Classroom management is the key to being a productive teaching artist at The Young Women's Leadership School of Queens (TYWLS), which is where I am doing my internship with Community-Word Project's Teaching Artist Training & Internship Program (TATIP). While we are helping our students find their unique creative voices, my fellow teaching artists and I need to keep in mind that these young ladies are still teenagers, who can get distracted and easily veer off track. In order to mitigate this in a manner that encourages creative expression, it is our job to captivate our students' attention from the beginning of class and continue to employ classroom management techniques to make sure they stay on task. A lot of the time, many of these young women sit next to their friends and try to chat during class or show off to seem cool. This tends to lead to unkind comments and general disruption. During moments of excessive talking and disrespect, it is necessary for the teaching artists to intervene. During my internship through TATIP, I have observed teaching artist Katie Rainey perform successful classroom management tactics with the TYWLS ninth graders. One day in particular comes to mind:
Upon first walking in, the students were very noisy and still socializing with one another. Katie immediately commanded attention from the students and asked a student to hand out the free writing journals. She told the students to begin with a free writing exercise, and, while most of the students were working, she circulated around the classroom to make sure everything moved along smoothly. Whenever Katie noticed a student who wasn't doing her work or had stopped paying attention she stopped at her desk and gave words of encouragement to motivate her to write something before time was up. She periodically informed the students of how much time was left and, once the clock hit the mark, she asked for volunteers to read from their journal aloud. While some of the students were sharing what they wrote, others would often begin to make comments or talk amongst themselves. Katie quickly asked for silence and respect for the classmate who had volunteered to read, just as they would want the respect to be given to them when they would share their work. She’d apologize to the student sharing and ask her to proceed. These techniques kept things moving along and didn't let comments discourage the students from sharing their work.
During this class, I noticed how easily it is for time to start slipping away, if the classroom is not managed appropriately. There has to be a balance between time management and giving enough attention to the students’ work. Many of these young women are going out on a limb and sharing very deep and personal feelings, which leaves them vulnerable. It is important that they do not feel dismissed, or rushed during the creative process. At the same time, there are multiple students who need the chance to share, making it essential for the teaching artist to keep up with each goal of a specific lesson. I think this delicate balance can only be learned through practice, experience, and diligence. This is where realistic lesson planning and watching the clock comes into play. Teaching artists need to plan for the distractions and understand that things will always come up during class. Time management, while respecting the students’ sharing and sentiments, can also be achieved when teaching artists routinely allot certain amount of time to specific activities. If students are used to a structure, they will know what to expect and what is expected of them, making class more productive and providing students with stability.