Social Order in the Classroom

A guest blog entry by MRB (student, world citizen)

Growing up I had two teachers as parents and have heard many stories.

Much like some of the stories I have heard from my parents, I have experienced my own. As a future teacher, I reflect back and try to learn how to get students to socialize and establish their own positive social image.

In most classrooms you have the stereotypical students year after year.  There are the jocks, the cheerleaders, the preps, the goth kids, the “stoners”, the overachieving teacher’s pet, the class clown, the quiet one, and the trouble maker, among others.  Then you have your average students, who are there because they have to be and only do what is needed to get by with a decent grade. The social cliques are established early on where everyone is experiencing what C. Wright Mills might call a trouble of finding themselves and fitting in. Sometimes they begin to deviate from any established role due to what they perceive as their self-image being tarnished.

As a teacher you have to learn the niches of each class and find a way to make the class a community despite differences.

Making the class a community will help to promote a positive self image for all students. A few techniques that could help to establish the community and aide the socialization process would be to set up Classroom Constitution of the rules and punishments, or to set up an anonymous concern box that would be discussed once per week. The classroom constitution is a way for the students to decide the rules and then you are able to hold them accountable for the rules they themselves created. The concern/comment box is a way for you to address in class situations or tensions without revealing who made a comment about the issue.

Establishing a class community and allowing the kids a forum to socialize freely and without discrimination is the part of all teachers’ jobs, and any teacher who does not do this is promoting the stereotyping and cliques, rather than finding a common ground to break down those boundaries.

I look forward to the day when I can implement these methods and create a place of learning that gives kids a voice, teaches them about democracy, and makes the job of teaching easier.

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25 thoughts on “Social Order in the Classroom

  1. I have to agree very much with what you where saying in your blog. Being a student myself, It will always be much easier on a teacher in the long run if the students have a voice. If a teacher just walks in and starts laying down rule after rule, that is a great recipe for disaster! Teachers that try to connect with the students will always, in my belief, run a much smoother class than a teacher who does not connect with their students.

    1. I agree. Teachers that make emotional connections with students gain their students respect, which gives them much more of an opportunity to be heard. Allowing students to contribute their own ideas also makes a teachers job easier by distributing tasks among the entire classroom, and who doesn’t want an easier job?

      1. Teachers are more than just educators, they are people who spend more time with our children than parents do. Teachers are friends that students can lean on for sound direction and advice. I can remember being a very shy and lonely student in high school. I did not have the social skills like others. I felt very awkward, because I was tall, incredibly thin, braces, glasses and I wore a size 9 shoe. My only friend was my home economics teacher. I could talk to her about everything that I could not talk about at home. We shared Irish Soda Bread, orange marmalade, and hot tea sometimes during our lunch time. The many things she taught me about people, life, and life situations I will never forget. We all must hope that teachers of this day and age will treat our kinds like their own. No more social and academic stereotypying.

      2. I agree that teachers should have some type of connections with students. Not just be a “teacher” to them. I have personally came to notice that the classes where I have a solid good connection with the teacher I do extremely well in compared to the ones I have absolutely none to. When you have a connection with a student it gives them the comfort zone to come to you about any question and not be worried that you will look at them dumb with asking it. I’ve experienced it with my math professors before. One of my professors gave no attention or care to the students at all, and when we would as a question she would get aggravated that we didn’t understand it the first time that we would just stop asking questions and end up doing terrible in the class. But the following semester I had an absolutely amazing math professor, he would do anything to make sure you do well in the class. He wanted us to ask question and even ask to have a review session before a big exam. I ended up doing so well in his class because he helped me out in every way possible to give me that connection to come to him without a worry. I deeply think it is only right for teachers to find a way to connect with there students because it is the #1 bases to having a good class who are actually interested in the subject and feel confident to learn it.

    2. When a teacher can connect with a student all things are left behind: his social status, his politics, his economics. When a teacher encourages a student to leave all worries or problems outside the classroom. It makes for a conducive environment where learning is enhanced. This is education in its raw form. This is how leaders are made. This is how kids connect to society, their place within society and how they want to change or influence the world in which they live.

