Category Archives: Teacher Resources

Behavior and Classroom Management tips

The Tortoise and the Hare: Concerns in the new Junior Cycle Student Award

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Before I begin I would like to highlight that I am a newly qualified teacher currently studying a Masters of Education in the hopes of finding a teaching job in Ireland. I am not a journalist or a professional writer.  The opinions express in this post are all my own. I am no expert in politics I am yet to join a teachers union and my first love is always my interest in Education.

Recently teacher’s unions in Ireland have announced that if the concerns of many teachers surrounding the new Junior Cycle Student Award are not addressed they will stop co-operating with the Minister of Education.  Since this announcement I have seen and read many articles online outlining the main concerns of teachers and explaining why teachers around the country are awaiting the arrival of September 2014 with great anxiety and caution. Each newspaper, online journal, twitter post and facebook status was followed by the expected “Teacher’s are always complaining”, “Teacher’s have it easy three months off for the Summer along with Easter and Christmas Holidays”, “Teacher’s constantly complaining damages the profession”. It is not my intention to delve into any debate with these individuals who seem to be over looking that teachers concerns are not for their jobs, it is not over pay cuts and it is not over working hours. The main focus of this announcement is our students and preserving the high standards of education we have within Ireland.

I was first introduced to the new Junior Cycle Award in college and I sat in the exam hall in my 3rd year exams answering a question based upon implementing the new Junior Cycle Award. My first reaction was “this is fantastic, finally moving away from root learning”. As a student continuous assessment was my forte. Projects, portfolios and group work were always the area that allowed me to show my creativity. The exam at the end of the term was my downfall. I could never perform to the highest of my ability.  So as you can imagine, as a teacher in training and a CA enthusiast the new Junior Cycle sounded like the perfect solution.

However, as I studied the new Junior Cycle as part of my education module the cracks began to show. My main concern is the removal of external examiners.

External Examiners

The new Junior Cycle will see external examiners removed and replaced with internal continuous assessment carried out by schools. The minister and department of education have stated that there will be guidelines and mock papers for each teacher to follow when correcting and assessing students work. This I feel is not enough. Removing external examiners can make it impossible to regulate, compare and preserve standards of education throughout the country. For each student to get a fair and equal award external examiners with a neutral perspective are essential. Many have said that the whole world today operates with internal inspectors and assessments and to a certain extent they would be right. However, I say yes to both. Keep internal inspections but also use external examiners to make sure standards are upheld. Internal inspectors know the students, they know how hard they work and they have worked with the students throughout the year and want each child to succeed. However, an external examiner can uphold standards and make sure assessment guidelines and protocols are being kept.

As a teacher I do not want to undermine or damage the teaching profession by what it seems to be “complaining” by many in the general public. I want to preserve the teaching standards and keep these high standards of education within Ireland. I want my future students to have the best education I can give them and in its current state I do not believe the Junior Cycle will be able to provide the standard I and everybody else should expect within our schools.

There are those within the teaching profession who stand behind the Minister and urge him to stand strong when implementing this new Junior Cycle Award. They believe slowing the process down is not the answer that Teacher’s, good teacher’s are the key to implementing this new Junior Cycle. To those individuals I thank you for your show of confidence in the teaching profession but I would also like to remind them about a certain Aesop’s Fable ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’

The Hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. “I have never yet been beaten,” said he, “when I put forth my full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

”That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

”Keep your boasting till you’ve beaten,” answered the Tortoise. “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and a start was made. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the winning-post and could not run up in time to save the race.

Moral of Aesops Fable: Plodding wins the race.

