Classroom management is perhaps the most difficult and most overlooked aspect of teaching. For some, it is covered only by a quick, one credit course at the end of the teacher prep courses. Most teachers learn how to manage a classroom along the way, in bits and pieces.
There is more to managing a classroom than being ‘mean’ or having a fancy reward system. There are some fundamentals every successful teacher knows and puts into practice.
Explicitly Teach Procedures: Be crystal clear in your expectations. Cover all the details. A vision of how you want your classroom to run is essential. How will students come in? Take care of materials? Move about the classroom? Be specific, model, and practice, practice, practice. Take the first few weeks of school to drill in these procedures. This time spent upfront will pay off in the long run.
Consistency: Strive to be consistent in your actions. Teachers are human, and therefore it is likely that they will ‘click’ with some students more than others. Work to be as objective as possible. Try to respond to behaviors, not students. Have a plan for reinforcing positive behavior as well as for dealing with negative behaviors. Make that plan clear to students and follow through.
Relationships: Building relationships with students is crucial in managing a classroom. Students need to know that you care about them and that you are on their side. If students feel that you are out to get them, they’ll look for ways to rebel. Teachers who manage a classroom successfully require a lot of their students while still connecting with them.
Classroom Culture: Along with the teacher/student relationship are other relationships built in the classroom. Each classroom has a culture. Take the time at the beginning of the year to create that classroom culture. Take time to get to know your students and have them get to know each other. Work together on projects and teach them to build each other up and to hold each other accountable in positive ways.
How can you manage a whole classroom if you aren’t in control of your own life?
Self-Care: Teaching is draining. There is no way you can effectively manage a classroom if you are running on little sleep, not eating well and are stressed out. Teachers often suffer from decision fatigue. We make hundreds of decisions all day long. This takes mental energy as well as the physical energy of keeping up with a class full of students. It is challenging to prioritize ourselves because teaching takes so much out of us, but try to exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep so you can be the best you can for your students.
Set the Tone: Teachers, whether consciously or unconsciously, choose the atmosphere for their classroom. If teachers are frazzled, stressed and out of control, their classrooms will be too. If we can stay calm and collected, our students will also. Greet your students as they come in, play some relaxing music, and be well prepared for each day. When something goes wrong, if you stay calm students will look to you and react in kind.
Focus on Strengths: Positivity goes a long way. Focus on the good things about your students (yes, you may need to dig deep, but they all have them, I promise!). Believe the best about them and give them the benefit of the doubt. Try to see them as the people they can be. Everyone needs a cheerleader who can see their potential, and for some students, you may be the only one in their life who fits that role.
Like you, your students have many different factors contributing to their performance at school.
Cultural Awareness: The beautiful, yet challenging thing about our country is the melting pot that it is. All cultures have different norms. Your student may have grown up with a different set of expectations than your own (even if they are of the same race and social class as you, even families have their own culture). This is why it is important to set clear class expectations. When your students aren’t meeting them, instead of getting angry, ask why and see if you can understand where the problem is coming from.
“Don’t look at a single one of your kids as if they are deficit and in need of ‘guidance’ to become better. Cultural difference does not equal cultural deficiency.” – Elijah Moore.
School to Home Communication: Communicating with parents is a vital part of classroom management. Often a student just knowing that mom, dad, and teacher talk is a motivator for good classroom behavior. Parents your students far better than you could ever know them. Develop a good relationship with parents so they can be your most significant resource. It is important to communicate well and often with parents. They need to know that you know and care about their child. It is essential to deliver the good as well as the bad.
Remember these tips as you navigate through your career with students. Through experience- both good and bad- you’ll find other keys to keeping a happy, well-managed classroom.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.