Tips For Problem Solving In The Classroom

Problem solving in the school environment is faciliated by good communication with students, parents and school administrators.

In the school environment, most of the opportunities that you will have to problem-solve will be with your students and their parents. The number one way that you can lay the foundation for effective problem solving is by building good relationships with both students and parents.

Building good relationships with students

First of all, remember that your students have lives outside of your classroom. If you teach a class that begins at 8:30, remember that prior to that point the student may have listened to or been involved in fighting and arguing at home, have ridden the bus to school and felt sad because no one wanted to sit next to him that day, and then realized that he left the paperwork for the field trip at home. As adults, we have the skills to cope with the hardballs that life can throw at us, but children and young adults often don't have those skills. They may feel powerless in their home environment, and bring their emotions to school, where you may see the problems manifested by the student picking on peers in class, not completing work, being hyperactive or even crying.

This is why it is very important that each day, you greet your students as they enter the classroom and ask them how they are doing that day. You will get an immediate sense that something out of the ordinary may be going on with one or two of your students, and you can address it privately before it ever becomes an issue. For example, if you ask Jose why he is feeling down today, he may tell you that he wants to be left alone. It is a good idea to honor that request. Let Jose have his space, and call on him to participate another day. You will find that by respecting his feelings, his behavior will be better in your class, because you have given him a safe outlet, such as having the option to sit apart from the other students, if he wishes. Since Jose now knows that you will respect his feelings, he may tell you more about situations in his life that are causing him to have problems in class.

Show all of your students respect. Never speak to a student in a manner in which you would not want to be spoken to yourself. By modeling the behavior you want to see, you will find that your students will learn appropriate behavior from your example and rise to meet your expectations.

Find time to work individually with each student. Often you will discover that a student may be having behavioral problems in your class because he cannot read, or conversely, cannot read because of behavioral issues that are keeping him from learning. Students appreciate when teachers identify problems, because it is never a good feeling for them to feel that they struggle alone.

When you have good relationships with your students, you will find that you can solve many problems that arise without the need to involve parents or the administration. However, some problems will involve taking additional measures, which is why it is important to have a good relationship with your students' parents. Additionally, knowing your students' parents will help you understand the struggles that they have in their day to day lives that may affect their performance in your classroom.

Building good relationships with parents

If you have kids, you know how delighted you feel when you hear good news about things that they have accomplished. Often, you may reward your child for such accomplishments. Imagine how you might feel if you rarely, if ever, heard about accomplishments, but instead heard about reading problems, behavioral issues, etc. every time you had contact with school personnel. Sadly, this is the reality for the parents of many students. It affects the parent/child relationship, as well as the parent/teacher relationship. You will see a much lower rate of parental involvement if the parents do not perceive the school as a place where the good things about their children are observed and recognized.

At the beginning of the school year, before you ever have problems arise, start calling parents. Make notecards with the name and number of each child, and rotate them each day. At the end of the day, or during your conference period, make a point to call three parents. Tell the parents how happy you are to have their child in your class, and how impressed you were when he was the first to volunteer to read that day, or took responsibility for clearing his group's workspace. Sadly, you will find that most parents will sit expectantly on the phone, waiting for the bad news. However, at this point, there isn't any! You are letting the parents know that you see the good in their child, and enjoy having him or her in your classroom. This is definitely the foundation for a good relationship.

Later on, if a child should start having problems of some sort, you can then contact the parent and let them know about the problem. You have laid the groundwork so that this isn't the first time you have contacted the parent, so the initial contact has not been perceived as negative. A problem solving conversation with a parent might start out like this:

"Hello, Mr. Smith, this is Ms. Garcia. How are you today?"

"I'm fine, thank you. How is Mary doing?"

"I am so proud of Mary's continuing participation in class. She really motivates the other students. I do have a concern that she may be falling behind in reading, though."

At this point, you can discuss the concern, the steps you can take together to address it, and Mary's father isn't going to feel as though you have only noticed Mary now that she is struggling in your class. Parents sometimes place blame on teachers who have previously been uncommunicative regarding their child, and then problem solving can become much more difficult, as everyone tends to become defensive.

Building good relationships with other school personnel

In the prior example, to solve the problem of Mary's reading problem, you may need the support of other school personnel, such as the Dyslexia Specialist, or the Special Education Coordinator on your campus. It is good to have laid the groundwork with these individuals as well, before you need their help. If you are on a first-name basis with people on your campus who are good sources of support, then it is much easier to pick up the phone and ask for advice. When you get assistance, be sure to put thank you notes in the person's box, or remember them the next time you bring some goodies to school.

The more support that you have from parents and school personnel, the better you are going to be able to problem solve. The student getting his or her problems solved is the point. No student need slip through the cracks of our educational system when you are on the job!

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