Now picture this story:

The Minister and department of Education along with other education professionals were once boasting of a new Junior Cycle Student Award. “move away from root learning, promote creativity and great opportunities for students to experience new subjects and all to be put forward and implanted as soon as September 2014…it cannot be beaten…the sooner we start the better”. Now some teachers said quietly “we accept this challenge….but we think we can do better…we don’t think implementing this new Junior Cycle as soon as September is the right way to go…let’s slow down and make it right first the first time around”. The department and minister said “Is this a joke?” “The new Junior Cycle will be in place by September 2014…and we will adjust as we go” So the teachers and the minister decided to race. So a course was made and the race began. September 2014 arrived and the minister pushed ahead with the new Junior Cycle but stopped along because education standards had dropped and internal assessment was not being regulated, the capacity of schools to implement the new Junior Cycle programme in the wake of a litany of cutbacks, and there was a rise of inequalities between schools.” The department of education looked up and saw the other teachers who amongst themselves implemented a Junior Cycle that addressed and dealt with many of the cracks that began to show early on had reached the finish line.

Moral of the story: Slow and steady wins the race. Fix the problems now listen to the concerns of the teachers and together we can all win the race…..and give the prize to our students.

Google Docs for College Students and Teacher’s

As a recent college graduate I remember all too well the stress and on going panic of college assignments, essays and preparing lesson plans. There were two things I depended on to get my work completed….my laptop (or computer) and my USB stick.

Our worst nightmare was having all our work complete and ready to print out when suddenly the computer screen goes blank, your work disappears and that ultimate feeling of doom and gloom sets in. You hide your head in your hands and fight back the tears. It has happened to all of us at some point throughout our college days.

If you are looking for a way to put Microsoft documents and USB sticks behind you why not try Google Docs out!

Google Docs put simply is an easy to use online version of Microsoft Office with some extra unique and exciting features! Google Docs allows you to create word documents, power point presentations and spreadsheets and store them online. This means that you can access your work on any computer that has internet access. Allowing you to eliminate any fear of your laptop or computer suddenly crashing along with all your work.

Benefits for College Students

  1. It’s free! If you are a student who has a Gmail account or a dcu.ie email address. You already have access to google docs.
  2. Prepare essays, power points and continuous assessments on google docs and access on any computer anywhere (as long as you have internet access). This is great for any students who do not own a computer or for any students who don’t fancy carrying your laptop around college all day.
  3. Saving in the Cloud: Writing important essays in Google Docs allows you to access assignments and papers from any computer, anywhere. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been stuck in the library without my laptop, or only have my smartphone handy. With Google Docs, it doesn’t matter, because all of my assignments are stored in the cloud, meaning I don’t have to be attached to my laptop to get work done. This could save your sanity if your computer crashes and luckily, there will be no need to panic, because you know your work is tucked safely in the Google Docs cloud, instead of your dying hard drive.
  4. Preparing a thesis? Instead of attaching a copy of your work in an email and receiving feedback from your lecturer in a separate email why not use Google Docs sharing features? This allows you and your supervisor to exchange notes by interacting online also enabling your supervisor to type in their own notes on your thesis allowing you to edit your work sufficiently.
  5. Group Work: Group projects in college can at times be a nightmare. Collaboration is often done through text or facebook messaging. Combining all the work together or slides on a power point before a presentation was usually frantically done at last minute. With google docs groups are able to work together on the same presentation or project simultaneuosly. The discussion feature is great for this. 
  6. Exam Time: most college students today are guilty of one thing: we don’t share enough and we don’t work together enough. Before exam time each year myself and a few friends would swap notes and work together with studying methods and sharing essays. However, this was done through email. Why not do this through real time? We tend to spend most of our time hooked to chat forums anyway so why not study using this technique too? Work with friends to take in-class notes on a single Google doc, allowing everyone to come away with a more thorough set of notes than they could have written individually. These notes can then be used to help everybody come exam time! 

Check out this video to see the easy to use discussion and online editing and collaboration tools on google docs in action:

