Developing Discussion and Encouraging Participation: Classroom Climate Management
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One question that is pertinent to all teachers is what exactly makes a good teacher? Through my experiences in high school and at Kalamazoo College I now ask the same question: What can I do to optimize my potential as a teacher, or better stated, what can I do to optimize the performance of my social studies students. In a democratic society the teaching of social studies should yield fundamental democratic values rather than simply teach people, places, dates and other facts. How can a teacher invoke these democratic ideals into class everyday and, more importantly, how can he help students to learn? While any teacher could easily teach democratic values, he could do more by teaching through a democratic process. If students are actively engaged, they are not only learning the subject matter, they are also learning how to participate in a democratic society. So, how can I teach democracy while teaching through the curriculum? If I were to pick up the Bill of Rights, the hallmark of democracy, I would surely have found my answer quickly; The First Amendment. Surely, freedom of speech can easily be incorporated into the classroom in the form of discussion. Obviously, promoting discussion in the classroom is as good a topic as any relating to this train of thought, so I went with it. As I started doing some pre-internship research it became even more apparent to me how important discussion is in a social studies classroom. As a high school student myself, I had many social studies classes which were all structured differently. While some teachers used group projects, others used research papers, and even others used in class reading. Still, one thing all of my social classes had in common was lecturing. Because I was a good student and interested in social studies, I was very content with taking notes. However, when I started to think about all of my favorite teachers, they were all teachers I could talk to and joke around with. While much of my research dictated many strategies and techniques for developing discussion, it seemed obvious to me that promoting discussion would be easiest through the use of my humor and personality. This became the focus for my research.