Yes, your consistency matters, but great classroom management is more than that. It's more than cute tricks like lights with the volume level on them or a bell or chime to get students attention. Classroom management might start with your boundaries, rules and consequences, but it also includes your systems and how you train (or don’t train) your students.
No matter what classroom management systems you use, you MUST take time to train your students or it will fail. Why? Well, it will always be you managing your student's behavior. What we really want, even when we don't know it, is for our students to learn how to manage themselves. We owe it to our students to teach them self-management. It's a life skill.
Sometimes we forget that students don’t just "know" how to “follow the rules” or even how to reasonably move about the room.
As a new teacher, I set up my classroom, had my behavior management system ready and was mentally prepared (I thought) for anything. Well, no one taught me how to train my students. I thought they'd just "catch on" when I told them what I expected. Ha! The frustration I felt every time a student squeezed between desks (if there's light coming through it's a walkway), shouted out, were off task... Let's just say it wasn't pretty.
The problem was, I had a vision in my head of how things should go but my students didn't have the script. Once I learned how to train my students and help them practice their parts, classroom management was so much easier.
Don’t go there! Once you have your boundaries, rules and consequences figured out, it’s time to plan how you’re going to train your students. It’s also time to decide on other systems, expectations and procedures you will have in your classroom.
How and when will your students move about the classroom? When must they stay in their workspace? When is a good time to interrupt a teacher? When is it not? How do papers get turned in and when? The list goes on and on. Take the time to make that list.
More often than not, when a teacher comes to me for classroom management help, I find they have not taken the time to define their systems and/or train their students in their expectations for each one. It’s a time consuming but worthwhile effort. It will make every day easier, smoother and less stressful for both you and your students. Teaching time and on task time increases. We all accomplish more for having made the investment of time to train in the beginning.
Being clear helps your students know their role, builds trust in you and reduces stress from uncertainty for everyone. It is your duty to train your students. It will help them develop self-control and be better classroom citizens. You teaching time will increase because on-task time increases as a direct result of your efforts. #win
Begin by ranking in order of importance all of your systems. Choose the 3 most important to train your students in the first few days. Define the system you are training your students in.
Do this several days in a row. Once students are consistently doing well with a system, you can add in another.
When there are problems, retrain the class. If there is only one or two students that seem to be having a problem, have them do-over each time they get it wrong. Try again. If having an audience (the rest of the class) becomes a real problem, have them practice at recess. They’ll get it.
Every time you have an extended break - Christmas or Spring Break - review ALL systems when school resumes. Never assume your students remember what to do. Assume they have forgotten, just in case they have. I treat it as if I have forgotten and they need to retrain me. Students LOVE this. Have fun with it.
So, are you frustrated with your classroom management? Good news! It's never too late to go back and train your students.