Monday, April 9, 2018

Am I really starting to get this classroom management thing down?!?!?

This year I have a new para-educator in my room.  She's not new to the district, she's new to my classes.  I believe she and I started in this district around the same time (like 18 years ago, sheesh!).  Anyway, she was complimenting me on my control over the classroom and I was really taken aback by her comments because I've always felt that discipline was my weakest area.

I wanted to reflect on what might have changed over the years to have someone who sits in my class daily feel comfortable, where before I'm not so sure that was the case.  If I really do have any advice to offer to my younger, new-teacher self, this is what I would say:

It's not personal. 
The students are not misbehaving because they have a personal vendetta against you, it's because they are kids and kids need to test the limits.  It's also not personal when you follow through with the corresponding consequence.  My first few years, I had a lot of difficulty following through with the consequences with the "nice" kids.  Not only does this create a classroom control issue, you also risk these students thinking that you're friends.

Establish rules that you will carry out.  
Don't create a rule that you are not comfortable enforcing.  And don't make your rules too complicated or something that requires a lot of bookkeeping.  

Be consistent.  
You have to enforce all your rules all the time.  You slip up once and the students will call you on it.  Reread how it's not personal.

Get experience.
Okay, this isn't something you can just pick up at the store.  It takes time.  The first years, you'll be using rules and consequences based on your own schooling experience, the advice of other teachers, and your good old common sense.  After a while you'll find out what works best for you and your students.  

Remember to be nice.
This is the same as "It's Not Personal".  The students need to know that you didn't take their behavior personal either.  You still like them as a person.  You still respect them as a human being.  BUT you are going to provide safe boundaries for them.  Remove all your emotions from classroom management.  I repeat:  Remove all your emotions from classroom management.

Do not debate with the students.  
Oh, and they will want to debate, negotiate, beg, and plead.  Be ready for the sob stories, "But my mom said that I won't be able to go on the family vacation this summer if I get one more detention."  Remember: Remove all your emotions from classroom management.  Always follow through with your consequences.  I have wasted so much classroom time getting sucked into classroom rule debates.  

Don't ask questions, give direction.
Instead of "Would you like to take your seat now?"  say "Take your seat, please."  One thing I've learned is to not ask questions I don't want to know the answers to.  If I ask a student to take their seat, it sounds like I'm giving them an option, but if I politely remind them that it's time to take their seat, it sounds like I'm in charge.

Don't start your lesson until you have their attention and none of the students are talking.
If you start your lesson before the students settle down, the message you are sending is that you are okay with this.  If you wait until you have their attention, it lets them know that you will take control of this situation.  It also lets them know that what you are about to say is important and that you think they are important enough to hear it.

Sarcasm Doesn't Work
How do you feel when someone uses sarcasm on you?  Personally, I feel stupid and it makes me not want to try.

Never yell, unless someone's safety is at stake. 
Save yelling for when you really need to make a statement, like someone is about to be injured.  If you yell everyday, you never make a statement.

I still feel that I have a lot to learn about managing a classroom full of teenagers.  I can't honestly say that I do all of these all the time.  Do I still use sarcasm without thinking?  Sadly, yes.  Am I always nice?  No, not always.  But I'm working on it.  These are a few of the things that seem to be working for me with my classroom management.  What would you add to this list?

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