Monday, August 20, 2012

Classroom Mismanagement

"Never let them see you smile the first week of school. After that, you can ease up. It's easier to be tough and lighten up than be nice and lay down the law." This is one of the first pieces of advice I remember about being an educator and dealing with classroom management.

Classroom Mismanagement seems like a better term to describe what I was told. Even at the time, I thought it was weird, but, what did I know. I was just a new teacher struggling to keep my head above water. I'm not sure any teacher knows what they are doing with classroom management during that first year. All of the books in the world cannot prepare anyone for becoming the leader in the classroom of 30 teenagers for 48 minutes 5 times a day. I really want to share the advice I wish I had been given to all of you out there stressing about school starting and classroom management.

1. Remember the individual - As much as it is easy to lump all students into one mold, it is crucial to remember that each student is different and need to be talked to in that way. Blanket punishment or blanket edicts from the teachers never work. There are some standard classroom rules that will apply to the majority of students, but there will be many that need to altered for certain students.

Example: A classroom rule that requires a student to raise their hand and ask to to go to the bathroom is a standard rule that applies for the vast majority of students. Except the student that has certain medical issues and can't wait to to be called on. They get to get up and go without making a big scene.

2. Things do not need to be fair, just equal - This was a tough one to understand as a first time teacher and it is something that only comes from experience. Creating "in stone" rules, as stated previously, can only cause problems when things need to be changed for certain students. Often, students will say that it is not fair. I have learned that there are many things in life that are not fair, but my job is to make it as equitable as possible. I make sure to tell students that certain situations might not seem fair, but they will always be equal.

Example: Johnny has an essay due on Monday like the majority of class. George is allowed to turn the essay in on Tuesday because he needs to use the school's computer to finish his essay because his house does not have one. Only George and I know this information, so it appears that is not fair to the other students in class. However, we know that the "extra time" is to help George keep up with the rest of class.

3. Let the kids have a voice - I try to make time in the first semester to let the students create some rules for the class. It's a great way to create ownership in the classroom. If a student breaks a rule they created, their is a sense of responsibility there. No arguments over consequences or fairness because the students were the ones that created and implemented the rules.

Example: Students tend to set rules regarding late work. It is always an interesting conversation when students rationalize why late work should be accepted and what expectations teachers should have of students and assigned work. Most of the time, the "late work" rule they come up with is what I have traditionally created on my own.

4. Keep them in class - The gut reaction of some teachers is to send the disruptive student to the principal. This is the worst practice when it comes to dealing with students. More often than not, that is exactly what the student wants. It is ok to send the student in the hall for a minute and give the class something to discuss while you talk to the student. It is important to find out what is going on with the student. I have learned more from my "disruptive" students by talking to them in the hallway than I ever could by pushing them off on the admins. Also, when you have to send a student to the principal for a serious matter, the admins take it very seriously because you never send students down.

Example: Timmy decided to say inappropriate things during class discussion multiple times after being warned. He was asked to step in the hall and wait for me. I handed the class discussion over to a student leader in my class and went into the hall to find out what was going on. Turned out the student wanted to get kicked out of class because they hadn't read and heard there was a quiz at the end of the hour (there wasn't). He thought he could use the extra time to catch up. He hadn't read because his grandmother was in the hospital and had to take care of the family while the parents were gone. We talked and everything was great the rest of class.

5. Call/email with the good and the bad - This is one that I always need to work on for my classes. It is so easy to get "too busy" when it comes to talking to parents. There is nothing worse than only talking to them when there is something wrong. It is important to reach out and share the small victories students are having to let parents know that their student is important. I need to do more of this and it is one of my personal goals this year.

Example: Shelly was not the strongest English student, but tired hard in class. When it came to creative writing projects, she was always excited and worked very hard despite her limited skill set. After one very nice assignment, I made sure to email the mom a copy and suggest that she convince her daughter to enroll in creative writing class the next year. The mom responded that she had no idea her daughter liked to write and could write like that. She was very thankful.

These are just some of the things that stand out to me now that I wish someone would have shared with me in college or my first day orientation. Please share this with any new teachers out there with that "deer in headlights" look. Classroom mismanagement does not have to be the way to go. The PLN is here to help.

- @TheNerdyTeacher


  1. Can I suggest this post by Ira Socol?

    To me, too many teachers promote and sustain the life of tired and worn out platitudes like "never smile the first week of class" etc... I think all us teachers should re-evaluate the assumptions of Monk and others who rule teacher training programs.


  2. I use your #2 but shouldn't it be the other way around? "Fair doesn't mean equal" and using your example - it IS fair that George be able to use the computer at school (which means he gets extra time to be able to do so which is the part that is not equal). You have it backwards, no?

  3. Great post- in reference to fairness, I've always liked the rationale that Fair doesn't mean the Same: Fair means everyone gets what they Need to be successful. It's an abstract notion of equality kids grasp, especially with regard to individual differences.


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