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The Teacher is the Driving Force

| Ben Johnson

If something breaks at home, dad is the one to fix it. This was applied to me the other day when the dryer started making a clack-CLACK noise. I took it apart to see what was going on and I made a few adjustments to the drum and then put it back together. Low and behold, when my wife tried to dry some clothes, the drum would not turn. I knew immediately what the problem was.

When I was putting the dryer back together, I noticed the belt was flat on one side and grooved on the other. Initially, I took a guess at which side to put down against the drum, and a chose the flat side thinking that that would provide more traction.

When I opened the dryer up for the second time, I realized that the grooves running the length of the belt allowed the belt to compress slightly and fit snuggly into the pulley. It wasn't the traction on the large drum that was needed. The most important element of the dryer was the traction on the tiny motor pulley. It amazed me that such a small thing would cause the dryer not to work at all! It got me thinking about teaching...surprise! Typically when learning is not taking place, it is also just a small thing getting in the way.

In the anatomy of a dryer, the belt itself does not do the drying. The belt is part of the system that helps the clothes dry evenly by allowing the drum to turn and the clothes to tumble in the hot air. Without a functioning belt, it would be easier to dry the clothes on the clothesline outdoors because only the top of the clothes in the dryer would be exposed to the hot air.

This is exactly what happens in classrooms with maladjusted belts. Only the students at the top get the benefits of the teaching, while those on the bottom are never exposed to the heat of learning. So to continue the analogy, I learned that my thinking was faulty in assuming that the drum needed more traction in order for it to rotate. The key to making the dryer function well was making sure that the pulley that drives the whole process has the traction necessary to do so.

That pulley is the teacher.

If the teacher has the traction caused by a snug fit with the belt, the teacher can cause the learning environment of the drum to tumble and mix things up, which spreads the effect of the learning to each child.

Changing Your Point of View

Let's recap: We have the dryer that represents the teaching and learning process. The clothes are the students, the drum is the learning environment, and the pulley attached to the motor is the teacher. The hot air is the learning stimulus. So what is the belt? The dryer didn't cause the drum to revolve with the grooves on the outside. Simply turning the belt over provided the necessary traction where it counts -- at the pulley that provides power to the whole system.

Remember, the problem with the dryer was my thinking or point of view and I had the same problem as a teacher.

By experience I have discovered that it is a mistake to focus all my attention on controlling the students, when in fact for real learning to take place, what I really need is for the students to tumble around a bit in the learning environment, causing a little chaos and noise.

Teachers are faced with tremendous pressure for students to perform. Unfortunately the immediate inclination is to focus all the attention on student behaviors, how engaged they are, and how much they learn, much like how I incorrectly focused attention on providing traction for the dryer drum and was only successful when I targeted the driver pulley.

While monitoring student behavior is incredibly important, to make a classroom effective, the teacher is more important. The belt therefore, is the point of view of the teacher. Just like the belt, there are two points of view a teacher can adopt: create environments for student control, or increase effective teacher behaviors that drive student behaviors.

I have heard too many teachers complain, and, at one time, I myself selfishly complained about how poorly students behave in the classroom. It wasn't until I realized that I am not going to change students until I change myself as an educator that my effectiveness as an educator began to increase.

I had to realize the behaviors I exhibited to the students as an educator allowed the student behaviors to exist and flourish.

Taking Action

It was at that time that I turned the belt around and I changed my teacher behaviors. Instead of reacting to situations that arose in the classroom, I began to anticipate student behaviors and deliberately promote the behaviors I wanted to see:

  • I met the students at the door
  • I became confident
  • I allowed my enthusiasm to show
  • I had interesting work for students to do while I took roll
  • I diminished down-time, and increased bodily-kinesthetic activities
  • I increased student choice
  • I provided multiple forms of comprehensible input
  • I improved my discussion-leading abilities

I did a host of other learning activities that I calculated would bring me the behaviors that I sought -- and they did.

The message to all educators and educational leaders is straight-forward: In order to increase student learning, more attention needs to be focused on increasing the capacity and effectiveness of the driving power of the classroom -- the teacher. The lesson of the dryer is that one way works and the other way doesn't. I would be interested in hearing about what amazing results you have had by changing your perspective.

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These steps will help

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These steps will help teachers to drive Student Behavior in Class
One very good way to encourage student behavior is to reward the one who behaves nicely in class so that the student and other students are encouraged to obey rules and improve their behavior. These awards need not be very big. It can range from a single pencil to a pen to some extra time for an assignment or some extra time to play.
The basis of these awards can lead to good behavior in the class. The things to be considered while awarding are to make a monthly calendar for each student wherein they get stars for every good act they do and a circle for every act they need to improve. At the end of month you can calculate who gets the highest star and award accordingly. This will encourage students to try and get more stars in their monthly calendar. You can also change the pattern where colors can represent good, satisfactory or needs improvement behavior.
Other ways one can improve student behavior is to provide knowledge about good things and bad things. Students must be told what is good for them and what is not. Like maintaining a line is important, arranging the desks and chairs is good, not to litter in the class, not to fight with fellow students etc. This list is never ending. One can make a list of very common good behaviors and pin it on board in the classroom.