Benefits for Teachers and Student Teachers

  1. Collaborative Writing: This allows students to prepare their work online such as essays and projects and receive immediate feedback from their teacher. There is also a built in research tool allowing students to explore the online world for information and provide links to it on their document.
  2. Collaborative Brainstorming: this gives the students an opportunity to share ideas and thoughts online and to contribute to the lesson. Students can use shapes, arrows, text, and imported images to build a visual map for any task. The revision history uses colors to highlight and tracks changes to any Google Doc, making it easy to see what each student has contributed to the big picture.
  3. Quiz: You can create a simple quiz with a Google Form.  Just create a quiz with a few multiple choice questions, take the quiz yourself to submit the correct answers, and pop a simple formula into the spreadsheet end to let the technology do the grading for you.  Immediately publish the spreadsheet of results and teach students how to use the find tool to quickly find their score and significantly raise the stakes to increase student motivation.  Please note: To avoid public humiliation and hard feelings make sure you require students to sign in with some sort of unique identifier that protects their privacy.
  4. Power point presentation and You Tube: Inserting youtube videos in a power point presentation using microsoft office usually means for most teacher inserting a link that they must press during the lesson. This link will then open an internet window and upload a clip from you tube. Google docs allows you to watch a you tube video without moving away from your power point presentation. It is very simple and a definite benefit for all teachers.

Check out this video to see the amazing ways you can create a power point presentation using google docs!

Google Docs in Education Slideshow:

Teaching Practice Tips and Guidelines! (Helpful Hints for any student teachers embarking on Teaching Practice)

For a lot of Student Teacher’s January is the most daunting, terrifying and exciting time of the academic calendar. It’s Teaching Practice time. After sitting through month’s of lectures, essay writing, lesson planning, schemes of work ATP and FTP it is finally your chance to stand up in front of a class. Whilst it can be a very intimidating and frightening experience for a lot of us it is also a chance for you to experience some of the most memorable student teacher moments of your college life. I can guarantee you that a lot of your anecdotes and stories told over a cup of tea in the canteen will be of your teaching practice experience.

You will have students in your classroom who will test you, make you stronger and at times will have you fighting back the tears but the moments when a student says a simple ‘Thank you Miss’ when they open up and tell you about problems at home and with friends or when they look up at you with excitement and interest because finally you have discovered a methodology or resources that has grasped their interest. They are the moments you will never forget. They are the moments that make all the late nights, all the stressing and all the panicking worth it.

There are times when I sit back and think how did I manage to pull myself through every January for four years? A helping hand or a word of advice was always welcomed. In preparation for next Monday I decided to share some helpful hints and ideas that helped get me and other fellow student teachers through the terror of Teaching Practice.

1) Folders: During my first year of Teaching Practice I heaved around two heavy hardback folders along with a lot of other resources I needed throughout the day. They were heavy, huge and quite a nuisance. During my second year I decided to purchase two soft back folders each containing 200 poly pockets. They held everything I needed lesson plans, resources, worksheets, and timetables comfortably. So if you want to give your back, arms and bags a break I would definitely recommend ditching those hard back folders!

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2) Relax and start simple – what is the learning objective? What is the best way for the students to learn this/achieve that objective – done. You can add decorations later if you’ve any time or energy.

3)  Supervisors: Keep the lines of communicating open at all times! Keep thinking they are there to help you they want you to do well. If you have any questions ask them if you have any worries go to them.

4) Use Google Docs!! Afraid of forgetting your USB stick? Always have a back up ready on Google Docs. This allows you to prepare or upload power point presentations, worksheets, online quizes and polls and you can access them on any computer that has internet. Limiting the stress of loosing your USB stick. You can access google docs using your college email address. It is brilliant!!

5) Always make sure you have a class list for each of your classes. Getting to know your students names is essential! One tip I used was writing students names on lolly pop sticks and use them for question time! Ask the teachers for seating plan if they have one and always have it in front of you. I always like to take one class (Friday is a good day for this) and have a get to know each other class. Play a few icebreakers and write down one or two things about each student that will help you remember them. It also shows them you are interested in getting to know them individually.

6) Always try and be in your designated classroom 5-10 minutes before class begins. This gives you time to set up and be prepared before the students come in. This leaves no time for chatting or disruption.

7)  Stand at the door as your class walks into the room. Trust me this really helps. If you have a particularly difficult class line them up outside the classroom and wait for them to be ready to enter your classroom. Students who are ready may proceed in those who aren’t will wait until they are. Any longer than 10 minutes…. Follow school rules for disrupting your class. Works like a charm! (for those students who were allowed enter your class have a short 5 minute exercise written on the whiteboard for them to begin whilst you wait for the other students to calm down and enter your classroom)

8) Learn from other teachers in your cooperating school. If you are lucky to have helpful cooperating teachers learn from them. Ask to observe their classes, ask them what works for them and what doesn’t. This is your chance to learn as much as you can from people who experience school life everyday. Don’t be afraid to ask.

