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D. Classroom Environment

: Describe how you will deal with different cultures in your classroom.

A: Good teachers are always sensitive to their students' cultural backgrounds. They respect students' languages, customs, traditions, and beliefs. They never make fun of students who are different, but rather celebrate these new opportunities for enriching the learning experiences of all children. One of the most effective ways of doing that, I've discovered, is through the use of relevant children's literature. Reading books about people from different cultures, developing units about customs and traditions in various parts of the world, and exposing students to the beliefs and ways of immigrants from various parts of the world can be some of the most effective ways of helping students understand and appreciate the multicultural world we live in. I had the unique opportunity to develop and teach a thematic unit on multicultural literature while in student teaching.. .and I'll never forget it!

In my discussions with principals around the country, this was a question that was quite often asked, in one form or another, in almost every teacher interview. Administrators expressed to me the fact that, in today's pluralistic society, teachers need to be aware of the many faces they will see in their classrooms and the ways in which those children can be informed and celebrated. Demonstrate (with specific details) how you have been part of this process.

: Describe how you will make your classroom and the students comfortable.

A: Students need to know that a classroom is their place; that it's not just the teacher's place into which they have been temporarily invited. If students have the impression that a classroom is "owned" by the teacher, they will be less likely to make an investment in learning. Classrooms that invite student engagement and celebrate the work of students are classrooms in which the best instruction takes place. Our classroom will be no different than a child's bedroom—a place where they will feel comfortable and can personalize, a place that values each and every occupant. To do that in our classroom, we will provide plenty of spaces to post student work. We'll invite students to suggest desk arrangements, color schemes, and decorations. As appropriate, we'll invite everyone to bring in personal items from home to use in the classroom. And we will celebrate students' different cultures and countries of origin by decorating with artifacts from those countries or cultures. Above all, we will promote a sense of ownership in the classroom as well as a sense of community.

Learning does not take place in a vacuum. You might be an excellent teacher and have exciting lesson plans filled with valuable resources. You might even have motivated students. Still, the environment or classroom in which all that is to take place will determine, to a large extent, how successful you will be as a teacher. Be prepared to discuss your plans for your classroom environment.

: Describe an ideal classroom.

A: I believe an ideal classroom is composed of five basic elements. These include 1) Learning occurs best when the development of positive attitudes and perceptions is made part of every learning task. 2) Knowledge is best learned by making connections between what is known and what is to be learned. I always want my students to understand what it is to construct meaning. 3) I believe that, for learning to be effective and meaningful, students should be provided with opportunities to use and apply knowledge in practical situations—that is, to have opportunities to apply that knowledge. 4) We know that in an ideal classroom students learn best when they need knowledge to accomplish a goal they consider important. This often involves problem-solving, decision-making, and inquiry-based learning. And 5) in that ideal classroom, teachers can help students develop the mental habits that will enable them to learn on their own. Critical- thinking activities and metacognitive practices help ensure this. While these five principles are all part of that ideal classroom, they are also goals or aspirations I see for myself and my students. That ideal classroom may not always be achievable, but it can certainly be a realistic goal.

Demonstrate your knowledge of educational principles and practices that can be part of every teacher's classroom. Detail those items, and show how they can serve as goals for your future classroom. The interviewer wants to know your thoughts on two things: 1) What good teaching is; and 2) What kind of teaching you will practice.

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