Here is one idea: If you have a student who is being disruptive in the back of the room, walk over simply stand beside him and teach. Ask him a question that involves him in the lesson. Still not getting him to settle down, take him aside and privately ask "Are you OK?" Usually the "rest of the story" comes tumbling out, I had a fight with my parents, my girlfriend and I split up, I didn't get any sleep last night. Whatever the reason, usually this spilling of his problem takes care of the disruptive behavior and you both can get back to the learning at hand.
What other ideas have you heard of or read about? For those experienced members of this group, what successful strategies can you offer?
Building relationships. Our superintendent welcomed us back for the 2010-2011 school year by bringing the well known author/speaker, Dr. Adolf Brown, back for a second visit (his first being 5 years ago in our county). Dr. Brown grew up in poverty. He focus was on having EVERY child in your "wheelbarrow". In order to do this, you need to build a relationship with all and leave NO ONE behind. One of the many scenarios presented was when Dr. Brown remembered a teacher pinching her nose when he walked by. If only the teacher had taken him aside to ask if everything was alright at home. Dr. Brown said that, as a child, he would have told her that the water in their home had been cut off for 3 weeks (no money for the bills) and that he promised to take a shower as soon as it was turned on. Sounds pathetic, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's real. I read another teacher's response to this topic......she's right.....find a personal moment with the child to find out what's wrong. Build a trusting relationship. Kids don't perform negative behaviors b/c they want to lose priviledges or get consequences. They are struggling to get attention in any manner that they can. Believe me. I'm in my 22nd year of teaching. Firmness and structure are still a must though. High expectations are still a must for ALL, whether autistic, ADHD, etc. Relationships and respect are the key. This year's group for me was supposed to be an upcoming nightmare. They are my favorite 4th grade group in all my years of teaching. I layed down the rules, the rewards, the consequences, and they are for everyone. I have 9 day treatment kids (behavior issues with plans, blah blah). I purposely did not look at names b/c I wanted to treat all equally with respect and build relationships before knowing who was "trouble" last year. I have only targeted one of the nine that has issues, because the other 8 are fitting right in and trying to meet my expectations. I expect responsible behavior at all times so that we may go outside for Science projects, study in the hallway, get a little wild,and still know that the kids will know when they are expected to focus back into "settled mode". The child who I could "peg" as one of the 9 due to neediness, I spoke with the day treatment assistants about. I heard the sob story of his life style and am following their recommendations to help build that relationship (a little rub on the shoulder when I walk by, praise that is not overdone, an intentional smile his way so he knows that he's really cared about). Nail him/her when they slip. The expectations are the same for all. Never raise your voice, but mark the consequence and look disappointed and sorry when you have to do so. The details are too many to keep writing. The ticket is to build a trusting, respectful relationship. Even if you can't trust the child at first, work on them being able to trust you. Many kids can't trust their own parents. Never raise your voice to them; discipline issues get enough yelling at home. ALL kids want to be accepted. There is NO child that can't be reached. There MUST be incentives! Earn fake money to buy things at the end of the week, raffle tickets for good behavior that will be drawn each Monday, etc. Watch for the perfect/private praise moment. I have a real nice boy but he got very loud and active at lunch. I asked him if he could do me a favor. I said, "Could you do me a favor?" He said, "Yes." I asked, "Could you please try to be a little quieter at the lunch table? You were getting a little carried away." Will you work on that for me tomorrow?" He said, "Yes." They next day I noticed that I didn't hear him. I got up from eating and walked over. I told him that I noticed that he was really eating with good manners. I told him that it was nice to see him settled down, eating like a gentleman, and being a fine example. Problem solved. Relationships and Respect. This is my best answer to discipline issues.
My best advice as a teacher is--"pick your battles." It's never a good idea to get in a verbal exchange with a student in front of the class. So often, a student's inappropriate behavior has nothing to do with the class or what's happening at a specific moment during the class. Being a student today is really difficult because many home environments have changed drastically since when I was a student. The family dinner table used to be a wonderful place to hear about everyone's day. Now few families ever eat together and fewer parents are asking their children about their school day.
Over 30 years ago when I began teaching, not having a book, paper, or pencil was a discipline problem. That's not even worth the fight these days. I found that with most high school students, I could ask them to step into the hall, and I would join them there momentarily. I'd make sure the class was working on an assignment and then I would stand at the doorway and discuss the classroom disruption with a student. I would often say, "It appears you are having a bad day. Is there an adult such as a guidance counselor, coach, principal who can help you resolve your problem?" That worked 95% of the time. The student would tell me something that had happened outside of school, and we'd decide how best to handle the situation. I wouldn't take long with the student because I had a room full of other students waiting. Occasionally, the student would ask to return to the classroom and then come by after school to discuss the problem in more detail. I wrote few referrals to the principal because I found it was best if I could handle the discipline problem myself. With a phone in my classroom, I could also reach parents if I needed their help.
Another good piece of advice is to have the student whose causing problems sit away from the class and write down the problem. Especially if a student is angry, writing helps the student focus and the more the student writes, usually the more he/she calms down so the issue can be discussed without angry verbal accusations flying around the room.
