Classroom management makes teaching easier! Just take these five steps to get started. First, figure out what you want (and how you’ll get it). Second, set clear expectations. Third, establish authority. Next, plan routines. Last but not least, build a community of learners.
Ms. Sneed Learns About Classroom Management
As a new teacher, Ms. Sneed relied on her mentor, Mrs. Brown, to help her with classroom management. Before school even started, Mrs. Brown coached Ms. Sneed. “Some teachers will tell you it takes three years to get it down. Others will say five or seven,” said Mrs. Brown. “I disagree on two counts. One: I’ve been teaching for decades and still have lots to learn about classroom management. Two: Just because you’re new, you don’t need to be miserable. With a few strategies, even first-year teachers can manage classrooms just fine.” Mrs. Brown pulled out a list with five points written on it and set it in the middle of the table.
1. Determine What You Want and How You’ll Get It
“The first step to classroom management,” said Ms. Sneed’s mentor, “is figuring out what you want. Envision the perfect classroom. Are the kids sitting neatly and quietly in rows? Or maybe they’re collaborating at tables. Consider the ultimate learning environment. And then figure out how to get it.
“There’s no right or wrong. Instead, you match your classroom to your preferences. Here’s a little survey to get you started. It will get you thinking about strategies you will use.”
2. Set Clear Expectations for Discipline
Mrs. Brown continued, “Then, of course, you’ll need to make classroom rules. Choose rules that are clear and universal. Whether you select them yourself or collaborate with your students, rules should guarantee that everyone is safe and can learn. Less is more. Combine like rules to create a simple, overarching set. Here, for example, are my class rules from last year.” She handed Ms. Sneed a paper with just four rules typed on it.
“Remember to state rules in positive terms instead of negative. (Don’t say don’t ________.) Set immediate, appropriate consequences for breaking rules. Consider setting positive consequences as well. For example, whenever all in my class are doing what’s expected, they get a point toward an extra recess.
3. Establish Authority
Mrs. Brown leaned back and looked at Ms. Sneed intently. “Some people say that a teacher should not smile until fall break – or some nonsense like that. Now I don’t believe that. Being friendly helps build relationships with students. But there’s one thing I don’t want you to forget: You are the boss.
“Speak with authority. Be consistent. If you reflect on each decision you make and can rationally back it up, no one should question you.
“Furthermore, when you plan and prepare, things go more smoothly, and fewer problems arise.
“In a few weeks, the parents will come in for open house. It’s really important to prepare for that night. That way, you can confidently explain how your classroom will run. And parents will trust you.”
4. Plan Routines
Mrs. Brown picked up her coffee cup and took a sip. Then she continued. “Kids like to know what to expect. And they like to know what to do. If you establish routines, you’ll all be happier. So this weekend, I want you to think about routines you’ll establish at the beginning of the year. They don’t have to be perfect – it’s okay to change them if they’re not working. But it’s better to start with something.”
She slid another paper across the table. “Here are a few ideas to get you thinking. You can see that this goes hand in hand with the survey I gave you earlier.” Ms. Sneed read the list.
- Starting the day
- Asking to go to the bathroom
- Turning in assignments
- Turning in tests
- Working independently
- Going to the coat room
- Using the Chromebooks
“I like using signals,” said Mrs. Brown. “For example, when someone needs to use the bathroom, they can just hold up their hand like this. That way, it doesn’t interrupt the flow of learning. I just nod my head, and off they go.
“Other subtle signals – turning off the lights, standing in a certain place – help establish routines as well.”
5. Build a Community of Learners
“When you put learning first, kids notice,” Mrs. Brown said. “But it doesn’t hurt to say it too. My students hear me say, ‘Learning is #1,’ over and over.”
Ms. Sneed had been thinking about all that her mentor had told her. “It seems like all of the classroom management strategies build a community of learners,” she said. “If kids know what to expect and how to interact, it encourages community.”
“You’re right,” said Mrs. Brown. “Rules and routines do help build communities. Just think about the town where we live, or even our nation.”
The Importance of Consistent Classroom Management
“More than anything,” said Mrs. Brown, “keep consistent. Do what you say. Say what you do. Don’t back down. Keep it the same for everyone.
“It’s easier said than done. However, a consistent teacher generally has much better control of the classroom than an inconsistent one.”
The Necessity to Change Classroom Management
Mrs. Brown took a deep breath. “Well, that’s enough to think about for one day. It all boils down to this: Every teacher needs a big bag of classroom management tricks. No set of set of strategies works the same for all groups or all situations. So pick a few, try them, add some of your own, and switch it up.”
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.