I was just looking at the Poll Results that are coming in this week on the latest poll “Best Classroom Management Practice is managed by…”.
Initially, I was actually surprised that the “5 years of more Experience” is rivaling “school leadership” in a neck-to-neck tie. I put in my vote (had to tip that little baby over the edge!)
I mean, I know that’s what we are told in Teachers College: that classroom management comes with time.
But then I always said Teachers College was a lot of codswallop.
Does Experience Dictate Ability?
I don’t think Classroom Management has much to do with time or experience at all.
Certainly, we become more able to deal ‘on our feet’ with poor behavior as we experience the dynamics of more classrooms–but once you learn a few mantras ( that’s really all there is to discipline) then it all comes down to consequences.
It’s not only up to the school leadership team to deliver consequences. As a teacher, we all have the initial responsibility as we strive to build a class rapport, to help our students know where the boundaries are.
On that note, my poll is probably not being quite fair enough to everyone. Oh well, you win some you lose some.
The point is, there are a few mantras that anyone can learn to significantly improve their classroom management.
I’m an expert on High School discipline, so I’m going to gear my answers to this age group. (It’s probably not realistic to try to use reason with a 7 year old–and I recognize that my skills do not lie with Primary aged children).
The key to classroom management best practice is to understand teenagers, in order to get them to cooperate.
How to Achieve Best Practice Classroom Management:
These are my rules:
- Emotionally, teenagers are basically adults. They are aware of social awkwardness and they have a moral code of what is right or wrong. You can reason with them on this note, but if you don’t show respect for their emotions and their own intellectual reasoning, you’ll never get them to cooperate. How many adults would take such a crappy approach? They’d flip you the bird and ignore you, too.
- All students are basically good, kind individuals (1). As such, these teens are pretty keen to have adult approval–even if they act like they don’t (2). Explaining poor behavior in terms of how it affects the teacher is extremely compelling. Most kids have no idea that what they are doing upsets you. If you explain it to them in these gentle terms, they’re very likely to be cautious never to do it again.
- Always discipline 1-0n-1 and with a smile. If you come at someone in public, they are likely to front you. You will be much more likely to succeed if you take a 1-on-1 approach–especially for ‘attention seekers’ (even if they don’t look like text-book cases). Old enough to take care of themselves, and to bail out on ‘family time’ for homework reasons, and to see their parents imperfections–most teens are starving for external adult attention.
- Regarding the Making of Mistakes (3). It’s best to develop them with the student, or to have set rules. But remember, you are there to facilitate their learning and to nurture them. You can’t expect yourself to be perfect; apologies for your mistakes thereby teaching them to as well. Consequences should be fair, consistent and just.
- Follow up! If you say you’re going to give a detention to anyone ‘without their homework’, or ‘without their record book’ or whatever your classroom rules are–then DO IT. Young adults have an acute sense of justice. If you don’t deliver on your word, why should they? You have to develop an atmosphere of trust in your classrooms in order for your kids to want to work with you–that’s real management skill.
(1) Hopefully most students you encounter will not have had such a horrible life that they’ve learned never to give adults a second chance. It’s a different story if your teenager has already encountered all the violence and horrible adult liars and knows their game. But luckily, this isn’t the case with most students.
(2) If you have grown up with a reason not to expect consistent behaviour from the adults around you–you’re prety likely to be cautious when you meet new people. I think this leads to many teens/people acting with a sense of disdain for anyone ‘new’.
(3) Keep in mind, that people/teens will always boundary-push. Would you do a homework assignment if you had something better on? Save yourself the headache of learning this Human Truth. Just because a student voices the “this is stupid” opinion–that’s not a reflection of the intelligence of your assignment. Don’t take it personally. Instead, try to find out why they’d use that word. Chances are, there’s something deeper. In my experience, this ‘disengaging’ behavior is often because the task is very difficult and the kid is anxious he/she won’t be able to do it.