You stand in front of your class, ready to dive into the lesson for the day. Before you speak your first complete sentence, two students start an audible conversation in the back of the room. And from the corner of your eye, you notice a boy in the front taking things out of his desk. Before you can deal with those two issues, you’re interrupted by a fourth student, who yells out a question from the periphery.
It’s not even 9 AM and you’re already feeling a little overwhelmed.
If this sounds like a typical morning, you’re not alone! No matter where you teach, classroom management is paramount to learning. Fair or not, part of your performance evaluation will depend upon how well you manage your classroom so that student behavior doesn’t create a barrier to learning. So, let’s look at some key ingredients for a well-managed classroom.
Does anyone not want to get better at classroom management? Even the most experienced teachers can find ways to make their classrooms more welcoming and productive places. But for new teachers, classroom management can feel make it or break it.
If you’ve had a rough year, congratulations on getting through it!
This summer, let’s settle in and learn how to get better at classroom management.
The daily craziness of being a teacher can make it hard to stay organized. Just when you’ve got your desk cleared off, stacks of papers come flying in. Or right after you spent time tidying up, in come students to mess everything up again.
This summer, you won’t have students in your classroom. You won’t even be in your classroom! But that doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking about how to make classroom organization go more smoothly next year. In fact, taking a step back and planning systems that work can be more productive than acting reactively to every pile of papers.
If you’re looking to get better at organization, these resources can help!
Managing a class isn’t easy! Before you can teach content, you need to create a positive learning environment (check out our Class Culture Deep Dive for tips on how to do that). Building culture is a long process, one that eventually makes management easier. But what do you do when you need your class to calm down and focus? Or how do you deal with a student who is outright defiant?
There’s an urban legend in education that says new teachers will begin their careers as “roamers,” or traveling teachers, in overcrowded high schools. I suppose I was an anomaly. I had my own, beautiful classroom for my first year of teaching, but the glory was short lived. I became a “roamer” in my second year. Traveling to five different classrooms — one for each passing period — isn’t exactly thrilling. Needless to say, I was very disappointed to be displaced.
Was I really going to let this little setback ruin my year? Of course not!
Rather than looking at my new situation as a problem, I used this experience as an opportunity to try something brand new; something completely outside the box. I would redefine classroom. I would build a mobile app — a “mobile classroom” to fill the void.
As a new teacher, I remember my greatest fears: students would run wild, it would be impossible to get their attention, and my class would be out of control. I thought a lot about rules and consequences, making plans for different types of disturbances. Though my class still felt pretty crazy, I found comfort in my plans for order.
But all my thinking about classroom management neglected one important thing: classroom culture. I was so concerned with keeping my class under control that I forgot to spend time developing a positive classroom culture.
Most new teachers plan to create calm and productive classrooms. But as we all know, things don’t always go as planned. When I observe new teachers, I often see them using a great selection of classroom management tools: counting down, waiting for all students’ attention, giving consequences, reminding the class of the class agreements… and on and on.
But sometimes when teachers are so focused on classroom management, entire lesson periods are spent trying to get students on task. This is exhausting for both teachers and students — teachers never get a chance to truly teach, and students never get a chance to learn the content.
To say that the first year of teaching is challenging would be an understatement. There are so many moving parts to manage and so many new things to learn that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start. Keep it simple and start with these small teaching tweaks.
1. Reset and reteach.
The beginning of the New Year is the perfect time for a new start. Your students will benefit from practicing classroom routines and procedures. This time of year also makes for a natural opportunity to shift routines and practices that haven’t been working. If you discover, for example, that your pencil sharpening procedure isn’t going as well as you’d hoped, reset and create a procedure that works better for you and your students.
When I first started teaching, I was passionate and loved my subject area, but I was clueless when it came to classroom management. My teacher preparation program gave me no specific strategies, so I went into the classroom thinking that if I had a well-planned lesson, classroom management would take care of itself.
I, like many teachers, learned about classroom management the hard way, through trial and error. Now, after ten years in the classroom and five years coaching teachers, I want to share three things I wish I had known.
1. Teach Time-Saving Routines and Procedures
One morning during my first year of teaching, I was entering attendance at my desk. When I looked up, every student in my class had rotated their desks so they were all facing the wall. They continued working as if nothing had happened. It was bizarre and frustrating; if they were capable of doing this so efficiently, why did it take an eternity to get into reading groups or lined up for lunch? I didn’t think I needed to teach middle-schoolers how to enter a classroom — they’ve been doing this for years! It turns out I was wrong.
Thank you to everyone who attended our #TchLIVE chat on September 25th. What a turnout! We came away with some great insight and ideas for classroom management. Read an archive of the chat below.
Want a reminder about future chats on Twitter? Sign up for our Remind class and receive timely reminders: remind.com/join/tchlive.