Saturday, December 8, 2007

Things I Have Learned Along the Way About Classroom Management

Joel, who blogs at So You Want To Teach?, has gotten me thinking about classroom management with his post today.

He mentioned being proactive. I agree with that! Be aware of what is going on in your classroom and deal with potential problems before they grow. Sometimes just letting a student know you are aware of what is going on the student will make a choice to change it. I think this is where "the look" comes into play.

Another key is routine, routine, routine. Thank you, Harry Wong for laying it out so easily for us. If you teach the routines early on and then stick to them. It is easy just to say, "Excuse me that is not how we do things around here." Usually, a student just needed that little reminder. Sometimes though, it would be a great opportunity to review and practice the routine. I would many times find myself having to do that in January.

Empower students with a choice instead of telling them to do something. This is something that I have recently gotten a lot better at. If I am unsure that a student is aware of what he is supposed to be doing I will simply ask. If they don't know, then I will explain. If they are aware, I will simply say then you have a choice to make. I continue on with, "If you choose not to follow the directions, I am going to ......" Usually, this will correct the problem. Most often I just have to say, "What are you supposed to be doing right now?"

Don't take it personally! Sometimes a student is just out to see how you react. Deal with the situation in a calm manner. Often, a soft answer that is firm will turn the situation around.

Separate the behavior from the child. Sometimes there are very viable reasons that a child is behaving in the this manner. Other times there is no apparent reason whatsoever and it will be a waste of precious time if you try. Some students are very tender and get upset when they are given consequences. This is a good time to explain that I am not mad at them but the consequence is the result of a choice they made. I remind them why they were given a consequence. Often, the consequence follows an unheeded warning. I also let them know that even I make mistakes sometimes and I don't expect them to be perfect.

Document almost everything! I learned this as a PreK teacher. Anedoctal notes are your friend. This helps if the behavior becomes a pattern and has to be looked at more closely. It also helps if a parent has a question about it. It is good to have an easy system set up in advance and to get in the habit of using it. I have to think about what this looks like for an elementary classroom. I think it will look different depending on what level you teach. This will also assist in making good instructional decisions for your students.

Tomorrow is a new day! Remember we all have those days every once in awhile. This is a good time to go home and leave your work at school. (I recently read a blog that compared it to closing a book, putting it on the shelf, and going home for the day. I will try to find it and link it to here.)

Two books that have really helped me are: The First Days of School by Harry K. and Rosemary T. Wong and Teaching Outside of the Box: How to Grab Your Students by Their Brains by LouAnne Johnson. Harry and Rosemary's book was very good for setting up routines and getting your year started. LouAnne's was a very enjoyable read.

As far as not smiling, I don't think I could do it. It would be very unnatural and ingenuine of me. Students are very intuitive and can spot a fake from far away. I do agree in the thought behind that statement. It is necessary to be firm. Some days I will say it is easier to be positive and happy than others. On those days I decide to have a good day for myself and I attempt remember not to take things personally. After those days are over I remember tomorrow is a new day.

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