We all want to have well-managed classrooms and students who reach their potential. Creativity, curiosity and independent thinking and learning (think lifelong learners), are certainly things we hope for with our students. But, what makes for the best environment to promote these in our students? Well, it starts with something that seems counter-intuitive to creativity and independence, structure.
“I have finally realized that the most creative environments in our society are not the kaleidoscopic environments which everything is always changing and complex. They are, instead, the predictable and consistent ones— the scholar’s library, the researcher’s laboratory, the artist’s studio. Each of those environments is deliberately kept predictable and simple because the work at hand and the changing interactions around that work are so unpredictable and complex.”
Lucy Calkins, The...
I know spending time managing a class and dealing with behavior problems is not the fun stuff or the reason we all got into teaching. But the reality is once we actually become teachers, we realize teaching isn't all unicorns and rainbows. In fact, how confident and skilled you are in managing your class can make or break your year.
I find that teacher mindset is the biggest hurdle to great classroom management. I know that sounds bold and it is. But, it's true. When we have a mindset of fear, lack of confidence or self-doubt or other mental hindrances to taking charge, there isn't a system in the world that will work. We have to get our mindset right. You CAN and SHOULD take charge. Someone has to steer the ship and if that's NOT you, it will be your students [and that won't end well].
Take the time before school starts to do my ...
Did classroom management get you down this year? You're not alone! It's tough to train and manage a class well. There are lots of pieces to successful classroom management. But, let's start with just a few.
The more complicated your classroom management system, the harder it is to implement on a daily basis. Here's where I put on my inner Marie Kondo of the Classroom Management world. Simple is best. Simple expectations and consequences are easily remembered and followed by everyone. I have only 2 written expectations (rules) for students and myself. They cover pretty much everything. You can do more if you prefer. But when you get to more than 5 expectations or rules, it's too complicated.
While I know this is something many of you don't want to hear, I firmly believe it needs to be said out loud. I have 5 kids of my own and more than 20 years of teaching experience. Begging or bribing...
Someone once told me...
Classroom management is like that. It's also the one thing that can make or break your school year.
When we're at university, we spend a lot of time learning how and what to teach. We also learn about laws, theory and all kinds of minutia. Classroom management is taught, but it's such a hard thing to grasp until you're faced with an entire class on your own.
When you get to make up the rules, begin the year any way you want and every decision rests firmly on your shoulders, classroom management is an entirely different animal. It seems so simple. You have rules and consequences and the students fall into line, right?!
Nothing could be further from the truth. There will always be those students who are natural "rule followers" and "pleasers". On the other hand, there's always those who have to push the envelope, nudge your boundaries...
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...
Do you ever come to school with nothing left? Seriously. There are times I get up in the morning and think, I have nothing left to give. I’m not being lazy or selfish, just out of gas.
Well, our students have those days too. Actually, some students have a lot of those days. Here’s what to do about that.
Become a bucket filler. Figure out what helps each student feel cared about. It's actually pretty simple. Ask students in your class what they would like best out of a few options. Make a graph and give each student 2 post-its to put their name on. Have them place the notes on their 2 favorite ways to know they're cared about.
For some kids it’s a random high five or a class handshake. An acknowledgment of their hard work can really make some students days. Perhaps it’s taking time to talk with them, ask a question or share a joke for minute. They just want a little snippet of your time. Other students...
I know it’s often easier to just do many of the tasks around your classroom yourself, at least in the short run. In the long run, training students to take on these tasks is a boon not only for you but for your students as well.
Here’s some of what students learn from a well-managed routine for classroom jobs.
responsibility (getting it done without being asked)
follow-through (doing the job “all the way”)
honesty (letting the teacher know if something goes wrong or there’s a problem)
self-mastery (doing the job even on days they don’t “feel” like doing it)
kindness (helping the class as a whole, treating others kindly as they go about the work)
generosity (giving of their time, going the extra mile to do things right, doing extra if needed)
organization (keeping track of the steps or tasks and getting them all accomplished)
teamwork (working with others to accomplish a task, working as a...
Sometimes the day to day in the classroom can get frustrating when we feel like we can’t get ahead or are repeating directions constantly. You know me, I’m all about organization and systems. So…here’s 3 tricks to make your teacher life a little bit easier.
Have highlighters (and pencils) next to you turn in bin. Train your students to highlight their name before they put their paper in the bin. this will eliminate 95% of no name papers. Sure a few will get through the cracks, but it will be the rare exception.
Strategy: Allow student 1 free bathroom trip in the morning and one in the afternoon. In addition, students can go at recess and lunch as usual. Emergencies will happen, but there needs to be time made up for more trips unless there is a medical reason.
Tracking: Draw a line down horizontally across the middle of a sheet of paper. Write AM on the top...
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...
As we head into the end of 2018, life gets busier and kids get antsy. Mean words can sneak out as students come impatient with each other. Or perhaps you just have one of those sneaky word bullies in your class. You know the ones, the sneaky ones that like to whisper mean things to tear others down. The ones that like to say mean things in front of a whole group of kids to get a reaction and an audience. They like to turn everyone against one person.
If you think it doesn’t then you’re not paying attention. Kids are just like adults, they have bad days, bad examples of behavior for home or media, and just get frustrated. They can take their frustration and insecurities out on others very easily.
A friend came to me the other day for advice about a word bully in her daughter’s class. Girls can some of the cutest and meanest people on the face of the earth. I’m talking wicked mean. Another girl (who used to be her friend) is a master at the...
Every teacher wants their students to become committed readers. Here's a simple "how to" cheat sheet you can provide to help PARENTS support their kids in their reading journey. I call it the Sneaky Parent's Guide to Growing Readers because it's filled with loving, savvy tips to make reading feel fun and desirable.