9)  Student teaching practice is exhausting! It can be a huge shock to the system. Eat. Sleep. Drink LOTS of water. Make time for friends to enjoy yourself. The world won’t fall apart if you make time for your favorite TV show or a night out with your friends, as long as you don’t totally blow off your responsibilities. The students can tell when you’re weary or ill at ease, so making sure that you’re happy is key.

10)  If you’re a female teacher one tip is to wear low heals, gives you a bit of height if your small like myself and also allows the students to hear you as your approach so they know to be quiet.

11) Be mindful of the class group you have. While one lesson might work really well with class group A, the same lesson might not be as suitable/ successful with class group B. Just try and be a bit conscientious when it comes to planning lessons. If the group isn’t that strong academically you don’t want to and up giving a lesson on the catechism. If the class is rowdy and noisy maybe avoid methodologies such as role play or simulation that might over excite the students; it might be hard to bring them back under control. It might be better to use methodologies such as working with text, teacher exposition etc. As placement goes on and you grow more confident with the class and they become more receptive towards you, by all means go for it, take the risk and experiment. But bottom line, be aware of the group you are teaching, analyze the class dynamic and the situation.

12) Always have a back up in place when using IT, in case something doesn’t work.

13)  Never shout; no matter how loud you think you are, they will always be louder. You loose control when you shout. If a student is misbehaving there is more than likely something going on outside of  your classroom. If they are misbehaving or refusing to do the work leave any confrontation until the end of the class. Ask the student what is wrong, why are the acting out or why are they refusing to work? 90% of the time there is some outside factor at home or a fight with friends that is causing their outbursts or perhaps they just don’t understand what the lesson was about and act out in frustration. Talk to them. I can guarantee this works 100% better than shouting.

14) Take one day at a time. Try not to get too stressed. Enjoy the experience.

15)  Classroom management: Check out my blog posts on Traffic light system and the Behaviour Card system for more information!

16) If your laptop crashes (which can happen) let your supervisors know and hand write your lessonplans for the following day.

17) Helper Student: If you notice there’s one or two pupils that are ‘noisy’ or chatty or even a bit cheeky or ‘bold’, they are probably being told off by most of their teahcers throughout the day. Instead of being ANOTHER teacher that keeps at them or whatever, go out of your way to make that student your ‘helper’. Ask them to distribute handouts, wipe off the board, give out copies etc. It’ll give them a sense of commraderie with you, rather then just seeing you as another teacher that gives out to them. This might make them want to keep you on their side and they’re more likely to behave.

18) School policies: some schools will give this to you, if they don’t, take a few minutes to look up the school policies with particular attention to classroom behaviour. Don’t wait until you have a behaviour problem to then ask another teacher, students will sense that you do not know the code and try push you further. Some schools give punishments for not having journals and some don’t allow written exercises without any learning benefit and some schools put students on report after three journal notes which you have to watch if you are the third teacher. It wont take long to read over and will make a big difference in your confidence and potential behaviour issues.

For resources and further ideas follow all the 5j2014 Master blogs. Links can be found on my blog page! I will continue to update this post with further helpful hints over the next few weeks.

Big thank you to all past MDI students who helped me compile this list. I hope this helps and best of luck to all student teachers. Enjoy it.

Football Style Behaviour Cards

Football Style Behaviour Cards

I recently stumbled across a book by Nicola S. Morgan entitled Quick, Easy and Effective Behaviour Management Ideas for the Classroom.

I am constantly looking for new initiative ways to promote and encourage good behaviour in my classroom and to discourage any negative behaviour from entering my classroom. I also teach children with special needs in particular autism so looking for new classroom management techniques that are all inclusive is vital.

Within this book I found a behavior management system called Football style behavior cards. There are two main cards the “Yellow Card” and the “Red Card”.

