How much do you really see when teaching? How many children do you miss when you do look? Knowing what to look for and where to do it from allows you to quickly halt behaviour issues and spot struggling pupils.
Consider this quote about an experienced teacher:
‘After trying to give eye contact to students in each quadrant of the classroom, she realized that she always avoided looking at the left back section of the room. […] Through her fifteen years of teaching […] she felt sorry for the hundreds of students who had sat in that part of the room.’ (Robert Marzano; 1992)
I wonder how many of us are unconsciously guilty of overlooking so many kids and their needs?
Classrooms are complex places which require you to monitor the activities of 30 young people while actually teaching and keeping on top of learning. It’s incredibly easy to miss what your pupils are doing but if you don’t know, it’s nearly impossible to effectively manage your class. That’s why spending a few moments to consider the best places to stand or sit in class is one of the best things you can do to master your learning environment.
It’s important to consider sightlines when choosing your vantage points. Ask yourself what you can see and whether your pupils can see you. A useful mantra is ‘if I can’t see them, they can’t see me.’ The best places to sit or stand will allow you to see the whole class at a glance to give you the information you need for effective classroom management. Good teacher locations will also allow for ease of movement. Not being penned in by chairs and tables will help to call pupils over without disturbing anyone else and allow you to circulate easily.
Once you’ve tried out a few positions (such as you might do for your pupils’ seats), you’ll be able to notice your pupils’ body language, and in particular, their eyes and facial expressions. Tracking their eyes will give you a clear indication of whether they’re engaged (Zeki, 2009) and if you see grimacing, you might want to jump in and help.
Finding your perch and knowing what to look for won’t give you eyes in the back of your head, but it will help you notice more of what’s going on and maintain the expectations and learning climate you want. It’ll only take a matter of seconds, so I challenge you to consciously choose your perch and not regret how much you’ve missed in the past.
Marzano, R. (1992). A different type of classroom: Teaching with dimensions of learning. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. P21
Zeki, C. (2009). The importance of non-verbal communication in classroom management. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences. P1443-1449.