The teaching profession has always been a highly esteemed and revered occupation due to the fact that educators impart knowledge into the minds of every single individual throughout the population, whether the student decides to be a doctor, engineer, mechanic, politician or artist in adulthood, the foundation of their learning has came from a highly dedicated and resourceful educator. However, when examining this occupation in greater detail it can be observed that there are countless obstacles that effective teachers face every day.
It is common knowledge that children have a short attention span and their teacher has the role of planning lessons, which engage the learner and guarantee that the lesson is one that interacts with the student and encourages them to be involved. They also must be aware of different methods to implement that will see the child remembering the material and retaining the information that the teacher is presenting for the future lessons. When teaching in the classroom, educators must be prepared when confronted with children showing ill desired and disruptive behaviours.
It is the method in which the teacher reacts to these behaviours that will pave the way for the remainder of the year, if the teacher reacts in the correct manner and demonstrates to the child the expectations within the classroom then it can be anticipated that the student will understand what is and isn’t acceptable, a certain challenge. Attention is where learning begins and therefore attracting and upholding student attention is paramount (Curtindale, Laurie-Rose, Bennett Murphy, 2007).
Attention capacity and duration is limited for every individual, this needs to be acknowledged in the classroom and strategies need to be formed to prevent students from neglecting important information in class. Learners find it particularly difficult and their attention easily shifts from one stimulus to another, caused by not only distractions from other students but also from outside the classroom. When students find it difficult to concentrate this can negatively impact not only their own learning but also the learning of others.
Therefore, teachers must control and provide an environment that engages and holds students attention whilst teaching imperative material. Eggen (2010) states that effective teachers plan their lessons so students attend to what is being taught and ignore irrelevant stimuli. They must ensure that their lesson will be one that learners can actively be involved in and interact with, not just submissively require students to listen to what is needing to be taught, but experience it. Teachers may employ a variety of strategies to do this, from demonstrations to discrepant events and thought provoking questions.
Another fundamental approach that creates an environment of achieving ones attention is calling on students by name. This guarantees that learners are aware that the teacher will not only call on the class as a whole but may call on them individually, by name, resulting in a need to be attentive. Chapin, O’Connor and Anderson (2009) make an interesting point however that as teachers we need to be mindful when calling on students to participate and remind them of their right to pass or ask for more time before answering in the classroom.
The obligation to participate in a classroom does not equate to an obligation to give answers on demand” (Chapin et al. , 2009). When teachers practice these strategies for holding their learners attention and ensure that they are apart of the teaching not just observing it, the likelihood of the student’s memory retaining the material is also greatly increased. Another obstacle faced by teachers in the classroom is that of their learners retaining the material taught throughout the term, from one lesson to another.
If any student in the class is having difficulty remembering the previous lesson, they have a high risk of falling behind in their learning and development, which can then lead to troubling behaviour. There are certain aspects of memory retention that must be understood and practiced in the classroom for students to achieve learning targets and overcome this impediment. These techniques are employed to take knowledge from a child’s working memory and encode it to be stored within their long term memory, ensuring that they are then able to recall this understanding and build upon it in future lessons.
Schema activation is one such encoding strategy that involves activating prior knowledge so that new knowledge can be connected to it (Eggen 2010). One of the most effective ways of activating a student’s prior knowledge is through conducting reviews of the previous lesson before embarking on the new learning material. This ensures that the students form conceptual connections between what they have already learnt in the past and the material that they are about to be taught.
Another effective method of encoding is material organisation, where related items of content are athered into categories that assist in illustrating the relationships between them. This can take the form of charts, models, outlines and hierarchies, which are all examples of organization systems. With the connections easily observable and the information well organized, the student is then able to retrieve this knowledge more easily, as stated by Ormrod (2006, pg190), Long-term memory retrieval is the process of “remembering previously stored information and “finding” it in memory”.
If strategies are put in place by the educator in the classroom, the students will experience a greater retention of material and a greater ease at “finding” stored information from past lessons, also making certain that they are less likely to be disruptive and display adverse behavior, an obstacle that all teachers desire to prevent if possible. Classrooms are busy and often hectic places in which groups of students vary in interests and abilities must be organized and directed, in ways that maximize education and minimize disruptions.
It is imperative that the teacher responsible for each class is equipped with knowledge and strategies that can be implemented when faced with undesirable behaviour from students. First and foremost, a teacher must show withitness within the classroom, they must notice the behavior of all students and respond quickly to unexpected events. The students will be much less likely to attempt negative behaviour knowing that the teacher is aware of every action and movement that occurs and the knowledge that there is a consequence, either positive or negative for every action.
When faced with ill desired behaviour from a student, the teacher must first establish whether the student is going to take responsibility for their actions and if not, implement behavioral interventions – either reinforcement or punishment to ensure that the student understands that there are consequences for adverse behaviour. One approach that would create a rational response to the student’s behaviour would be to implement a negative reinforcement – for example, by taking away 5 minutes of the students free art time on Friday afternoon, whilst the rest of the class, has their full 30 minutes.
Alternatively the teacher may use their judgment and decide to implement an effective form of punishment for the student instead. This may be a simple timeout for the misbehaving child or a more severe detention during their lunch break or after class. Regardless of the tactic that the teacher decides to use with this misbehaving student, once the student understands that there are consequences for poor behaviour, the probability of this behaviour continuing is scarce.
Children that act in this manner and misbehave in class often look to their role model for discipline and in many situations their teacher may be their only adult role model in their life and therefore it is imperative that these situations are handled appropriately. In conclusion, it can be observed that there are many challenges that a teacher must overcome in their normal day-to-day occupation, with a majority of them that go unseen to the general public.
Initially they must obtain the student’s attention and curiosity and then maintain it throughout the class, whilst having lessons planned around engaging the students and allowing them to experience what is being taught. They then must ensure that the pupil is being taught in a way that will ensure their long term memory to guarantee that they will remember the material and therefore build upon it in future lessons.
Teachers must also be equipped with strategies and techniques to overcome ill desired behaviour from students in a way that creates an understanding of the expectations and classroom rules. Fortunately there are many teachers and educators that have gone before and paved the way for the future graduates, they have been willing to share their ideas, examples and methodology in regards to what they have found that has been successful and what has not.
Techniques such as calling students by name to gain their attention, organizing new learning material in such a way that makes it easier for the students to retrieve it from their memory and implementing reinforcements in place of harsh punishment for students that are testing the boundaries within the classroom. This knowledge and experience from other mentors in the industry guarantees that the classroom of the future is not only a brighter place to be but also a well informed one.