Yellow Card

The Yellow Card acts as a warning to a child that they are displaying inappropriate behavior. This card is shown to the child and a warning strike is placed on the strike card on the classroom wall. If the child displays inappropriate behaviour for a second time they are shown another yellow card, which is also recorded on the Strike Chart. If the student proceeds to display inappropriate behaviour for a third time in the same day the child is shown the Red Card.

Red Card

When a child displays inappropriate behaviour for a third time on the same day or in the same class they are given a Red Card. A strike is once again placed on the strike board and you then follow the discipline of the school note in the journal, detention etc. If they receive three red cards in one week the school behaviour policy will need to be implemented further.

Time Out

The time out system is an effective and widely used approach when dealing with children and students who display challenging behaviors. When a student displays inappropriate behaviour place them in an environment with limited sensory stimulation (Desk facing blank wall) or send them to a designated room within the school. Here they can reflect on their behaviour and calm down. This time is not used as a punishment but a time for the child to clam down.

Chill Out Time or the Green Card

“Chill out time” is an effective way for a child to remove themselves from a situation before they react inappropriately. They do this by showing the teacher a Green Card or verbally asking for some chill out time. This is particularly useful for any students who have special needs in your classroom. Designate an appropriate safe area within your classroom where the child can go for 5 minutes to calm down, listen to music, read a book, draw a picture or just sit and think. This space can be used pro-actively to prevent behaviours. It can also be used after behaviour occurs to give the student a chance to re-focus.

Evernote App for Education

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Evernote is an app designed for your Ipad, Iphone or Mac Laptop for the sole purpose of taking notes. I had tried Evernote before but I never got into it until recently. The one thing I love about Evernote is that you have all the information you need indexed and searchable across every platform you have such as from your tablet, smartphone or laptop. Another aspect I find brilliant is recording programs off the radio etc and having my own notes typed up along side the recording.

Web Clipper

Have you ever found articles online and simply saved them to a browers bookmark folder or dragged the link into your desktop? Of course, we all have. However, using Evernotes Web Clipper extension you can now save any articles or websites you have found and save it with your own notes. Using Web Clipper you can makes your own notes to accompany an article, save it with other notes you have already made for a certain project etc. I found found this a great resource for finding and storing information related to my thesis topic.

Bonus tip: Evernote’s Web Clipper also integrates with Google.

Notebook Tags

So we all have heard of tags through social networking. Evernote use Tags as a way to manage the multitude of notes that you have. Tags can be useful if you have notes that you think could fit into multiple notebooks—or are on the same subject—without getting overwhelming. You don’t need to tag every note you have, and you only need a few really important ones. It basically makes your archive easier to search through with Evernote’s advanced search operators.

You can also create as many notebooks as you like. These notebooks act like folders. Make sure you store your notes in “notebooks” as it allows you to store larger volumes of work and with great organization features.

Bonus Tip I FOUND ONLINE: Create a notebook called _INBOX, right-click on it, and make it your default notebook. That way, any new notes you send to Evernote show up in this inbox, at the top of your list of notebooks, ready for you to funnel into one of your other notebooks.

Once you have begun to build your own Evernote notebooks with your own notes don’t worry about finding notes and endlessly searching for notes you made. Evernote can link everything to together. Right-click on one of your notes and choose “Copy Note Link.” Then, paste that link into another note for quick access later.

 

Video to demonstrate how evernote can be used in the education:

Never forget why you became a teacher

Last night I took part in a twitter conversation with teacher’s from all around Ireland. The main topic of discussion was around the new Junior Cycle.

Many teacher’s have concerns about the new Junior Cycle undermining our educational standards here in Ireland. According to Sally Maguire of ASTI “young people who spend five or six years participating in second-level education will not experience State certificate examinations until they reach Leaving Certificate….the Junior Cert exam was invaluable Leaving Cert preparation and enabled students, parents and teachers to gauge aptitude prior to making choices about the Leaving Cert.”

