Classroom management is perhaps one of the trickier aspects to navigate as a newer teacher. It can quite literally make or break an effective lesson. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert in classroom management. In fact it has been one part of my pedagogy that I’ve had to actively work on. I have gotten better at it though, which is the important part and for those who have finished their first year of teaching do take comfort that it does get better!
Children will always be children but it is up to the teacher to reflect and act upon what’s not working. As the school year is winding down across the country or perhaps for many, the school year is finished, I thought I’d make a post about the tried-and-true basics of classroom management for new and experienced teachers alike. I hope some of these tips are as helpful as I have found them over the years:
- Don’t take things personally. This was a hard piece of advice to accept and is still something I have to work on (I have gotten better on this though, I promise!). You literally do not have much control, if at all, of what happens to your students. You also don’t know the full picture of exactly what is going on with each and every one of your students. So when a student reacts negatively to a command or task, take a step back, breathe and reassess the situation. Maybe this student didn’t have breakfast or adequate sleep the night prior and is extra cranky right now. Maybe this student is homeless or shifting from foster home to foster home. Point blank, when kids react negatively to mundane tasks, nine times out of ten they’re not necessarily reacting this way because they hate you but from something much deeper and away from your point of view that you may or may not be privy to.
- Teach to your passion. This may seem like a no-brainer. Like of course, I’d teach to my passion or I wouldn’t be teaching it! Of course this may not always be the case when we’re mandated to teach certain curriculum or a concept in a certain way by admin. However, depending on the situation at your school, when there is room for creativity – use it! If you are not thrilled by the content you are teaching, then I can assure you your students aren’t either. For instance, in my school, we’re required to teach students how to write literary essays every year which is arguably one of the harder units to teach because the texts read are not necessarily the most engaging for my students. On top of trying to make them write full-on essays about said texts. So to navigate this, I incorporate more group projects and videos to engage the kids and make it more fun for me in the process.
- Be consistent. Again, this was another toughie for me but is super important to maintain. As you develop your practice and teaching style, you will learn hard rules that need to stay and those that just need to go. For example, a hard rule in my classroom is one mic – only one person should be speaking at a time or else chaos can ensue and I abide by this rule. One rule that I just had to let go was students raising their hands for trivial matters like sharpening pencils, drinking water from the class water fountain or collecting notebooks upon arrival into class. This rule took too much time away from me teaching or conferencing with students that even I had to quickly disband it in favor of more standard class procedures. I would much rather uphold one mic which ensures all voices were heard than to constantly approve students obtaining the materials they need for class in clearly marked sections of the room. I can stand being consistent with more important rules for my own pedagogy than what I deem to be lesser rules.
- Build relationships with your students. This is probably the most important basic rule of classroom management to exist. Relationships are key! I am not saying you need to be friends with your students but there should be a level of mutual respect and that only happens through meaningful relationships. Take an interest in something your kids love like music or sports or even trashy TV shows. It gives you something to bond with them over and they will be a lot less likely to act up in your class. Especially for those tougher to manage kids, you want them on your side and fast as those are often the ringleaders for class chaos.
This list isn’t a definitive end-all/be-all but it definitely helps in changing the mood within the classroom. As teachers and educators, it is of utmost importance to consider this in designing effective classrooms. These are just some of my tidbits. Educators, what are some of yours? Post your comments in the section below!