In order for a teacher to manage a successful urban classroom, she needs to possess the very same skills that she seeks in her students. Patience, perseverance and sense of humor come to mind. Students – as is the teacher – are fallible and sensitive. Each child comes to school with his own story, his own needs. Yet each comes with a common goal: to be educated, to be respected, to be seen and heard.
Having worked in the urban public school setting for more than 14 years, I have worked with all kinds of children. I have found, that many of these students do not have their basic needs met. They may come to school hungry, poorly clothed, and sleep-deprived. Many have witnessed scenes most people only see on television. It is my job to welcome them to a safe and nurturing environment where they know they will be taken care of.
Here are a few key elements to running a successful classroom in today’s urban school setting:
1.Each day is new. Remember – and remind them – that each day is a new day. No matter what transpired the day before, the new day brings possible change. Tell your students that you each can learn and grow, that they teach you just as many lessons as you teach them. Often, those lessons are more valuable.
2.Set the tone. It is critical for the teacher to set the tone in the classroom of leadership. Students tend not to act out as much when they know that someone is in charge who is fair and confident. Consistency in discipline and program are equally vital to a healthy class environment.
3.Empower your students with practical skills. Imbed the academic program with life skills. Teach and encourage students to use conflict management and anger management techniques. Remember, they spend 6 hours with you – probably more time than they actually spend with their own parents. They should go home with skills that help them to be successful with siblings, following chores, taking responsibility for behavior choices.
4.Set high, but realistic (doable) expectations. A rigorous daily program with attainable short-term goals and lofty long term goals provides a foundation for success. Students want to be challenged, but they also want that immediate recognition of achievement. This is a fine balance. Be sure your students know that you believe anything is possible, that they can achieve if they believe.
In summary, it is critical for the teacher to run a tight ship, but to allow her students dignity when they stumble. Consistency and mutual respect are crucial to a successful urban classroom.