This morning, a member of my Twitter PLN shared a link to an article titled “5 Killer Classroom Management Tips.” Of course, I wanted to check it out. As a mentor to new teachers and a cooperating teacher for university students, I am always on the lookout for tips to help with this most difficult part of teaching. Immediately after reading it, I was struck the wrong way. I re-tweeted the article, asking my PLN if they agreed with the tips. Only one person responded, but it sat on my brain all day. I decided to make this the focus on today’s “In the Trenches” because I think some of these “killer” tips would be more effective in actually killing your classroom management. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t entirely disagree with the points mentioned here, but I need to explain more. I also include 5 of my own tips for classroom management.
Tip One: Post Classroom Rules
Well, sure, it is important for students to know what you expect, but that’s what they are… expectations. Our school has a Sacred Path that all staff and students are expected to follow. Our expectations are:
1. Be responsible.
2. Be respectful.
3. Be truthful.
4. Be caring.
These are the “rules” in my class, but I’m not sure that they come across in the way shared in this article. Before my current school, my classroom rule was a question.
Does your behavior help others to learn and me to teach?
Tip Two: Set Up a Discipline Policy
This is the one that burned me and is a huge pet peeve. The warnings that they outline here are the norm, but when the author recommends sending warning slips to the administration, I was shocked. In my experience, the number one thing that teachers need to do is maintain the authority in their own classrooms. I do not send students to the office for disciplinary issues other than the “non-negotiables” (fighting, extreme bullying, etc.) Failure to bring your homework or a pencil or excessive chatting in class is not a discipline issue. These are management. It is important to differentiate between the two. Involving the student and parents in classroom discipline and management are essential. When you hand over trivial issues, like lack of a pencil, to a building administrator, you lose your credibility and authority with your student. Frankly, I think my students would rather be sent to the office sometimes. They know I will be tougher on them because I know their strengths and abilities and won’t accept excuses.
Tip Three: Teach Students to be Active and Engaged
There are many things here that I agree with, but the emphasis needs to be on the teacher. We must plan lessons that are active and engaging. We can’t just expect students to know how engage themselves. If we plan lessons that are inherently gripping for our students, we won’t need to coax them into correct behaviors. They will already be along for the ride.
Tip Four: Be a Presence in the Classroom
It is true that we need to create an inviting and engaging learning environment for our students, but the greatest way to do this is how you treat your students. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your bulletin boards are or how neat your posters are hung if your students don’t feel welcome, safe and appropriately secure. Being a presence in the classroom requires being a positive presence in your students’ lives.
Tip Five: Use “I Messages”
I have some reservations about this one as well. My classroom management isn’t about “me.” It’s about ensuring learning in my classroom. Behind every contrary classroom behavior, there is an underlying issue, and that issue is not about me. Understanding and improving student behavior is about the student. Until students realize that they are valued and prioritized, they won’t really care about the “I.”
If I were to write 5 tips for classroom management, they would be…
1. Know your students.
What gets your students excited about learning? What makes them want to come to school? Who is in charge of watching her baby brother every night
when her mom goes to work? Who will work his rear end off for the football coach and knows every player and all his stats? This information is priceless.
2. Set clear and appropriate expectations.
Know what you need in order to create a safe and orderly learning environment, with the focus on the abilities of you to teach and others to learn.
3. Choose your battles.
5. Plan excellent learning experiences.
Planning engaging lessons that meet students where they are and appropriately challenge them will negate any classroom management plan. You won’t need it.