Day 152: On Classroom Management

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.

-Today-

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.

Tone:

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. 

Relationships:

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.

My life:

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.

 

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11 thoughts on “Day 152: On Classroom Management

  1. Thom H Gibson

    This is such a great play by play. I laughed out loud at this: “I let some things slide that I probably shouldn’t, a few pretty big conflicts erupt, scripted interventions have no effect.”

    You’re so right about tone. I feel I’m getting better at this but I think of a few weeks ago when students were taking a test and one student was trying to get my attention while I was answering the question of another student. He just kept saying my name out loud over and over again even after I told him I’d be with him in a sec. I just turned to him and said “stop doing that. you’re taking a test and it’s really annoying.” You could hear the annoyance in my voice.

    I didn’t have a problem telling him his behavior was annoying because I think you can tell a child that in a very direct ‘matter of fact’ sort of way (and saying the behavior is annoying, not that they’re annoying), but I was frustrated that I let my annoyance get the better of me and that I said it with intents of shaming him.

    I see Justin Aion commented above. You ‘blog-every-day’ folks must run in the same circles 😉

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    1. danburf Post author

      Hey! Thanks for stopping by. The conflict you bring up is right on. I have found that sometimes addressing the misbehavior head on is the best intervention. Simply saying a students name or telling them to get back on task don’t have the same effect as telling them flat out to stop talking. Tone is the tricky part.

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    1. danburf Post author

      1. Respect the Speaker
      2. Always Participate

      *I may have found these and borrowed/modified them from another blog… Can’t remember where though. Simple and right to the point.

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  2. Justin Aion

    Dan,

    Thank you so much for writing this! We want the best for our students, we want them to grow and learn and be better tomorrow than they were yesterday, but many teachers don’t see the value in that same level of introspection in themselves.

    This post is vulnerable and raw and, I imagine, quite frightening to write. For me, posts like this are scary only partially because of what others might think, but mostly because putting words to what I’m feeling makes it real. It forces me to admit that I’m not a perfect teacher and, while that’s easy to say, it’s not always easy to accept.

    Every day we need to grow and learn and the only way to do that is to fail, admit failure and learn from that.

    Thank you for this.

    -Justin

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    1. danburf Post author

      First off, I read your blog daily; it means a lot to me that you would come by and give this a plug. Thank you for that.

      I wrote this believing there had to be others out there who have the same feelings as I do when a lesson flops or a class is out of control. What we do as teachers after either of those is reset and try again the next day. There is an important point of reflection between the reset and try again that I often overlook because it is way too easy to blame my students and tell myself “It will be better tomorrow, or next year when I teach that again”. This runs parallel to your last statement of failing, admitting failure and learning from that, middle piece of each is key if we want to continually improve.

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  3. Zach Coverstone

    This has helped me realize I’m not alone.

    When you waited for students to be silent, and found that it didn’t work out, what did you do instead? What actions do you do now to help students maintain focus?

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    1. danburf Post author

      I’m sure there is a time and place for waiting, what I discovered was standing in front of the room and starting blankly at students for a minute or two didn’t provide any feedback on what behaviors needed to be corrected.

      What I try to do is quickly redirect off task students with a verbal cue, something like “Alex, you need to be up here right now” (If I have a good relationship with the student I will throw a little sarcasm/sass into it), then give ’em a few seconds to correct the behavior. 90% of the time they will shape up, next step is proximity. If they are still disruptive, I have a small whiteboard in the corner of my room where I write their name, if this happens they owe me time after class for interrupting the learning of everyone else in the room.

      If they have to stay after class, I rip into them. I try to avoid sending students into the hall at all costs; they can’t get out of class that easy.

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      1. Zach Coverstone

        Thank you, Dan. As Justin said, this was likely hard to write, but I feel like I’ve gone through a similar process. I’m sort of in between the “Year 1/Year 2” area you mentioned. This really has helped me think about what I do every day.

        Thank you again!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. ellen

    As a current student teacher, I love hearing about your process, and what’s changed for you over time. I’m currently in the ‘try whatever comes to mind’ phase of classroom management. I like your reflections on sharing who you are with your students, and am going to try that out more!

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