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Five Essentials for Basic Classroom Management

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Classroom management. It’s the one thing you wish they had covered more extensively in your educator prep program. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of easy solutions to share. The book won’t give you all the answers to the challenges you will face throughout your tenure as an educator. It’s something that develops slowly throughout a career, constantly in adjustment, and constantly revised and reworked. Although there’s no “one size fits all” for classroom management, Education World has some tips for how to begin thinking about the facilitation of your classroom’s natural personality.

Meet the parents.  Including the parents and guardians of your child into your behavioral and academic plans can be an incredibly powerful tool in any educator’s toolbox.  Different parents generally prefer different levels of contact with the school, however, so pay close attention to their needs.  Find out how your parents and guardians prefer to be contacted:  email, text, notes home, meetings, phone calls…and what kinds of communication they want.  Some parents want to know immediately when their child misses an assignment or refuses to work in class – having their child pull out their cell phone and call them at work might be just the trick.  Others might prefer to only be alerted when their child’s grade average slips below a particular number – this could be a more formal in-person meeting.  The point is to connect with your parents to set both goals and expectations together, finding out where your classroom flow meets their home flow.  And please, find a platform to communicate both success as well as concerns – a little celebration can go a long way in encouraging academic behavior.

 

You’ll never win.  What?!  Sounds worse than it is.  Be wary of confrontations with students.  Taking a page from the Love and Logic Institute, the reality is that when a confrontation is created between you and a student, you have nothing to lose, while that student has everything to lose.  Remember, they are in front of their peers – their social group – everything they have built as an identity in the school is at risk and now on stage.  A student would rather push you until they are sent out of the room than to lose whatever clout they’ve worked so hard to maintain.  So what does this mean?  Give them the illusion of power.  When confrontations arise, make them private.  Lower your voice to have a personal, respectful conversation with your student.  Give that student choices, so that they feel they have the autonomy to decide their future (as opposed to feeling cornered with nowhere to go) – they can either focus in on their work, take a quick breather outside and then come back to work, or go see the school’s counselor.  Then walk away.  Most of all, empathize with your student.  They’re never looking to disappoint you.

 

Plan for success.  Believe it or not, the most powerful method of preventing classroom disruption before it starts lies in the lesson plan.  Nothing beats a well-orchestrated, timed, UDL-conscious, and engaging lesson to keep students on task and focused.  Students need to be clear about their learning goals for the day:  without the “why are we doing this” addressed, it’ll be difficult to motivate any meaningful learning.  Keeping the lesson varied allows students to not get stuck on any one thing. Minilessons are short and to the point, the modeling was clear and engaging, students work alone for a bit, then share with a peer for a bit, then work in groups for a bit, maybe moving around a little before coming back as a class for the wrap-up.  Differentiate texts whenever possible, by choosing interesting content, using sites that manipulate reading levels, or by assigning small pieces of a text for deeper reading.  Assignments should give students choices – even small ones – on how they can show you their learning.  Capitalize on your students’ natural curiosity and have the flexibility to allow their questions to drive your instruction, as it aligns with your standards.  Keeping these elements in mind at the planning stage of things can make the execution seamless, and more importantly, exciting for the learner.

 

Find your voice.  This is easier said than done.  Your classroom persona plays heavily into whether or not a management strategy will work for you.  Some teachers succeed with humor; some with a stern face.  Some capitalize on emotional connection; some use tough love.  If you find yourself struggling with your current management tools, start by doing some observations.  What’s working for other teachers in your building?  This doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you.  However, observing your peers will absolutely give you new things to try.  The key here is to be consistent.  Students want that structure and stability your classroom provides.  They need to know how you tick – from expectations to consequences.  So when you are introducing a new strategy, be honest with them about what’s happening.  Don’t be afraid to tell them that something wasn’t working for you in the classroom, you have a new plan to improve upon it, and that you’ll need their help to make it work.  You’ll be surprised by how quickly students will respect and appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness.  Having said that, be sure to plan time to reassess the new strategy and decide if it works with who you are in the classroom.

 

Know your kids.  This might sound cliché, but it’s something we can sometimes put on the back-burner when things get difficult.  When a student is struggling, he or she is much more likely to work with someone they feel is on their team.  This takes both time and energy, but it is one of the secrets of the veteran teacher, and well-worth the effort.  Notice them.  What do they do when they are outside of school?  What is their passion?  What’s home like?  Where’s their family from?  Compliment their new sneakers, their purple hair.  Arrange to catch one of their gymnastics meets or their basketball games—or see their band play.  Check out their mix tape – even if you only listen to 30 seconds.  In education, we speak a lot about schools being families or being an active part of the community.  The kids need to see that.  At the end of the day, a student will hardly ever rage a campaign against a member of their own fan club.  The moment you feel that energy pressing against you, press back with interest. 

 

Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Contributor

Lambert is a certified English Language Arts teacher and teacher trainer in Connecticut.

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Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Contributor

Lambert is a certified English / Language Arts teacher and teacher trainer in Connecticut.

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