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.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more Josh!
I am currently in my internship semester and I was having a little classroom management trouble in my first few weeks, but once I learned the names of all of my students and got to know a bit more about them and their interests I find that I don't have nearly as much trouble.
I am guilty of giving my students some "busy-work" in my first few weeks as I become more comfortable and capable, but I have full intentions of being rid of any busy-work in the very near future.

Thank you for this post - it is great advice for a pre-service teacher such as myself, as well as for more experienced teachers who simply need a reminder.

Katie Hellerman said...

Josh I agree with everything you are saying.
One thing I might add...I've often been too quick to assume that misbehavior was caused by my lessons not interesting enough or I by the fact that didn't have a good enough relationship with kids....when in reality it was the clarity of the lesson that was causing the misbehavior. The kids were misbehaving because they just didn't get it.
Just something I've learned this week.
Thanks for the post!

Ms. Bastos said...

Hi Josh,
I am going to give four professional development sessions in my school related to what you wrote. I do not have rules in my classroom and students are free to go to the bathroom as they wish, just like in college. I work with teenagers and love every bit of it. Relationships are gifts that I cherish every day and they are the reason why I teach. Loving and having fun with students are the only two things that actually have meaning in classrooms. The content is nothing without those two things. Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us!

Anonymous said...

Your comments on building relationships with students are right on! And I agree that undergraduate classroom management courses need a redesign. I HIGHLY recommend, and wish someone shared these 2 resources with me during teacher training (instead of those unused binders full of management recommendations that don't focus on relationships). The first is "Teaching With Love and Logic," by Fay and Funk. It should be EVERY teacher's guidebook. Next is "The First Days of School" by Harry Wong. I don't know why all undergraduate teacher curriculum doesn't include this!

Again, your comments about building relationships with students is right on! I believe these two resources will significantly help those that ask the question, "How do I build a relationship with students?"

Christina Abel said...

As a student having taken a classroom discipline and management class I first wanted to start to disagree with you however,your blog post here had me looking at some websites and articles. Most of them all talk about setting clear boundries and letting students know your rules and the consequences of breaking those rules and sticking to them. This follows along the lines of what I was taught. However, I found one website called that had an article by Eric Groves Sr. that started out with the whole rules and consequences but mentions them as a starter before you get to know your students and the importance of building those relationships not just with you students but your parents. He says that it is as a teacher you should build relationships built on respect. He emphasizes the importance to modeling desired behaviors and praising students. He also says that you should smile at your students, say hi, inquire about friends and families, remember birthdays, etc.

This will be information that I keep in mind as I go into my clinicals and student teaching.

Amanda - Lewis Grad Stu. said...

Building relationships beyond student/teacher relationships is extremely important when dealing with students so I completely agree with that. In most classrooms students know to respect adults and more respect is shown when the student and adult have a good professional relationship. But what about the students who were never really raised in a way to respect adults? If authority is something that students have always struggled with then even if you have a good relationship with students the impact of a meaningful lesson will still be huge challenge. I have worked in a High School ED/BD classroom for 2 years now. Your statement that “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” I disagree with in this setting. I believe half the struggle in these classrooms is the power struggle. I have seen students who do have a good relationship with teachers continuously struggle for classroom power. Maybe it’s just the program that I work in, but what is the right way to manage a classroom when the classroom really manages itself?

Erin J said...

I agree with you that building relationships and having meaningful work is very important in maintain classroom management. However, I must strongly disagree with the statement that teachers should “build relationships and engage your students…all else is irrelevant” Personally, I believe that there are many other very relevant things needed to manage your classroom. For example, I have worked in the classrooms where there are students with learning disabilities mixed in with the regular education classroom. In this case no matter how engaging the activity was, the students with learning disabilities would typically act out and required extra attention in order to finish their work. In addition, there are often students who are very chatty, or simply do not care about school in general. In every classroom there are students who like to challenge authority. In order to manage the classroom properly it is important for students to have respect for their teacher, and for the teacher to follow through on discipline procedures. For example, if they do not complete homework maybe they skip recess, or they get a phone call home. If there is no respect for the teacher, or if the student feels they can do whatever they want in a teacher’s classroom with no consequence than in my experience that classroom and teacher will eventually lose control.

Yes, it is so very important for teachers to have positive relationships with their students and to gain better understandings of their students. However, that is only a part of managing a classroom not the whole. A student needs to understand the rules of the classroom. Most teachers set guidelines of when it is appropriate to talk and when it is time to listen. For example, if we just let our students do whatever they wanted in the class they would shout out answers whenever they wanted, feel free to have conversations with their peers, etc… Students need rules and boundaries. I believe that once our students understand how their teacher runs the classroom and gains a level of respect for their teacher, that is the time when more personal relationships can be formed. There needs to be rules/boundaries as well as relationships and engaging course work. Not just one or the other.

alastingwill said...

I don't think this is a one or the other. Yes, I see the importance of building relationships. However, I do not see this as a technique that I do at the exclusion of rules and consequences. For many of our students, thy are still at Lawrence Kohlberg's Level 1 and Level 2, where they behave because of punishments and rewards. Therefore, it is necessary to have a system in place to modify their behavior. That said, I do spend a lot of time privately talking to students about their behavior. I try to get them to think about the consequences of their actions to others and to their future, and I try to get them to articulate why it's not a good choice. I find that having repeated conversations with students about their behavior slowly changes their habits and their characters.

William - Classroom Resources For All