  2. I agree. Students will be at ease if a teacher can make them feel comfortable and not talk down to them. I think it is an ideal idea to give students a voice. I think each classroom will dictate what it needs. You will need different methods when you are teaching young kids, as opposed to teaching adults. I enjoy a class where I feel connected to the teacher.

    I think it is important for a mutual respect in the classroom. No matter what age, a person or kid needs to feel respected. I also think a teacher needs to feel respected. It is extremely rude to act uninterested in what your teacher is saying.

    Another big difference is getting the students to connect with one another. A group project in a class can lead you to get to know one another. Mutual respect is needed there too.

    I respect my teachers and fellow students who care and want to learn and teach. I know when I was in high school (a long time ago) I felt like I could care less. I regret that today.

  3. I must also say that I feel the same way! Being a student, I feel that it makes for an easier learning opportunity when the teachers reach out to students. Teachers that sit there and lecture and lecture all class cause students minds to wander. This has happened to me one too many times! However, when a teacher reaches out to students, it makes learning that much better. When given the opportunity for input, students can then voice their opinion and therefore all around make their experience much more enjoyable! Not only will they be learning, but also in a way that keeps their attention. Making the classroom it’s own community would be a great way to start!

  4. I agree as well! Teachers can really turn the class in which ever direction they want. They can be a strict teacher, set the rules, and not connect with the students. Or they can have rules but really talk to the students and try to connect with them. I think any student would agree, if a teacher is open to hearing out the students it makes the class environment a lot more comfortable and to me I feel its easier to learn because there’s not so much pressure of abiding by the strict rules.

  5. I agree with your philosophies and strategies to more fully engage the minds of America’s youth. Throughout all my years of schooling, I have come across a common metaphor within the classroom, the teacher referring to themselves as a despot in the dictatorship of class. No body wants to acknowledge that they are completely powerless in any situation. By allowing students some power, or even the illusion of it, in their education, I feel they would be more likely to put forth more effort to learn. I have personally discovered that I work much harder in my studies when I am striving to expand my own personal knowledge base, rather than simply writing or reading to appease some random professor, constantly hoping that they will award me with some miscellaneous letter. If I were doing things that I felt were pertinent in school I feel as if I would make much more of an effort in class.

    Mark Twain once said that schooling was the greatest impediment in his education, and perhaps this is because he felt never learned anything he wanted to know.

    1. In many ways I think Mark Twain had it right. Many instructors find it necessary to focus on simply the right and the wrong of the matter. I try to be a partner with my students, even and especially in those classes where there has to be more structure than in other classes. But whenever I can I try to have my students focus on the broad spectrum of knowledge, recognizing that sometimes it is more about many ideas being expressed than finding some right pad answer to appease me. Most of the time I think I do accomplish this. What I find most frustrating, however, is when I experiment with a new method/activity or even continue with what I always utilize, some students just want me to lecture mundanely, telling them the answers they should know so they can spit it back and receive that miscellaneous letter grade – always of course expecting the highest possible grade. Finding that balance between the needs of education and the needs of the students is a delicate task, one which I am still trying to master after more than ten years of teaching.

  6. I love when teachers try to make a difference in their classroom. Believe it or not, sometimes it really can make an impact on a person’s life. Whether it’s helping someone understand something that another teacher could not, or just inspiring them to be a better person to themselves, and others. It is always nice to know that there are those teachers out there that really truly care for their students, and their students educations.

  7. With this article I can totally agree with. When I went to a private school then a public high school, it was a different type of crowd. In my private school we had very strict teachers that were very old and were used to yelling and having hard punishments. My parents told me when they were younger they were hit but nowadays teachers cannot do that. But I have learned so much from those teachers by showing respect and not talking when not spoke to. In public schools I have seen kids fight with teachers by talking back and not doing there homework. This article was discussing the cliques and I see that in high school so much because people care about self image and how they come off towards people and some just do not have the respect towards others. That’s why they should have stricter rules and have harsh punishments to show if they do that again or anything in that nature would cause a punishment that they would not like.