One concerns even shared by myself is the legitimacy of in school based examinations. Has the importance of a neutral and un biased examiner been forgotten about? Students are “entitled to a fair, impartial and transparent State certificate to record their achievement at junior cycle. A school certificate based on grades awarded by students’ own teachers does not have the same status or validity as an independent State certificate.”

Other teachers are worried and apprehensive about the insufficient on day of CPD put in place for all teachers before the Junior Cycle commences. How can one day of training provide our students with the best education they deserve?

As a parent or teacher reading this blog you can see that our students are at the centre of all our concerns. When you see History teachers, religion teachers and all other teachers fighting for the preservation of their subject yes it is about maintaining and keeping our jobs but at the heart of all our anxiety is our students. They are entitled to the best possible education they can get and we their teachers are responsible for providing and upholding those standards.

Despite how idealistic and naive this may sound I became a teacher to make a difference to inspire, to teach and give students dreams a chance to be reality. If you are ever in doubt about the heart of a teacher watch the video to remind yourself who is at the centre of the concerns of teachers:

Thoughts of an Irish Teacher in England (Interview with a Newly Qualified Teacher from Ireland dealing with current issues and experiences when teaching abroad)

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I recently had the pleasure of meeting with a good college friend of mine and fellow teacher, Eoin Walshe. He recently took a full time teaching position in England teaching music, religion and humanities. Like endless newly qualified teachers in Ireland he had to search across the Irish Sea for any teaching opportunities. I took this opportunity to ask him a few questions about his experience so far. What does he enjoy? What does he miss? and what has he learnt? It is important to note that whilst this interview reflects the current issues in todays teaching climate all the information provided is based on personal opinion at this current time.

What made you decide to teach in England?

My original plan was to apply for Jobs in England for Interview experience and to get familiar with the interviewing process, which is something you don’t get to do in Ireland in today’s climate. The interviews in England however are easier to come by.  I thought this would prepare me for any interviews that might come my way in Ireland.

 

What factors led to you accept a teaching post in England?

The opportunity to work full time in a vibrant part of south London was a big pulling factor. However getting the chance to teach both my subjects Music and Religious Education plus humanities in this particular school was the biggest incentive to go across the Irish Sea. The opportunity to teach all of my subjects in Ireland I believe is next to impossible. Also getting to teach all my subject areas so early in my career is a major advantage.  Having a stable income was also important.

If given the opportunity would you go back and teach in Ireland?

Yes without question mainly for personal reasons, its home. There is a certain spirit and atmosphere within Irish schools that is unique to our emerald isle. However, professionally the educational system in England provides great opportunities for me at this stage in my career and it is more innovative and cutting edge compared to Ireland.

 

What do you enjoy about teaching in England?

I do enjoy teaching religious education in such a diverse culture. When teaching about world religions for example having students from multi faith backgrounds keeps me on my toes and this has ensured my continuous professional development and presents an ongoing welcomed challenge.

The positive aspect of teaching music is the endless resource available to both the students and myself. For example every student desk has a computer and midi keyboard, endless supply of instruments, multiple practice rooms and recording studio. Every music teachers dream. This also presents a unique challenge and gives me the opportunity to develop completely different classroom management skills when including all these resources in a lesson plan.

The opportunity to teach humanities is also enjoyable. Teaching humanities provides an opportunity to rekindle a subdued interest in subjects like history and geography and a canvas on which to paint strong cross-curricular links between history geography and religious education.

Do you think the Irish educational system can learn from our neighbours in the UK?

Whilst it is still early days for me to give a comprehensive appraisal there are certainly features of the UK educational system that could be incorporated into our system back home. However saying this there are also certain issues where the Irish system could avoid. For example Ireland at the moment are developing the new Junior Cycle. I would urge those who are responsible for the development and implementation of the new Junior Cycle to critically evaluate the positives and negatives of several corresponding features in the UK system.

A practical example of this would be instead of allowing time for the planning of creative and engaging lessons the vast majority of out of class time is spent uploading data and completing tedious paper work. While the concept of keeping the students and their parents involved in their own education progress is excellent -who the primary beneficiary of what often feels like a show/façade of data, statistics and lead table competition is questionable (The Student? Or the Gove?)

