This month, SmartBlog on Education is exploring classroom design and management — just in time for the new school year. In this blog post, educator and national trainer Ed Bates shares back-to-school tips for classroom procedures and expectations.
The arrival of August always seemed to put me on notice that another school years was slowly inching closer. With that, came the questions and challenges as to what the coming year would hold. Having worked with several student teachers, I always lamented the fact that they did not have the opportunity to participate in the first few weeks of school, as I felt they were the most critical for a teacher’s success. How teachers set up and manage their classrooms more often than not determines their success for the year.
As an educator, you want to have the year get off to a positive start. Topics to be discussed on the first day of school are extremely important. If a teacher does it right, it sets a great tone for the year. I always made sure to cover a student agreement which outlined what was to be expected of my students and procedures which would benefit them throughout the year.
The number one problem encountered by teachers in the classroom is NOT discipline, but rather the lack of structures and procedures. Classroom management is like an offensive lineman, in that they’re only noticed when something goes wrong. Once it is gone, you can never get it back.
Having procedures is not micro-managing. Teaching middle school, I attempted to have them for everything, including things like entering and exiting the room, homework procedures, and how to access materials. Learning and creativity should be free flowing, but behavior needs to be directed with procedures.
When dealing with disciplinary problems, have rules, but not too many. Make the punishment fit the behavior, not your level of frustration. Handle discipline discreetly and learn what to overlook. One doesn’t want to be drawn into power struggles with kids. Handle as much as you can on your own without it allowing it to take away from learning
I always advocated greeting students at the door. It might be the only greeting they’ll get all day. Students appreciate and respond to environments where they feel welcome. Students who feel more welcome are more likely to “buy” what you’re “selling.” By greeting kids at the door, you can see potential problems. Problems in the cafeteria, a previous class, in the gym, home. Recognize a potential problem before it becomes an actual problem.
Try catching them being good. Teachers are trained to recognize problems, diagnose the cause and respond accordingly. Why not try these things on positive behaviors. When you observe positive behaviors, reward them.
Use proximity as an ally. Without a seating chart, “problem” students will gravitate to the back of the classroom. Even with assigned seats, problems tend to arise in the back of the room. MOVE AROUND. Get to the back of the room, (or that’s where the problems will be). Use what works for you without the “teacher eye” or verbal reprimand. Move problems up front.
When problems are encountered, don’t escalate them. Don’t ask a question you aren’t prepared to hear the answer to. We’ve all been there. Questions like: “How many times do I have to tell you?” These provoke defensiveness and create power struggles. Yelling and screaming isn’t the answer either. Eventually, kids know its coming. They’ll tune you out and ride out the storm.
Do your best to avoid “down time” in which students have nothing to do. This usually occurs at the end of the period or an assignment as a teacher “transitions” to their next class. There are several activities that can be used when confronted with the possibility of down time. For example, get students started on their homework. Also try a brain teaser or a ticket out the door. We’ve also implemented DEAR time for our students where they are to “Drop Everything And Read”. Get them busy, keep them busy, keep your sanity.
These are just a few points I’ve drawn from during my teaching career. It’s important that all teachers use their colleagues as resources. Work collegially to develop a plan which works for you to ensure a positive school year.
Ed Bates has over 25 years experience in the classroom teaching young adults. As a certified National Trainer, he presents concepts to various school districts and universities throughout the country. He has extensive experience in implementation of NYS Common Core Mathematics Curriculum Modules, Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), and Integration of Technology into the Classroom.
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