Every day, Tanja begins the day with clapping call and response. She does several sets of clapping, and the students repeat it, ending with one solid clap and saying "Guten morgen Frau Heinz, good morning Jenessa and Laci" in unison. After this, the students are silent until Tanja directs them to the next step which is going over the schedule. Next is calendar which is entirely led by the students. Tanja has two students go over to the calendar and explain to their classmates what the day, month, and year are. The two students leading calendar call on their classmates to answer various questions. Tanja is extremely patient, and allows the students all the time that they need to figure it out for themselves, and work independently. She only interjects if they have a question or a dispute.
During just the first day of observation, I was in awe at the management techniques that Tanja used. I wrote three pages worth of notes while observing her! One of the techniques that I loved so much was on the front board, she has all of her students' names on magnets. Then, she has several areas where the students' names can be moved throughout the day. The categories include: Extraordinary, Great Work, Ready to Learn, Yellow Card, and Red Card. All of the students' names begin next to the "ready to learn" category at the start of the day. If a student does something really great and Tanja wants to give it recognition, she will move it to the "great job" or "extraordinary" category. If the student displays an inappropriate behavior after already receiving a verbal warning, their name will be moved to the "yellow card", and if the behavior continues, eventually they may be moved to the "red card". Soccer is the sport that most students show interest in in Germany, so Tanja said they all understand very clearly that the yellow card is the warning before they are thrown out of the game entirely, therefore it translates really well into the classroom. This re-emphasized the importance of making your classroom relatable for the students so that they can grasp the concepts better. Whether that refers to making the lessons more relatable or the classroom rules, it is so important to do this to gain the students' interest. I find this technique incredibly effective. Tanja is sure to explain to the students exactly why someone's name is being moved, and she has it visible so that when she does move a name, the entire class can see it.
Another technique that I would love to use in my future classroom has to do with the students' having the ability to communicate their emotions in a mature and thoughtful way. Also on the front board, Tanja has three paper fish. Each fish has an emotion: happy, sad, and upset. Next to each fish is a magnet with the corresponding emotion. When a student is feeling frustrated with someone, happy about something they or a peer did, or sad about something, they have the option to share it with the class during circle time. Tanja asks the students if any of them want to share anything. For example, one student named Joe* shared the other day that he was really upset because one of his peers wasn't sitting on the right color dot on the ground. He explained that it aggravated him, and he felt upset. Joe shared this with his whole class, so they all could understand how he was feeling. Tanja offered him some advice and guidance, and then once it was finished being discussed, Joe went up to the board and moved the magnet onto the fish who showed an upset emotion. I think this strategy is wonderful because it allows the students and teachers to have very open communication, it teaches problem solving, and it teaches students that it is okay to have emotions and to express those emotions through communicating with one another. I love everything about this strategy and it is definitely one that I will take with me into my classroom.
I could talk about Tanja's classroom for hours, and how wonderful all of her classroom management techniques are, but these are just two that I found so intriguing and beneficial to me as a future educator.
One thing that is so different about the schools in Germany is the way their day is set up. Tanja goes in in the morning for her class, but some days will leave by 10:30 AM and will be finished for the day. Some days, she goes back in the afternoon for another class. Regardless, the schedule is very different from anything I've ever seen in the States, and I've found it so interesting. On my first day with Tanja, I observed in the classroom from 8 AM to around 9:30, then the students had a half an hour break. For this, we went outside where students are free to do as they wish. Many of them had a snack and socialized, and all of the grades are mixed during this time. I observed the first grade students playing with older students which I really enjoyed seeing. During this time, I saw two older boys, maybe in fourth or fifth grade, begin rough-housing. As this was my first day, none of the students knew me, and I don't speak German, I sat back for a moment. I kept a close eye on them, until I saw the playful shoving turn to true anger. I noticed that there were no faculty around to stop it, and one of the boys was ready to swing at the other, so I stepped in and broke it up. I separated the boys and brought one boy over to Tanja and explained the situation. I was surprised at how powerful just walking over to the boys was and not needing to use any verbal language.
To say the least, it was an amazing experience, and I cannot begin to express how much I've learned from Tanja's classroom. My research is proving to be very interesting, and nothing like what I was imagining it would be. Tomorrow is my last day in the classroom already, and I am so sad to be saying goodbye to the students. It is a classroom that I will always remember, and will absolutely utilize Tanja's classroom management techniques in my future classroom.