When you’re studying to be a teacher, you dream of a classroom filled with eager, well-behaved children enraptured by your carefully-crafted lessons. Then you step into your first classroom…and quickly realize you need behavioral strategies — ASAP!
A “perfect” class doesn’t just happen. It is created through consistent, compassionate, and well-planned classroom management strategies.
Here are five tips to get you started on creating and maintaining your own “perfect” class.
1. Get your hands on a copy of The First Days of School by Harry Wong. I read this book every year at the beginning of the school year to be reminded of key classroom management techniques (and the book is chock full of them!). The author stresses that you teach procedures first — from passing in papers to entering the classroom. These things matter!
We are often so interested in starting our content work that we want to start the year there. But taking time to teach procedures will pay off in the long run! Think about the procedures that make your class run smoothly. What do you want students to do when they enter your classroom? What are the routines that you’ll consistently apply to classwork? Make sure students know and understand those procedures.
2. Have a few simple rules. More rules = more confusion. A simple class rule like “Respect yourself and respect others” covers a huge amount of territory. The beauty of a simple rule (or class mantra!) is that you can remind your students of it in one sentence. If kids are acting up in the hall, “Respect yourself and others, Class” is a quick reminder that there are other classes working or we keep our hands and feet to ourselves.
3. Teach the rules — repeatedly. Just because your classroom rules are on the wall doesn’t mean the students will follow and understand them. Ask students to brainstorm what the rule looks like when students are following it, and what it looks like when students aren’t. Perhaps keep a running list on your wall of ideas your class comes up with.
We know repetition is important for learning. So, come back to the rules again and again throughout the year. It only takes a few minutes to refresh the concept — especially prior to times like holidays, parties, special programs (or thunderstorms!) that increase the likelihood of inappropriate behavior.
4. Respect your class. Look into the face of each child who walks into your room and acknowledge him or her as a unique, precious human being. A child of the universe. The future. As teachers, we have the truly awesome (and I mean that in the literal meaning of the word!) privilege of having these children in our care.
How do you respect a child? If you’re not familiar with Love and Logic, you should check out this amazing resource that teaches how to build respect with simple words and actions. At the core of Love and Logic is empathy. If you stay empathetic to students, you will respect them.
5. Even though your superpower may be teaching…you are still human. And you will have “kryptonite” that will throw you off your game — a student that gets under your skin, a day you are tired and lose your temper, a lesson that falls apart. But the beautiful thing about teaching is that every day is a new day.
Find a mentor teacher who has that magical ability to keep her class calm in spite of the first snowflake of the season, bees in the classroom, unexpected visitors, or fire alarms. Ask that teacher for help. Teachers are a very generous bunch!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your team or administrators. If you are truly struggling with behavioral problems, don’t wait. You don’t want to dread coming to school everyday in anticipation of a class being hijacked by behavioral issues, and small problems and habits can quickly take on a life of their own.
Before you know it, you’ll have a class that is a dream come true!