 

Would you miss the emotional support of family and friends when teaching in England, especially being a newly qualified teacher?

 

On a personal level of course I miss my fiancée, family and friends. However, professionally I am very lucky to have a strong support system within the school I work in. Also the benefits of online communication with my support system back home have been invaluable. It is a great test of character both professionally and personally. It has made the transition from dependant student to fully independent professional a lot easier.

Tips and Guidelines on Classroom Management

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When you teach you can’t plan for everything.

What is classroom management?

It is all about creating an environment an atmosphere in which learning takes place.

Who is the most important person in creating this positive learning environment?? You, Me, Us as a teacher. The ultimate objective is not to make friends.  The ultimate objective is that learning takes place. Students are not always going to be willing participants. Classroom management and discipline go hand in hand. You are responsible for disciple and the main objective is learning.

A few guidelines that you might find helpful:

  1. Establish Routine.
  2. Seating Plan- Day One put students in seats of YOUR choosing. Keep a copy of seating plan. It may need to be rearranged in time but ALWAYS stay on top of it. Keep it in your role book. CONSISTENCY is key.
  3. Introduce the Lesson- get them into the habit of knowing what to expect from the lesson.
  4. Books, Copies and Homework copy on the desk. But the date top right hand corner on the board and heading of topic. Do the roll when they are taking down heading and date off the whiteboard. If they want to ask you something they can wait until their name is called out in the roll. If they forget something- B for no Book H for no Homework etc. If they forget these things twice they get detention.
  5. Be prepared – Content. Be engaged and interested in the Content.
  6. Listen and Value the Student: Move around the room, Catch their eyes and be  interested in what they are saying. Ask them a few questions everyone’s opinion is valid. Get the class that don’t talk at all to write their answers down.
  7. Show them the standard- students need to feel that they can achieve in your class, in your subject and that you are interested in them. Show them you know what you are talking about. Example: Meditation- today we are going to Meditation…with no planning? because you couldn’t be bothered organizing something? Don’t do it! The students want to feel that you are into your subject. Keep your professional attitude.
  8. Keep Calm and Avoid Shouting! Keep your voice under control. Shouting becomes redundant. Don’t tell students to shut up. Avoid theatre.
  9. Be Fair.
  10. Positive Reinforcement. Individually and within the Class Group.

Always ask for help. When you ask other teachers for help it shows the school that you care about the responsibility that they have given you. Don’t assume that things will settle down. It shows that you are willing to go the distance to help them learn. It is a STRENGTH.

New Challenges facing Religious Education: Personal Reflection

Reflection  on ‘The Changing Cultural Context of Religious Education’ by Dermot Lane, ‘Challenges Facing

Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland,’ (Dublin, Veritas, 2008) pg 11-22

The above book by Dermot Lane analyses the changing culture of modern Ireland in which Religious Education must take place. In the chapter mentioned above Lane identifies six cultural changes that as he says ‘have real significance for Religious Education’.[1] This blog will reflect on these cultural changes and discuss briefly while drawing from my own experience as a teacher the implications they have for Religious Education today.

The first change that Lane discusses is the concept of modern society where the emphasis is on the individual as an autonomous and self-sufficient person. This in turn he writes has impacted on how religion is practiced. Faith he says has become privatised and removed from the domain of public discourse.[2] A second development that he contributes to making the teaching of religious education difficult in Ireland is the increase in scientific method and ‘the emerging dominance of scientific rationality.’[3]

He continues by reflecting briefly on the scandal within the Irish Church that came to light in the 1990s that we are all too aware of that have done serious damage to the Catholic Church. This scandal within the Church became an obstacle with students in the classroom. From personal experience teenagers are looking for an answer to such a difficult and huge scandal within the Catholic Church. It has called many young people to question their faith and the leaders of their faith community. As a religious educator searching for the right answer proved difficult and simply dismissing the questions asked by students is not the correct response. Through my own personal research as an educator I found an article entitled ‘The Judas Syndrome’. It allowed me to use scripture, the story of Judas betraying Jesus to explain to the students about the recent scandals within the Church. It gives students a chance to reflect on the current situation in the Church from a faith perspective. Judas, chosen by Jesus betrayed him.