  8. I think the views in this article are a great idea. Trying to create class equality especially at a young age can not only help improve the class environment, but it can help the kids throughout their lives. If children are exposed to this kind of comradery and friendliness in their youth, they learn the right morals and values and can continue to carry them out throughout their lives. It’s baby steps to creating equality throughout or country and the world.

    1. As scheffler22 said, in the classroom there is a “hidden curriculum” based solely around values, proper social interaction, and work ethic. Some of the policies are in place to assist students later in life, yet these policies are not explained to the students and then the teacher is depicted as the “bad man/woman enforcing the rules”.

      An example of some of the hidden curriculum schools have targeting work ethic would be tardy policy, and teachers taking off points for late papers. With the tardy policy, teachers mark tardies and/or give detentions for students who are constantly late. This is to teach students for later on in life that they cannot be late to work; however, this is not expressed to the students. But how many students would believe you if you told them that anyways. Taking off points for late assignments also has a value for later on in life. The goal behind homework is not only the enrichment and learning of the content but it helps the student to learn time management skills as well as how to meet deadlines. In the workforce, you will have deadlines to meet and sometimes those deadlines aren’t as easily forgiven as being allowed to turn in a late assignment. Teachers don’t explain the reasoning of why they take off points on assignments and so they are once again the villain. As stated previously though, what student would understand and accept the reasoning.

      The hidden curriculum is taught in all schools and they hope students can pick up the lessons learned and later down the road realize that everything was done for a reason.

  9. Like the other responses I do like your idea. I think it is an excellent point to stop the cliques in school and get people to experience other things that are out there. Could having a self constitution and an anonymous problem box really be the simple answer to this problem? I remember in high school being the kid who just wanted to get a decent grade and then hangout with friends. In the classroom I was the one who didn’t speak up even if the class had an anonymous box. I think no matter what you do some kids will always be in their cliques. Of course this changes on the level of education we are talking about. In high school kids do not want to come forward and speak their mind because their friends might think it’s dorky. They might not speak their mind because they simply do not care enough and just immature about different things. We are in high school because we have to be. College is a different story. People are more mature and content in what they are learning. Now having a class constitution or a problem box in a college course might make people feel more comfortable about asking questions. People are confident enough to speak their mind at an older age.

  10. I like the concept of trying to overcome cliques and getting students to speak what’s on their minds but I also think that it depends on the age of the kids. In middle schools kids may be more likely to use a comment box but in high school I think that most students would be less likely to use it and see it as childish and no difference would be made. In high school that’s when kids really start to branch out and there are more clubs to join such student council and other various types. In college it depends on whether students are in smaller classes or in large lecture halls. In a larger lecture hall students will not have the same type of interaction they might have in a smaller setting. Overall I do like the concept of having students voices being heard and out in the open and trying to minimize cliques.

  11. I completely agree to form a sense of community within a classroom will diminsh cliques. When teachers give their students a chance to speak it makes the students more interested and willing to learn because they know their opinion matters and that the teacher cares with what you have to say. It makes the students want to listen to others and respect everyone else if they have a sense of family in the classroom. If the teacher just lectures the whole time and doesn’t let the students say their opinons, not only does it makes class boring and kids tune the teacher out, but their is no discussion and they are learning from one point of view. They need to be able to open up and not worry about what others think and if their is a sense of family, they will not have to worry and will be able to express their feelings.

  12. There is a difference between demanding that a group of students follow irrational rules and putting forth rules that the teacher set that are reasonable. I agree that students should have an input on the rules so long as they take the rule making process seriously. By involving the students in the rule making process they are most likely going to be more willing to follow the rules knowing that they were able to take part in the rules they are being made to follow. Though I think the same can be said for preset rules that seem reasonable to them and they can agree are rules they would have thought up themselves. While it is great to have students agree about rules and abide by them in a classroom I feel that only so much of that would transfer out of the classroom unless group activities allowed for students to get to know one another better than simply what they see on the surface or their stereotype (i.e. cheerleader, jock, etc.).

