Too many teachers leave the profession within their first five years. While there is a myriad of factors that affect teacher turnover, many teachers point to difficulties with classroom management as the main culprit.
Most teachers aren’t actively and explicitly taught classroom management strategies in their teacher education programs. Even in their student teaching placements, classroom management is often left in the hands of the cooperating teacher. Teachers should be explicitly taught how to manage their classrooms and need the opportunity to practice it so they feel confident to step into a classroom of their own.
Classroom management is much more than rule building, establishing routines and classroom procedures; classroom management encompasses community building, self-management, and preventive management strategies, such as managing space, materials, time, curriculum, instructional methods, and one’s self.
Secret #1: Stop trying to manage other people, instead focus on managing yourself.
Statements focused on group and student management, like “I can’t control these kids” or “This group just drives me crazy” are what give classroom management a bad rap.
Instead of focusing on managing students, focus on managing yourself. You have a choice how you respond. Responding with love, positivity, and a good sense of humor will get you much farther in the classroom, in your relationships, and in life.
Give yourself space to think, process, and then respond from a positive space before you do or say something you regret. Also, by modeling this, your students are learning how to respond to situations that might throw them off balance.
Secret #2: Students will often mirror your behaviors, actions, and attitude.
Students pick up on your energy immediately and often match it. If you are happy, smiling, positive, warm, and welcoming, you will most likely have a positive experience. However, if you are angry, short, negative, and frustrated, you will most likely have a frustrating experience.
You set the tone. If you are calm and soft-spoken, the classroom energy will most likely be calm and have a low buzzing learning sound. If a student is extra loud in this quiet setting, it is unexpected behavior that can easily and kindly be adjusted with a quiet conversation.
We are constantly modeling and teaching our students. They watch our every move, inside and outside of the classroom. Consider what it is you want them to embody in the way you interact with your peers, your superiors, and your students.
Secret #3: Plan for success through prevention.
Yes, planning is a huge part of management. When I create a lesson experience, I consider every aspect, from the way the room is set up to ensuring the task at hand will engage my students. I consider options and choices for students to fully engage them. I consider possible ways for students to get distracted and try to eliminate those distractions, if possible.
I provide assigned seats. I plan for extra activities in case we have more time and plan to remove an activity if we don’t have enough. I plan on including elements of reflection for students to articulate their learning either verbally or in writing at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of each class session. I even consider my word choices and statements.
The more prepared and organized I am, the better the experience for my students.
Secret #4: Assume the best intent from every student, ask questions, and offer love.
I don’t go to punishment, yelling, or frustration when something goes wrong, but rather I assume that every student has the best intention and wants to succeed. Rather than accuse, I will notice and ask questions. I am more interested in collaborative problem solving, and learning more, rather than imposing my own opinion or assumptions onto someone else.
Often, just asking the question: “Are you ok?” can start a polite conversation while demonstrating that you care. A classroom where questions are the norm when managing, will invite students to participate in self-management and regulation, rather than compliance.
And finally, offer love. I realize I don’t tell my students enough how much I care about them. It’s okay to let them know you care. Don’t just show it through action, but remind them verbally or in written form how much you care about them and their success.
Be the positive change you hope to see in your classroom.