Student Behavior in Class

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0

These steps will help teachers to drive Student Behavior in Class
One very good way to encourage student behavior is to reward the one who behaves nicely in class so that the student and other students are encouraged to obey rules and improve their behavior. These awards need not be very big. It can range from a single pencil to a pen to some extra time for an assignment or some extra time to play.
The basis of these awards can lead to good behavior in the class. The things to be considered while awarding are to make a monthly calendar for each student wherein they get stars for every good act they do and a circle for every act they need to improve. At the end of month you can calculate who gets the highest star and award accordingly. This will encourage students to try and get more stars in their monthly calendar. You can also change the pattern where colors can represent good, satisfactory or needs improvement behavior.
Other ways one can improve student behavior is to provide knowledge about good things and bad things. Students must be told what is good for them and what is not. Like maintaining a line is important, arranging the desks and chairs is good, not to litter in the class, not to fight with fellow students etc. This list is never ending. One can make a list of very common good behaviors and pin it on board in the classroom.

Behavior changes for the teacher.

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It is interesting that I come to read this tonight after a day of feeling so frustrated about my students behavior. I felt crabby at a number of them who continued to do things that are not appropriate classroom behavior. When I sit back and reflect however, I now look at myself in the equation and realize that I am not feeling well, the little things took over and if I just would have added a few songs or movement for our transitions, like I usually do, things probably would have gone so much smoother. I appreciate the author's take on this subject becuase it it true that without the teacher being creative and letting the kids have some control of their own learning and participation, then my day would have gone different. I will definitely take a step back next time things are seeming to go "unruly" and see how I can help my students empower themselves to make a change for the better.

Driving for improvement

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I agree that the teacher is the driving force in any classroom. Being reflective on a daily basis to determine what works and does not work in our classrooms is the key to improving student behavior. I think giving students a choice in their learning and responding to them in a positive way will promote a positive learning environment, as well as motivate and increase student learning.

It's nice to see people who

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It's nice to see people who are trying to promote behaviors they want to see from their students by changing their own. The pulley in a dryer analogy was wonderful. I catch myself thinking negatively sometimes about students and their behaviors, but I realize the students need me to be excited about learning to help motivate them in my classroom. Although I sometimes get the comment that I am corny, the students are paying attention. One thing that I plan on trying is increasing student choices in my room. I would like my classroom to be student lead where I am the facilitator and my students are the driving force.

I love the analogy! For my

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I love the analogy! For my graduate class last week I was reading "On Being a Teacher" by Jeffrey A. Kottler, Stanley J. Zehm, and Ellen Kottler and came across this quote in a chapter about reflection, "Being reflective means considering the impact of your own behavior on others and accepting responsibility for the consequences of your actions. It means examining honestly what you are doing in your life and what effects (both positive and negative) you are having on others." When lessons don't go as well as we'd like them to, it's easy to place the blame on the students. As teachers, we need to realize that we determine the atmosphere in our classrooms and accept that responsibility. We are in a powerful position in our classrooms and we need to take charge of our learning environment so that it is a place where all students feel respected and supported. When we treat them as we'd like to be treated, they are more willing to produce quality work for us.

Mr. Johnson, You are correct

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Mr. Johnson,
You are correct in saying that the teacher is the driving force-either for positive or negative outcomes. By doing the things you listed and changing our own perspective, we can ensure that our students' best interests are at hand. I often struggle with finding meaningful kinesthetic activities. Is there a website devoted to these types of learning activities that you seek advice from? Thank you for sharing!

I whole-heartedly agree! I

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I whole-heartedly agree! I was amazed when I read these postings about how true it is that the teacher is ultimately orchestrates how the classroom will be run and sets the mood or tone each day. This year I have realized that when I am tense and stressed my kids can feel that and they feed off of it. When I a relaxed and bring some humor into our day, their behavior is more under control and they seem to learn better.

Teacher's are the key to success!

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Teacher can be the single most influential person is a students life. If the students are inspired/influenced by a teacher then the teaching job has been done to he maximum capabilities of that teacher.Teaching is not that difficult as it is considered. It is the job of the teacher to hit the problem with the right sword at an appropriate time. We have the power to change a student y proving the wise knowledge, efficacy, respect,understanding, support and many more. I think teachers has a big role in educating a child and creating a better society, however, a teacher should and may get a continuous support from her colleagues and administration department.

Eighth grade social studies teacher, Indiana

I feel the teacher has the

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I feel the teacher has the ability to transform the dynamics of the classroom. When interesting and engaging lessons are implemented, students are eager to learn. Keeping extra little activities that fulfill educational standards and are still effective tools helps curb some of those unwanted behaviors from students. Engaged students equals learning. I also believe teachers can steer the classroom in the right direction by reflecting on how students respond to the lessons and his/her own behavior during class time. Teachers who demonstrate a positive, respectful attitude find that students seem to act accordingly, too. Promoting a caring atmosphere where students feel their interests are appreciated , aids in student learning.

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