One of the trickiest aspects of teaching is devising a classroom management system that works for you and your students. Starting off on that first day with a clear idea of your management style is essential. We've all heard the clichés like, don't smile until Christmas and you can get nicer, but you can't get meaner when it comes to running our classrooms. The only truth to be uncovered from these dated classics would be that as teachers, our goal shouldn't be to befriend our students but to build a community of mutual respect where learning can flourish. Developing a classroom management system that outlines clear expectations and utilizes consistency will create an environment that's conducive to learning and fosters student growth with a few smiles tossed in during those first days!
Before developing a list of classroom expectations, be sure to review any district or building handbooks that may exist. While these may not correlate exactly with what you had envisioned for your personal classroom guidelines, you cannot contradict them. There may also be grade level, team, or department expectations in existence too. Once you've uncovered all the overlying expectations, you can delve into developing the procedures that will create the daily ins and outs of your classroom environment. When devising a list of expectations for the classroom keep it simple, yet all-encompassing. For example, Be Prompt, Be Prepared, and Be Polite, will go a long way in covering the bases. Students can assist in the breakdown of the various nuances of the classroom's overarching expectations. A fun activity in the first few days would be to web out these big ideas with students and have them work with you to outline clear statements for the classroom management expectations. These webs can remain posted for the duration of the school year and be modified as needed.
- Be Prompt. Be in class before the bell rings. Have your work done on time. Follow directions when they're given.
- Be Prepared. Come to class with everything you need to complete your work (paper, pencil, book, devices, etc.). Complete your reading, assignments, etc. that are needed before you get to class.
- Be Polite. (This is a huge one for me.) Be polite and respectful to the teacher and each other. Respect the opinions of others. Give everyone a chance to speak/share.
When expectations have been developed, be consistent in enforcing them. You can't let something slide when the infraction comes from an unlikely source. Students are always watching and will take their cues from you. If they see you bending the rules on occasion, they'll want to do the same. The students who find themselves being disciplined the most will also be the ones who are most attuned to someone else breaking the rules. Consistency is key when trying to avert negative behaviors. Don't let it slide unless you are ready to let your control of the classroom and your students' respect for you slide too.
As a safe and consistent classroom environment develops, so will the everyday routines and techniques for keeping the classroom running smoothly. Education World offers some excellent tips on behavior management1 and the proven teacher tactics at the bottom are worthy of a perusal too. I especially like parents as allies (#4) and breaking up the class (#6). For those parents who get frequent communications about negative behavioral issues, reaching out about a good day or a positive experience can go a long way too. If a student receives praise at home for positive behaviors, he or she will be more likely to repeat said behaviors for continual praise.
A clear set of expectations and a consistent enforcement of them will go a long way toward creating a positive classroom environment. Classroom management can be a slippery slope if you don't determine your style right out of the gate. You can't expect students to follow the expectations unless you've clearly defined them and continually support them. A system that works for you and your students will have smiles blossoming and learers flourishing from day one!
Additional Resources & Works Cited
1. Education World Behavior Management