Academic journal article Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice

Meeting Student Needs in the Freedom Writers Movie: An Activity in a Classroom Management Course

Academic journal article Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice

Meeting Student Needs in the Freedom Writers Movie: An Activity in a Classroom Management Course

Article excerpt

When pre-service teachers enroll in my Classroom Management and Communications course, for the most part, I believe they expect a bag-of-tricks on how to discipline students when they misbehave. One of the first things I tell them is that there is no such tool. They soon learn that the course is designed with a proactive approach in mind, and the most important lesson they will learn, is the significance of getting to know their students. The course revolves around creating a classroom management plan geared towards acknowledging the diverse needs PK-12 students have and the use of brainstorming techniques to meet these needs. In order to understand that most of these needs are universal, regardless of the age, the students participated in a short exercise at the beginning of the semester, discussing their own needs.

The most commonly identified needs were: the need for a good education (having knowledgeable instructors and being presented with relevant and accurate information); the need to feel safe in class (they can speak up their minds without fear of being judged or ridiculed by instructor or peers); the need to have instructors who care about the success of their students (who are flexible, have high expectations, and are available for office hours); and the need to have a choice (in classroom projects, sitting accommodations, and group work). When looking closely at their own needs, the pre-service teachers realize that their students will have similar needs. This is how our classroom discussion about the significance to meet the basic student needs begins.

The goal of this study was to increase pre-service teachers' understanding of the significance of meeting basic student needs (i.e. Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity). This understanding was facilitated by viewing the movie Freedom Writers (DeVito, Shamberg, Sher, & LaGravenese, 2007). The theoretical perspective of this study draws from the theories of the Circle of Courage (Brendtro, Brokenleg, & Van Bockern, 1990) and Invitational Education (Purkey, 1999). The media device used in this study, the movie Freedom Writers, can be interchanged with other inspirational education movies, helping pre-service teachers to develop the following understanding; when teachers care about their students, they create a climate of trust, respect, and optimism, influencing their students' attitudes about school and their academic performance (Purkey & Novak, 2001). In such a climate, "human potential can be realized best by places, policies, processes, and programs specifically designed to invite development and by people who are personally and professionally inviting with themselves and with others." (Purkey & Novak, 2008, p. 17).

Literature Review

Student Needs: Circle of Courage

Grounded in the Native American Philosophy, the Circle represents "a holistic approach to child rearing" (Bloom, 2009, p. 21). Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity are the four central elements of the Circle of Courage.

These pillars are based upon the theories of motivation, agency, and initiative, which support the claim that students are successful academically when their basic needs of autonomy, competence, and belonging are met (Bloom, 2009).

Moreover, these cultural perceptions of student needs are embedded in the theory of Invitational Education (Purkey, 1999). The four basic needs discussed by Bloom (2009) are in perfect alignment with Purkey and Novak's (2001) six features of the Inviting Family Model; respect for individual uniqueness, cooperative spirit, sense of belonging, pleasing habitat, positive expectations, and vital connections to society.

In essence, a sense of belonging is a sense of relatedness and attachment to others and to the school environment. Through cooperative learning and democratic classroom practices students work towards a common goal developing a connection to the community (Vieno, Perkins, Smith, & Santielo, 2005). …

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