all very rough and when they are on their lunch break, there is no one supervising or even watching to make sure no one gets hurt. And when someone does get hurt, they have nowhere to go. I’m used to all of this behavior by now, but the first week we were teaching I was in culture shock, standing there looking around this big open space wondering where are the teachers? On the other side of the spectrum, it’s just good that these students do have a place to go to for school, and even though they’re not well equipped with the resources they need, these teachers are making some attempt to better the lives of these children.

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