Do you have a few students that are on your last nerve? Are you feeling like nothing you do is working to keep your class on task? Are your students having trouble getting along?
If you answered YES, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there at one time or another.
When I first started teaching I had the great grace of team teaching with a master teacher. What a blessing! I was the blind leading the blind after all. Fresh from college, no kids of my own and only my year of student teaching under my belt. HELP! The best advice Jan gave me? Velvet over steel.
Have a backbone of steel and a velvet touch. Know your boundaries and don't compromise while always treating your students with dignity.
Answer these questions as fully as you can.
What are your non-negotiables? What are you not willing to compromise on EVER?
What behaviors or interruptions drive you crazy?
How do you want students to treat each other?
How do you want your students to treat you and other adults they interact with?
Who do you want your students to be when they think no one is watching?
How do you want students to move around your room at various times of day?
Get a good picture in your head of how you want your classroom to run. Then, you can decide on steps you need to take to reach that ideal classroom culture. Grab my [free] Classroom Management Inventory here.
Maybe you want better routines for transitions or cleanup. Perhaps your students are having trouble behaving in the restrooms or hallways when they think grownups are not watching. Are your students interrupting your small group time when the should be working independently? Do you have a lot of tattling going on or sneaky mean whisperers? Perhaps your students are ungrateful or aren't taking pride in their work.
Do you have trouble when you’re teaching the whole class? How’s your pacing? Are students getting bored? Adjust how much interaction students have - share with a partner, 30 seconds to write your answer down in picture form…
What about when you are teaching in small groups? Do your student have trouble working independently? Time to retrain and practice.
Consistency is the key to success in creating a well-run classroom with a great culture. Without consistency, nothing we try will work. We will always have to micro-manage our students if we are inconsistent. So, look yourself in the mirror every morning and consciously decide to be consistent.
Once you have a list. Choose just one or two items on your list to fix at a time. Once you get into a good routine with those (about 2 weeks straight of being consistent), add in a couple more. Practice being consistent with each item until they are habits.
Really struggling with consistency? Slow down and re-group. Find one thing that will make a difference in your classroom and work on being consistent with just that until it's a habit. One item at a time until you feel you can do more. Be patient. Better to do it right and really get it under control.
Now, throw away that marble jar. Get rid of the incentive parties. Quit begging and bribing your students to behave. Here's why.
We are training further generations of lawmakers, doctors, police officers, teachers, parents, etc. The only way they will grow up to be grownups is if they learn to behave because it's the right thing to do. No rewards needed.
What are your expectations? What’s really important to you? Hold students to it every time. Decide what you will do every time one of your students misses the mark. This is your opportunity to train them. Don't miss it.
Put love on your voice. Kindly, but firmly, let them know they have stepped over the mark and what the consequence is. Move on. No lectures. No threats. No discussion. Just follow through every time. This is true kindness and love. Waffling or being inconsistent says you don't believe in your students' potential. It says you don't care about them. It also says you’re not committed to being in charge. Put your class on equal footing - no favorites. Relieve stress and give them peace of mind knowing there’s an adult in charge, and it’s not a free for all in your classroom.
We train students to treat us (and each other) a certain way whether we intend to or not. If we let unacceptable behaviors slide by, then we are telling students those behaviors are ok.
When I first started teaching, I would cut our time too close and not leave enough time to clean up. My students would rush to get ready to go home and leave me with the mess. I was so frustrated, but I kept letting it slide. I had trained my students to not clean up. Eventually my inadvertent "leave your mess for the teacher" rule spilled into the rest of our day and I had to re-group, retrain and start fresh t get rid of it.
I know it’s easier to just do some things ourselves at times, but it’s not ok to take that learning away from your students. Learning responsibility is important and empowering for our students.
Now, I am a forgetter. I have to write things down. So, I have a book I write down each infraction in: a page for each student. I have students turn to their page and put the date and the incident. Then, the student gets a Stop and Think sheet. Students fill in what they did (or draw a picture for little ones). I add any notes and it goes home with the student. - parent signs and student signs. Then, the form comes back to me and is filed.
I know for me, the more I am up and interacting with my students, the better they do. My staying involved says I care, they matter and their thoughts are important. Sitting behind a teacher desk or turning my back to them when I am teaching at the board is more often than not a recipe for disaster. I turn my body so I can see my students, talk with them and still see what I am writing on the board. I find the more eye contact I have with my students, the better everyone's day goes.
Bonus: Double duty. Get your 10,000 steps in so you don't have to go home and exercise after school.
What are you waiting for?! Grab the Classroom Management Inventory and get to it! Make a plan to get back on track with your classroom management. Treat yourself and your students with the respect and love that you all deserve. It will change your year for the better.
P.S. Remember, every word we say has great power for good or evil in a child's life (no matter how old they are). Be a force for good and it will change your class culture dramatically. Make a point to always speak kindly and respectfully. Your students deserve it because they are just as precious in God's eyes as you are. (And yes, you are precious.)
Don’t forget to grab your [free] Classroom Management Inventory here.