A teacher walks into a classroom . . .
"A school teacher, inexperienced in classroom management, injured his back and had to wear a plaster cast around the upper part of his body. It fit under his shirt and was not noticeable at all. On the first day of the semester, still with the cast under his shirt, he found himself assigned to teach the toughest students in school.
Walking confidently into the rowdy classroom, he opened the window as wide as possible and then busied himself with desk work. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he took the desk stapler and stapled the tie to his chest.
The teacher had no trouble with classroom management and discipline that semester."
Although this is only a joke, the scenario of a teacher walking into a new class with disrespectful, rowdy students is a familiar one. I remember when I first began to teach, I was scared to death. Whenever I told people that I was a high school teacher, I'd get looks of horror and curiosity with questions like,
"How do you do it?"
"How mean are they?"
There is definitly a stereotype associated with teaching high school classes. You have the timid, frazzled teacher and the group of obnoxious, out-of-control students. That is pretty much what movies and television shows portray.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
Granted, my first year of teaching was very difficult because I was so new and unexperienced. Indeed, I had to fumble along and learn about classroom management as I went. Through that experience, though, I discovered techniques that make classroom management easier and way more successful. This is a list of everything I have learned the hard way. It should be in every new teacher's subsconscious.
Note: OwlTeacher.com focuses on the middle school and high school classroom. New teachers who are focused on lower grades will find these elementary classroom management helpful!
Stay Calm & Be Consistent!
The most important thing to remember about classroom management is to stay calm and be consistent.
No matter what, never go back on your word and never lose control of your emotions. If you give a student a warning, follow through with the consequence if he/she ignores the warning. 1. Always be aware of what is happening in your classroom. Don’t hide behind a computer screen to avoid discipline. Make sure students know that you are always attentive to whatever is going on in the classroom.
It's amazing how students will respect a teacher who is firm and consistent. Likewise, if a student presses your buttons or just simply makes you want to kill someone, never allow them to see you so angry that you lose control of the entire situation. Always remain calm.
I am telling you, these are the two most important things to remember about effective classroom management.
Another point to keep in mind about classroom management is to never, ever humiliate a student in front of their peers. This method might have been used centuries ago, but it is the worst thing you can do. It will backfire tenfold. Don't do it. Plain and simple.
I remember my first month of teaching American History to eleventh graders. There was one student in particular who had been in jail for drug use. He had missed most of the previous year of school and was feared by most students and teachers alike. He was tall and big and had an attitude to match.
While I was showing a video to the class, he was passing notes with a girl. I saw this and my heart began to thump in my chest so hard, I was sure everyone could hear it.
I knew I had two choices:
I could take the note from him and tell him that note-passing during class was not allowed or I could pretend I wasn't seeing it and just let it slide.
On the surface, it might appear that ignoring the situation would be easier and better. Not so! Other students were aware of the blatant note-passing and they were watching to see what I did about it. If I didn't reign in this situation right there, I knew my credibility would be shot.
I inhaled deeply and walked over to the student as he was writing his tenth reply on the note. In a firm, confident tone, I said, "Give me that note."
The student looked up at me and grinned, "what note?" he asked.
I pointed at it and said, "That one right there. There is no note-passing in my class. Give it to me." He looked over at his peers and then reluctantly gave me the note. I took it and ripped it up in front of the class and threw it in the trash.
This whole situation took a lot of courage and strength on my part, but I knew I had no choice. If I was to be respected by these students, I had to be firm and confident in my classroom management.
Like I said before, students can smell fear. Don't let them smell it on you; portray a strong, confident persona and you will succeed!
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The Top 15 Tips for Effective Classroom Management:
- Always be aware of what is happening in your classroom. Don’t hide behind a computer screen to avoid discipline. Make sure students know that you are always attentive to whatever is going on in the classroom.
- Don’t be afraid or too proud to apologize to a student if you are wrong. Being proud and “above students” is a sure way to create resentments and bad feelings in your classroom. Show students that you are real and you are human, capable of making a mistake.