  13. I agree with this blog. Teachers play a huge role in a child’s life, and if teachers don’t make an effort to help eliminate these cliques in the classroom, there will be numerous cliques outside of the classroom. Cliques are not healthy for children, and sometimes lead to social and depression problems among some children. Teaching kids how to communicate and get along with different types of people at an early age will help them as they get older. In the workforce, people have to deal with all kinds of people, and even those you do not necessarily like. Fortunately, cliques seem to fade as children get older.

  14. I agree with this completely, but I think it will be hard to implement. I feel really bad for teachers these days that teach elementry – high school simply because teachers do not get support that they need to implement lessons. I am not saying children are horrible but they don’t seem to have much respect for authority like how we did back in the day. I feel when I was in school if a teacher would address my parents on soemthing they questioned me and why I did it and had the teachers back as oppose to mine. However, today when parents hear a complaint about thier child they get this feeling it’s because the teacher simply doesn’t like them. It’s something that needs to change asap in the school system .

  15. Thanks for your article. It’s a good reminder that in any group learning situation (classroom, camp, conference, etc.) that the more participation from the group, the more fun for everyone. The trick is really fostering good discussion and communication in the group. The more you can get your students talking (and at least somewhat staying on topic), the more they have a vested interest in the learning going on. I know when I’m in a learning situation, I so desperately want to be HEARD and to have my thoughts validated – that innate desire cannot be overlooked. As soon as the instructor/leader omits asking for input or inadequately listens to your comments, you’ve just lost a student. They are no longer invested in what you’re teaching. So it not only promotes a good environment for students, but establishing a class community actually promotes higher levels of learning.

    I’m teaching a class this fall, and your article is a good lesson to me to intentionally create community. Thank you!

  16. I couldn’t agree more with the blog entry. I grew up in public schools and was one of the students who did just enough to get by. I never felt like I had much of a voice in any of my classes. I love the idea of a Classroom Constitution. I remember making one for my 6th grade class and that was one of my favorite teachers and classes. Giving the students a voice in the classroom makes them feel like they are apart of something bigger than themselves. When the rules are made by the students, they are more likely to follow them. All my classrooms growing up felt more like a dictatorship than a democracy, but I believe that is an ongoing problem in public schools. Teachers are meant to be guides for the students, not commanders. Teachers are not only meant to educate, but to help students find something they are interested in and follow those interests. Unfortunately, public schools are filled with teachers who only seem to want the paycheck and then move on.

  17. I agree with what you say. When it comes to school, stereo types do form quickly. I barely notice it when I’m in college. I realize that it took me this long to notice because of the fact that I have had high school teachers who implement the classroom constitution. There was although stereo types in the classroom. The difference was that the teachers still found a way to create a community in which everyone can enjoy high school life.

  18. Teachers have a larger role besides teaching students and starting them on the right path for their future. I had this one teacher I connected with from the get go, He was my sophomore biology teacher. I would stay after class and talk to him, from the class to our personal lives. He was apparently a great guitarist and at the end of the year he brought it in and played some songs. It was nice seeing how these teachers do have a social life and hobbies, it made them seem more human-like. I always perceived teachers to be somewhat robotic, only working on grading papers and preparing material for class. This teacher did whatever he could to connect to every student he had, which made my outlook on teachers change. Teachers can double as social workers, or friends for that matter. The idea of having a comment box is smart because it will have the same connection between each student and the teacher that my biology teacher had.

  19. Education is a major driving force of socialization. If students are educated in a facility that allows them to celebrate their individuality and embrace those that are different from them, they leave the classroom and enter the world with an ability to apply this practice to everyday life. The methods of a classroom constitution and a concern box are phenomenal ideas. However any method a teacher uses to break social barriers is a great step toward building a society that respects and listens to those that are different from them. I have been in classrooms where students do not break their regular social patterns. While students are still able to grasp subject matter in this setting, their ability to apply subject matter to day to day life is greatly diminished. Alternately, I have been in classrooms where when you enter the room all barriers are broken and people converse deeply with individuals that they would never have talked to before. When students share profound ideas and thoughts in the classroom, they are more likely to say hi to that person outside of class. Thus, breaking barriers within the classroom is the first step to breaking barriers outside of the classroom.

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