Year after year, no matter what I’m working on for my goals, I always hear how great my classroom management is. Year after year, someone is always being sent to my classroom to observe me. I’m not really sure what specifically I do. When they come in and ask me questions, I answer them, but to say what specific “program” I subscribe to – I just don’t have one. I guess I just have always tried to do these things here.
These are the 15 (main) things I do keep my classroom under control.
1.) Every day, I get to school early and get prepared. I have noticed some other teachers that show up right when the bell rings, unlocking their door as the students line up outside their door. That doesn’t work for me. I need to be prepared and ready to go. If I’m ready, there’s no “playtime” for the kiddos. That leads me to my next point.
2.) Be organized. If I’m not organized, then I’m fumbling around looking for stuff. Guess what the kiddos are doing while I’m looking for something? That’s right, they are getting off track. When they are off track, it’s hard to get them back on track. So, I stay organized so I am always prepared. I always get to school early and pile everything I need for the day in a specific place.
3.) Set your rules, expectations, consequences, and so on all on the first day. I always set them a bit hard at first, because I don’t know what group I have. I can always lighten up later. Don’t start the first day thinking, “We will just get to know one another, and I’ll start the rules the next day.” DO. NOT. DO. IT. Start them the first day, and make sure everyone understands them.
4.) You have to be consistent. This one is HUGE. I think if I say anything on this list, this one is the most important one. Consistency is huge. Consistency leads to security. They know what to expect. Every year I hear at least once, “Your kids can run that classroom without you there.” That’s because of my consistency in routine!
5.) Follow through. You really can’t say consistency without follow through. I know it’s hard, really hard, when one of your never-messes-up students suddenly breaks a rule that an always-messes-up student does. Doesn’t matter. Consequences still have to be applied. It breaks your heart, but guess who is watching? The entire class. Consistency and follow through. (With that said, never use empty promises or threats.)
6.) Match the consequence to the choice. If a student repeatedly forgets their homework, that is not a discipline referral. It’s important that no matter how sick and tired you are of the same actions, you find a different consequence – but that it still matches the action.
7.) Practice, practice, practice. Model for students the behavior you expect. If you don’t want students interrupting, then don’t interrupt them or other staff members in front of them. They are always watching (always!). Role play in class the right way, the wrong way, and then the right way again.
8.) Check yourself. Make sure you are handling things right. Are you being reactive? Even though you may not be saying something out loud, our body language (especially mine!) always gives us away, and kids can read it. Make sure that you are not taking the behavior personally (easier said than done, sometimes). Instead, try recognizing the behavior of the student (it actually helps DE-escalate it.) “I can see that you are feeling frustrated…” Be friendly but firm and fair.
9.) Be flexible and give choices. I give choices, but they are always choices I’m willing to allow. I never provide a choice that I secretly hope and pray they don’t pick. You know how kids are – they have a radar, and they will pick the one you don’t want every time, so be safe and make them choices you can live with first.
10.) Get to know your students. The more you know your students, the more you know which students need a minute to calm down when they are upset or which ones to watch for certain cues. I have had students that I never knew anything was ever wrong until mom told me the next day in an email. You have got to know your students.
11.) Make sure your assignments are appropriate for your students. Seriously. If it’s too easy, then little Johnny will finish early, and he’ll find something else to do that will entertain him while he’s waiting on everyone else. Some little Johnnies will just quietly read a book, but other little Johnnies will not. You know what they will do. The opposite is true. If it’s too hard – gotta go to the bathroom, gotta look in my desk for 10 minutes, gotta wander around the room, and so on. Set it to their level.
12.) Use a variety of teaching methods. I am always moving my kiddos around. I learned a long time ago that the rule is really true about kids and their age. They really can’t sit very long. So, mix it up. Depending on their age, you need to change things up approximately every 10 minutes or so. As I said previously, students that get bored find other ways to entertain themselves.
13.) Give immediate feedback. This is one of the hardest for me, I’ll admit, but it’s so very important. I don’t want to blame society, but I think it’s easier for me to focus on the negative and not so much on the positive. For me, it’s easier to give feedback that requires a “change” in a student than feedback of “praise.” (I hope I’m not alone!) I have been trying hard to increase my positive praise. When we do give positive praise, it has to be specific. Instead of saying, “Great job, Julia,” we need to say something like, “I love how you listened today, Julia.” Then, she knows what specifically she did that was great. With that, if you need to give a reprimand, then make sure it’s very private. I have used proximity or given “the look” to a student. Then, after I started students on a lesson, I’ll pull them quietly to the hall to talk.
14.) Share a bit about yourself. Students take comfort in seeing your side beyond work. You don’t have to share everything – and I encourage you not to – but let them know you are human, and you make mistakes. It helps foster that relationship you need to build with them. Show your interests and humor. Show that you can have fun, too.
15.) Keep parents in the loop. It’s important that parents – even the ones that don’t seem involved – are kept up-to-date on the events in the classroom, both positive and not-so-positive. Parents will actually be willing to come to your side more if you show that you are not always so negative. Share good news with them. If you’re looking for how I keep my families in the loop, then check out one of my earlier posts about how I report behaviors (and there are freebies, too).
Happy Teaching! May you always have a successful year!