Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Classroom Management 101

Many people will share their ideas about classroom management and how to go about controlling kids or keeping order in their classrooms. They will tell you how to create rules and how to keep the kids in line so you can teach your lessons without interruptions. If they are really thorough they might even provide a list of consequence and a nice detention slip as a bonus for you. I even recall in my undergrad work creating a “Classroom Management Binder” for one of my courses. It was several pages of undergraduate ignorance of what I thought was going to keep my class running smoothly with no behavior or disciplinary problems.

Looking back, I now see the futility in such an activity. It is not possible to control kids and anyone that says otherwise is way off base. If I were to do the assignment again I would have one piece of paper in it. On that piece of paper would be this phrase: Build relationships and engage your students…all else is irrelevant. This is all you need to keep a class moving in a positive learning direction.

Building relationships is not a new concept or some radical idea and yet so many never see its true value. Kids will typically not engage in a power struggle or misbehave in a classroom lead by a teacher that has taken the time to foster a positive relationship. This can be done within the classroom but often takes place in the hallway, the gym, or even in the cafeteria. Talking to students and learning about them as kids goes a long way in the classroom. I play bombardment with my students during the winter intramural season. When I have students throwing balls at me before school, I can guarantee you a connection is made that will pay dividends in the classroom. Students are far less likely to act out or exhibit inappropriate behaviors with someone that has an interest in them beyond simply a student-teacher relationship. This is not something that can be forced or demanded but instead must be nurtured and fostered. For me the key is to find that “hook” or connection I can make. Sometimes that connection is a common interest in a sport or novel and other times is a shared hatred of the Yankees or green peppers. Whatever that hook is, find that connection and build that relationship.

Engaging your students in meaningful work is one of the most underrated and yet most powerful classroom management tools available. In my experience, kids will act up/out when they are given busy work, boring work, or basic work. If a student is not challenged by the work or it is given to fill time, you can expect behavior problems. Boredom is also a huge part of this and can cause significant problems in a classroom. When students are bored, they find other things to occupy their time. Many times this will manifest itself as misbehaving. The next time a student is misbehaving in the class, first look at what you are doing before asking the student to stop. Often time’s teachers are the root of the problem due to the work they are asking students to do. I have yet to witness a student misbehave when engaged in meaningful work.

What are you doing to build those relationships with your students and what work are you engaging them in on a daily basis? This simple question is the key to a successful classroom management plan.
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