- Be a positive person in your classroom. Smile at students; complement them on an article of clothing, a book bag, or shoes, etc. It’s amazing how students love to be complemented! Trust me, this one works. As you walk by a particular student, simply say, “Wow, I love that sweatshirt. Very cool.” You will get a smile and a thank you from that student. They don’t forget these things.
- If you have a sense of humor, you are already ahead of the pack! Try to joke around once in a while. This makes learning fun. By the same token, know how to get them back on task. A great idea for humor is to insert a comic or funny picture randomly in your PowerPoint presentation. It breaks the monotony and gives a much needed comedy relief.
- Try to LIKE your students. I know it is hard to like Junior in the back of the class who picks his nose and smells like a dead animal. Or it is hard to like Butch who cusses, complains, and talks of nothing but sex and drugs. Yes, it is also hard to like Barbie who loves to look at herself on her compact mirror and apply lipstick in class and talk incessantly about the weekend’s planned activities. Get past whatever it is that annoys you personally about that student and show them that you do like them by speaking kindly and smiling. Eventually, they will believe that you don’t despise them like all the other teachers and they will show you respect. Remember that respect is a two-way street. You have to give it to receive it!
- Definitely try to make a personal connection with each of your students. If they play sports and have a game coming up, wish them good luck. Ask them questions about it. Show that you care. Ask them how the game went the next day, etc.
- Remember to praise students when they do something well or get a high mark on their assignment. Even if it is only an improvement from a D to a C-. Praise and encouragement reap great rewards in your classroom.
- Don’t be a pushover! Don’t give in to every request. Decide which requests are worth it and appropriate and give in to those, but be choosy. If students catch wind that you are a push over, they will milk it for all it’s worth! As a result, you will spend most of the class hour dealing with requests, whining, and begging. Don’t go there.
- If a particular student is becoming a problem, don’t be afraid to contact the parents. Call them and speak with them about their child. Explain your concerns and ask for help. As long as you are respectful, parents are usually very eager to help solve problems with their child.
- Keep perfect records. If a particular student is beginning to fail your class or they are becoming a discipline problem, document everything! Likewise, keep your grade book up to date. This way, you can let students know how they are doing in your class and warn them to get their act together or they might fail.
- Follow my method of a regular UNIT ROUTINE. Students learn better, behave better, and succeed more when your classroom is a place of predictable routines. Although the subject matter and historical units will change, as will the notes, projects, assignments, etc., the routine of how things operate in your classroom stays the same. This is an invaluable tool for teachers. It is tried and true!
- Create a well-written, clear syllabus for your class. Go over it with the students on the first day of school and require their signature as well as a parent/guardian signature. A syllabus tells students about your class, your teaching style, your expectations, and your goals. These are all essential tools for creating positive classroom management.
- Never make threats to students if you know you will not follow through with them. Even if you think you might not follow through with them. They are a huge mistake. Huge. You might as well wear an enormous sign that says, “I have no credibility!” Threatening in the classroom is generally NEVER a good idea, but if you must make a threat, you better make sure you will follow through with it. Remember: actions speak louder than words.
- Don’t hide behind a computer screen! Make yourself visible to students at all times. When you are giving a history lecture, walk around the room. When students are working independently or in groups, check up on them, make a comment or ask a question. Again, walk around the room. The biggest cause of poor classroom management is a teacher who is not visible and mobile in the classroom.
- Use the infamous “look” to steer students back to the lesson. Or stop what you are saying or doing and just silently stare at the student. Believe me; teenagers are extremely uncomfortable with unexpected silence. Even worse, is the dreaded “everyone’s staring at me” fear. The look, the unexpected silence, and the unwelcome stares usually solve any disruption quickly.
A final thought: Managing a classroom in today's schools requires tremendous amounts of team building and leadership skills. Check out teambuilding-leadership.com to find teambuilding exercises and activities. They can provide you with a tool kit to become a teambuilding expert and leader.