Creating a Safe Classroom. How?

I had my second and final observation by my content area professor recently. We followed the same setup as before by identifying what we are looking to work on and then complete a coaching session about the experience. As I am nearing the end of my teaching during this semester I feel confident about the planning and instruction part of teaching for where I’m at in my growth. As I thought more about my instruction I began to wonder about what students I call on and how often I call on them during a lesson. With this I decided to have my professor record which students I called on and when during the lesson in hopes of seeing areas where I can approve.

After the lesson I felt pretty good about how it went getting more people involved, especially considering the topic that we covered was rather confusing. After looking at the chart that my professor filled out I noticed some interesting aspects about it. First off the same group of students that usually answers question had answered the most questions. There were some students who answered a question or two when they are normally quiet. One of the biggest successes for the day when our newest student, who still seems reluctant to participate in class, answered a question voluntarily. The most surprising item I saw was that one group of students only answered one question between the four of them and the more I thought about this it seemed clearer to me that this has happened on more that one occasion. The only answer that I have for this is that this group is in my peripheral vision and they are consistency one of the best behaved groups in the class so I don’t feel the need to keep an eye on them, which I have found lets them off the hook for answering questions during class.  This is not my intention with the group but was an interesting observation opening my eyes to where my attention is during a lesson. Another goal of mine that came to light was that for me it’s not so much having the variety of people answering questions that is important to me but rather having the type of  classroom environment that allows students to feel comfortable answering questions, without having to worry about people thinking they’re dumb, without having to worry about whether they have the answer completely correct. I think if I can set up my classroom like this I will not have any problems in getting the variety of students answering questions because a majority of them will be raising their hands to answer.

So where do I go from here? First and foremost I need to be aware or where I am at in the classroom and what groups I can see. I want to be able to get input from the group that right now I just don’t see and I think I can do that with much more ease if I am changing my position in the class frequently during a lesson. My next step is going to be looking more into what strategies can help in creating the type of classroom environment that I want. I feel like this is something that we always stress is important during the teacher preparation process but it’s something that I don’t recall ever talking about really what steps should be taking to ensure this. My goal is to learn more about this over the summer when I’m not so crazy busy and try some of what I find in my student teaching so I have an idea of what I should be doing when I get my own classroom.

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