When I was in college, I took a lot of hypothetical classes. During those classes, we explored what to do if situation A, B, or C erupted, then very thoroughly looked at all the different paths to take in dealing with said conflicts.
I spent some time observing classrooms where teachers had everything under control and also taught a few lessons to students who had their real teachers at the time breathing down their necks, instilling the fear of you-will-get-your-face-ripped-off-if-you-try-anything.
Here is an outline of my classroom management progression:
1. Student teaching
- I take over the classroom and present a list of 7 class rules/consequences I have come up with (This is what every classroom management book said to do; clear expectations. yeah.)
- Students test the waters and realize I am a pushover.
- My cooperating teacher comes and lays into each class.
- I create a new, refined list of rules/consequences.
- I don’t back those up, all hell breaks loose.
- I tell on misbehaving students to my cooperating teacher, she takes care of it.
- I tell myself things will be better when I have my own classes and I can start from scratch.
2. First year
- I continue to refine my list of rules, this time it is down to 5.
- I am very nervous and I smile a lot, students tell me this.
- I introduce some fun lessons and develop relationships with a few students, they back me up when I need it.
- I let some things slide that I probably shouldn’t, a few pretty big conflicts erupt, scripted interventions have no effect.
- My classes are noisy, I pass out a lot of note cards asking students to rate their behaviors and we talk about it, then forget about it.
- I realize it doesn’t really matter what I say to students, but how I say it.
- I don’t feel like backing up all the rules I have put in place.
- Come February, I decide that it is time to focus on classroom management. This really translates into no groups work, seating students in rows, lunch detention slips and lots and lots of worksheets.
- April comes around and students are back to their primal educational instincts; book work and lectures. Life is good?
- Without any clear expectations, I try group work and 3-act problems again. They go well for a bit then crash and burn near the end of the year.
- I tell myself things will be better next year.
3. Year Two
- The classroom rules I came up with didn’t work, I decide to throw them out entirely.
- I make a pledge to greet each student at the door as they walk in and give ’em those 5 minutes in between classes to do whatever in the room.
- The amount of conversation while I am trying to teach gets out of control, I tell myself I am going to wait for dead silence whenever this happens. That plan doesn’t work well.
- I decide to put up two rules in my room.
- I back up those rules, I will die over them if I have to.
Classroom management is a crazy thing because one day a certain strategy will work then the sparkles wear off and it flops the next time I try to execute it. I am not even close to developing a plan that works for me, it is still try, fail, revise, and try again. I don’t know when that cycle will change but over the past two or so years of teaching I have really learned three key points.
It doesn’t really matter how many times I threaten students if I am doing it with a smile on my face. If tell a student to be quite in a kind and forgiving way they will brush it off. I have learned that how am I saying something to students matters more that what I am saying.
This year was the first year I asked about what goes on in my student’s lives. We talk about their weekends every Monday and Friday. Greeting students each day has provided a positive start to each day. Plus, it wipes the slate clean from the previous day.
I tell students stories about my crazy roommates in college. One would feed dead flies off the windowsill to his pet fly trap. Another would go wander in the woods for 14+ hours a couple Saturday’s a month. Whatever fun stories I have, I take the time to share with them with my students. On my recent surveys, students have given positive feedback on particular part of their experience in my classroom. They love stories.
I still feel I have a long way to go in creating a successful classroom management plan. I am not sure if there is going to be a magical day where everything just clicks from there on or if it is a very slow process and will never really feel established. Either way, I make mistakes and learn from those. *On a side note… I am developing the ability to predict the future; I can read students and the direction of their behaviors which is fun.
There is never a dull day in my classroom.