HannahKornegay, Staff Reporter
At this point, students attending Chattahoochee High School have been waking up and suffering through eight hours of school for more than a decade. Everyone knows that students hate school, but one thing that can help make the entire experience more tolerable is finding a teacher whose teaching style complements your learning style. For example, as a student, I thrive under a teacher who sets clear boundaries and high expectations. I would love to think that I can go home and get started on an assignment the day it is assigned it to me, but the likelihood of that happening is slim. When I’m told that I have a day to do something, or I’ll fail the class, it scares me in this exhilarating type of way. I often do my best work when the due date was yesterday. On the other hand, some students may find this amount of pressure intimidating. Finding the right balance is difficult, but when achieved, the performance of the class is greatly improved.
Q: Would you characterize your teaching style as being harsh or lax?
Ms. Cooney : Harsh is a little…harsh. I think of it as strict and no-nonsense. You’re here to learn; I’m here to teach, so let’s get it done.
Mrs. Garth: I think I am on the harsh side. I definitely mean what I say, and my students know that. However, I like to joke around with my kids; the sass is real.
Mr. Sharp: Lax…definitely lax.
Q: How do you think your teaching style influences the performance of your students?
Ms. Cooney: I think most of my students learn quickly that they need to actually try and do better—that average work is not what they should aspire to but rather, it should be the minimum bar they achieve.
Mrs. Garth: I think my teaching style allows students to feel comfortable in the classroom, and they feel like they can be themselves. I would hope they all feel comfortable asking questions and participating in class.
Mr. Sharp: Hopefully it puts them at ease, and they will realize that while their academic record is important, it is not the only important aspect of them.
Q: Do you believe tough love or a laid back approach creates a better learning environment?
Ms. Cooney: I don’t think they’re opposites. I think you can have “tough love” but still have a casual, laid back atmosphere in the classroom; it’s all a matter of knowing when you can joke and laugh and when you need to settle down and be serious.
Mrs. Garth: I believe in tough love. I want my students to know that they will have to work hard in my class.
Mr. Sharp: This one varies from student to student and even class to class. I have used the tough love approach in the past with individual students who I felt would respond better to that rather than a laid back approach. I have also had to alter my approach to certain classes based on the composition and/or overall class behavior.
Q: How does your style change to accommodate students who may not respond to your teaching style?
Ms. Cooney: There are definitely students who don’t respond to my teaching style at first. For those students, I try to talk to them one-on-one, and let them know that as long as I’m seeing effort from them, they can be successful in the class. I am willing to do just about anything to help a student who wants to learn and is demonstrating true effort. It’s the student who doesn’t want to work that has the most difficulty with the way I run my class—oftentimes because I call them on the fact that they aren’t really trying.
Mrs. Garth: I try to create a personal relationship with them; I try to find something we have in common and talk to them about that before or after class. If we have a personal relationship, students are more willing to participate in class.
Mr. Sharp: Well, I usually start off laid back and then switch the other way if I need to. I try to address a student individually, before or after class, and let them know our relationship and interactions are going to change. I think it is fair for me to treat individual students differently in the class setting as long as I have a conversation with them to let them know why things are changing.
Q: Would you rather your class be known as the place to have fun or the place to learn all the needed information?
Ms. Cooney: Of course I want learning to be fun, but ultimately if I had to choose one or the other, I would rather have a classroom known for knowledge. I feel a tremendous responsibility to make sure that my students are prepared for their next step in life, whether that’s the next level English class, going out and getting a job or simply being a better human being than they were when they entered my class.
Mrs. Garth: I would hope the students think of me/my class as a place where they will grow and be challenged academically, but also a place where they know I truly care about them on a personal level.
Mr. Sharp: It has to be both. I want my class to be known as a place where you can do well, learn important lessons about biology and life and improve your study skills—all while having fun. I won’t choose between them, and YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!
Q: Would you rather your students respect (bordering on fear) you or think of you as their equal?
Ms. Cooney: Ultimately, I believe that students should see me as the authority in the classroom. If I say stop, I mean stop. Ideally though, I don’t want to wield that power very often. I want my students to want to behave, to want to engage in learning with me not because of me, to want to engage in discussion. I see my students being partners with me in the classroom until they prove that they can’t behave as such. It’s when they act immaturely that I have to step in and act as the “fearful” adult figure.
Mrs. Garth: I would rather have them respect me.
Mr. Sharp: Definitely respect. I don’t want to instill fear in anyone. I don’t respond well to fear, and I don’t think students do either. The delicate part is letting students know that I am here for them, and I want them to respect me and feel safe in my class, while letting them know that we aren’t equals. This is still an adult-student relationship. We can be friendly, but we aren’t friends.
There is no set of instructions that one can follow in order to become a clear and effective instructor. It’s the ability that each teacher has to change his or her style and be the best that they can be for each student that proves beneficial for their classroom. As for students, there is not a teacher who is guaranteed to pass you if you don’t put in the hard work and effort that each class requires. When students and teachers work together to create a positive learning environment, that is when test scores peak and the overall enjoyment of the classroom skyrockets.