We are confronted by the same scandalous reality today. We can focus on those who have betrayed the Lord, those who abused rather than loved the people whom they were called to serve. Or we can focus, as did the early Church, on those who have remained faithful, those priests who are still offering their lives to serve Christ and you out of love. The secular media almost never focuses on the good “eleven,” the ones whom Jesus has chosen who remain faithful, who live lives of quiet holiness. But we the Church must keep the terrible scandal that we are witnessing in its true and full perspective.[4]

Thirdly, he highlights the era of the Celtic Tiger that was marked by ‘a frenzied consumerism, and the demise of ethical values.’[5] An interesting point that Lane makes here is that during this period education’s priority is to benefit education rather than the student, where the focus is on educating students for the work force rather than on educating the whole person. During my studies and teaching practise, many of the mission statements that I have read advocate a holistic approach. That is to say that the development of the individual is central in education and this involves providing pastoral care and an appropriate and balanced curriculum and being aware of the whole person (body, mind and spirit). At the same time it is important to be conscious that the school is also a living community. I whole heartedly agree with Lane that Religious Education can play a pivotal role and in my experience is playing that role already in expanding on an education that ‘creates an information society and a knowledge economy,’[6] to impart ‘religious values and wisdom.’[7]

Lane proceeds by discussing the fact that another changing face of religion is the effect that violent acts have had on how religion is perceived. He makes reference here to 9/11 and that countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East that are at War have religious connections.[8]

Lane also writes that it is not only violence that has brought a re-emergence in religion other developments such as migration due to easier and more relaxed movement between countries, and new technologies in media have created what many say is that the world has become a ‘global village.’

As a result of migration, many countries worldwide are now accommodating people from many different cultures. While countries like United States and Great Britain have been multi- cultural for many generations now, Ireland has only become multi- cultural in the last twenty years or so.

As a teacher it is very evident in the classroom that students can come from many different backgrounds and cultures. Even within the native Irish student community there can be elements of cultural differences. This aspect of multiculturalism is challenging for the teacher and she needs to be creative, knowledgeable as well as flexible in the classroom. It is a challenging area for the religious educator as culture is not always easy to define. However, I do concur with Lane that religious education has a role to play in promoting interculturalism, as religious beliefs can have a significant influence on a group’s cultural ways.[9] Some advances in recent years have been successful, such as the National Directory of Catechesis. Also during my own years as both a second level and third level student learning about other faiths and religions made me consider my own religious beliefs on a deeper level, but more importantly I now have more respect for others values and their beliefs.

Finally Lane discusses the term ‘Spiritually’ which has become increasing popular. He writes that this is rather a vague term and that some describe ‘spirituality as the emergence of a ‘vague religiosity’[10] but he also acknowledges that spirituality has a place within religious education, but needs to ‘addressed explicitly by theology and Religious Education’ so that it can remain connected to Christianity.[11]

In conclusion, Lane presents a structured and thought provoking chapter that gives the religious educator an outlook into the reality of religious education in our current climate. Our society is changing and our subject content must change with it. As a faith community we are constantly questioning and changing our beliefs. In a economic driven world education has drifted towards preparing young adults for the work place yet as Lane highlights we need to remain focused on a holistic approach to education. He reminds people how religion as a subject, although quite often moved aside and labelled as a subject of no value, can contribute to this holistic education of young people today. In a world of terrorism, in a community with no religious dialogue where religion is associated with violence religious educators must move forward to promote inter religious dialogue and foster a new awareness and understanding for students own faiths and others in the world around them.


[1] Dermot Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland, (Dublin, Veritas ,2008) p. 11

[2][2] See page 12

[3] Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 12

[4] Fr Roger Landry, A Crisis of Saints, Catholic Answers, http://www.catholic.com/documents/a-crisis-of-saints accessed 20th March 2013.

[5] Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 14.

[6] Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 15.

[7] Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 15

[8] See page 16.

[9] See page 19

[10] Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 21

[11] Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland page 22