Anyone can lead, said no one ever right? We aren’t nominating people into positions without considering their abilities; at least I hope not. But in today’s times the outward appearance of a person can override the conversation of their ability to get the job done.
Classroom management is a critical element in education. It determines how much information your students will receive and retain in your classroom. “Throw a chair the first day!” some say. “Act like you have completely loss your mind when it’s time to begin.” Others say. “Don’t you dare smile or joke around with them. They will think you’re a pushover.” Imagine my face upon hearing this advice going into student teaching. Okay. I can do this.
Let me just say that student teaching is so much different from having your own class. I was fortunate enough to have a host teacher that had excellent classroom management. The students came with their slew of baggage but learning was taking place and the students were engaged.
I fell right in at the beginning of the school year. I sat an observed as she set her rituals and routines. The student sat on the carpet in their assigned square criss cross applesauce and hands in laps. I was nervous to take over. Would the students adhere to my instruction as they had done for her? I apparently did a superior job because she and administration quickly became comfortable with my abilities and display of skills. Long story short, maintaining management skills got me my first job at the very same school I was student teaching at. Yay! Right? Hardly…
I was going to be teaching a third grade hybrid class; basically unidentified students and students with some type of behavior issue. I had a very unique group of students. I was warned to not think twice about accepting the job. “You have a high risk pregnancy. Are you out your mind?” my mentors were concerned because they knew the behaviors some of my students were capable of exemplifying and the last thing they felt I needed was stress from BAD and DISRESPECTFUL eight year olds.
Because I respected the years and wisdom of these teachers, I simply smiled and nodded to show that I was listening. Eventually, I let them know that I was going to weigh all of my options. Deep down I knew that there was absolutely nothing to consider. There was something in me that was drawn to the misfortunate labeling of my future students.
Let Me Introduce Myself
Upon introducing myself, the students sat quietly but was fidgeting in hopes that we could just move on. My name is Mrs. Straughter, you can call me Mrs. S for short if you’d like. These are the things that I expect of you. I carefully laid out the expectations of my classroom using a stern voice and direct eye contact. The students appeared to be buying in; especially when they heard the words “treats.” Food will do things your “yelling” can’t.
I learned quickly that not only was food a child’s best friend but relationship was as well. I figured taking a different approach would be what was best. To my advantage I didn’t have to deal with a co-teacher or a team teacher. I was the fifth teacher in my grade level and I was self-contained. I say that this was to my advantage because every authoritative figure approaches situations differently. I had established the ground rules that were expected and the last thing I needed was someone coming to readjust what I had set in motion.
I got busy learning my students. I learned who they were and how they preferred to learn. I learned what caused them to explode and the prelude leading to the outburst. I learned when they needed me to be direct and unapologetic and when they just needed me to hear them out in utter silence. I learned when to address them in a group and when to pull them out for a one-on-one. There is a time to be soft and there’s a time to project.
Knowledge of Self
One thing that I did at the start of introducing my rules was set a “Let me know at the door if today isn’t the day and I’ll do the same,” rule. This was the most effective rule that set the tone for the day. We communicated our state of being for the morning. I’m ready to learn today. I’m so eager to teach you today. I had a rough morning today, moms was tripping. Ava was tripping this morning and I’m still trying to get my mind right, you guys bear with me. Anybody has siblings that didn’t feel like being bothered for school this morning?
We began to turn our problems that we might have encountered on the way to school into small self-care sessions that lasted no more than ten minutes. Those were the best ten minutes of the day because it allowed my students and I to become vunerable with each other, it allowed us to break down the barrier and see that we were all living this thing called life no matter how old or young. It showed that we all had obstacles and feelings and that with proper communication we could learn to still operate and work with others. It taught us life lessons beyond the parameters of our classroom. It established more than reationships, it established an environment encompassed in family and trust.
Ultimately classroom management will make or break your career. If you find that you have started on the wrong foot, you have to find a means to recover quickly or prepare for a year of frustration and stress. As a teacher we have the right to control our domain (I’m a firm believer of this) but it must have balance.
We have to be sure to not take advantage of our positions as adults and teachers. There is nothing that we need to prove to our students. All they need is our commitment to their future. Don’t just demand respect but give it.
Sometimes we need to learn to manage ourselves before we try to manage others. Learn how to regulate your own attitude before you address those of your students. Learn how to operate in silence before you try to regulate their obsessive talking. When you learn how to regulate and control yourself, you will be more successful in doing the same with your classroom.
Yelling will always be a temporary fix. Acting crazy; well, whether you choose to do it or not, it too is a temporary solution. Your best bet is to find the strategies that work for you to establish order and to maintain expectations. What works for your colleague might not work for you. Some teachers just have “the look.” Their students are afraid of their intensity in facial expression alone. Others have to work harder to gain the respect of their students. Then you have those that never master the art of regulating and maintaining.
Here are some simple classroom management strategies to get you started:
- Establish what your rituals and routines will be before the start of the school year. Rules should be clear and precise. Allow students to help you if that’s your preference.
- Introduce your students to expectations on day one. Do not show any hesitation in presenting the rules. Give eye contact and mean business. (DO NOT THROW ANYTHING.)
- Use nonverbal communication as well.
- Develop a rewards system for students. It can be simple items; find out what your students like. I prefer food because my students love treats. Praise is a free way of building self esteem and student confidence.
- Intentionally deliver positive communication home. Don’t start the year off on a bad note. Parents have a way of not answering when you’ve exhausted them with excessive phone calls.
- Leverage technology.
- Implement project based learned.
Teaching is trial and error. You will make mistakes and it is okay. Quickly reflect and brainstorm possible solutions to get things back on track. We’re all in this together. Start strong and make adjustments as needed.
See you in the next post? Same time right?