There's no doubt that an "inviting" classroom--one decorated with content posters, attractive bulletin boards, etc.--alerts the students that this teacher cares and the atmosphere does influence the learning process. If the teacher exhibits a positive attitude, that helps students think more positively as well.
In conclusion, there really is no panacea for classroom management. As teachers gain years of experience, they develop ways to work with discipline. On any given day, any child can potentially act inappropriately in class. As the adage goes, "Teachers wear many hats," and experience is the best teacher in discovering which hat to where at a given moment.
I taught eighth grade, inner-city for three years and small working-class for one year. First-year was a disaster*, they made me team leader the third year.
* Late in the year at a bad time I wandered dazed into the other open loft (picture ten eighth-grade classrooms in a gymnasium with carpet--our school consisted of two) and just stood in the middle of the loft. A veteran came over to see what was up. I said I had no control. She asked, "Are they in their seats?". I said, yeah. She said, "You have control."
First rule: "Survival is success". Meaning: discipline may seem impossible, but if you don't snap (ie, if you survive) eventually you learn the tricks. Hang in there no matter how bad it gets and don't go off on a kid (and get fired) and do not quit.
Have something they should be doing as soon as they get in the room so you can say, "Shouldn't you be doing X?"
Make sure the work is within their ability.
If they are working well, keep quiet. If you suddenly announce, "Don't forget the science fair next week", the room will dissolve into chaos.
Teach well. Really care. Kids can tell, and they respect that.
So classroom management begins with the substance.
Be corny: "I am here to teach you, and I cannot do that when..." The worst kids know they are wrong and actually prefer behaving and performing well -- they just rarely have a teacher that can manage them. And they utterly respect that they are in school and should be learning.
Successful discipline is grounded not in the power of the teacher to make rules (we do not have any such arbitrary power these days, and administrators have less and expect teachers to handle kids, not send them to the office), rather in the simple fact that you are right and any student interfering with you teaching is wrong. But keep it positive: "I am hear to teach these other students, and I am here to teach you, too." Always take the high road.
Best line I learned from a master teacher talking to a student acting out badly: "Do I talk to you that way?" The obvious key then being to always address students with respect (so you can use that line!).
Kids have short memories. It can be hand-to-hand fighting one day and they'll walk in the next and say, "Hi, Mr. Tilton" all bright and cheery.
Stuff like that.
Like Ken, I have also taught middle school, inner city. Tough kids and not used to being well managed in a classroom. Especially by someone 4'11/105 pounds, but that's besides the point. My best advice for classroom management is simple. Expect them to behave and don't make excuses for why they can't or won't. A secret they don't want you to know is that they actually LIKE being managed and their favorite classes are ones where there is order, where they can learn, and most of all, where they feel safe.
Sure, there are loads of tricks that will help, in the way of procedures, routines, verbal cues, effective communication, rapport building, etc. But the one thing that I have found to be the number one contributing factor in classrooms that are well managed... the teacher's expectation. If you don't believe they will behave they won't. If you believe they CAN and WILL, if you expect them to do so... they will.
I agree wholeheartedly. I believe kids like discipline and expect discipline. They are so much calmer and more secure when they know that you expect them to behave. Preschool students and kindergartens can all behave also. Children are never too young to be able to learn to behave. Many times I hear teachers and parents say that "Oh they are too young to understand, you can't expect that out of them." Well I have expected it out of them and they have understood. They will behave how they are expected to behave. If you don't expect them to, they won't. I have two friends that think just yelling at their kids is the way to get them to behave. That is totally wrong. In fact if you lower your voice to a whisper, they will listen better than yelling. Yelling only teaches them to yell.
Classroom Management comes in different forms depending on the grade level one is instructing, but as a general rule of thumb there are some salient points to always cover regardless of age group (including teachers being trained.)
1. Always be prepared. One of the best ways to ward off discipline problems is to be knowledgeable and well-versed in the subject being taught. I always remind my alternative certification teachers in training that kids will see through a lack of subject matter in an instructor faster than anything. So always know what you are teaching.
2. Keep the activity(ies) flowing. Whether it is a Socratic method to begin class, an activity or a brainteaser, make sure that the "time-on-task," is always addressed
3. Allow participation from your students. Remember, sometimes just the simple question being asked can bring a classroom back into focus which, once again, brings the teacher into full-control
4. Autonomy in the classroom. Even though you are encouraging questions and participation, remember, you have goals and objectives for the day, week, month, etc. Be firm, be kind, and do not try to be their "buddy." Respect is what you will be creating and that is invaluable to you for classroom management.
In my experiences in teaching through the years in several states and in every feasible economic demographic, I have found the four steps to be workable and effective. In over 45 years, I only sent two people to the office. My father who was a big influence in my teaching, told me when I started my first job that if I could not handle my own discipline, I needed to find another profession. I took that to heart and my teaching life has been great.
What a great conversation. So many really solid suggestions. In my teaching experience I learned two huge lessons about classroom management - both of which have been mentioned throughout this thread but I think bear repeating: 1. Kids who are interested in what they are doing are going to stay on task. Time spent on developing student directed, interesting, dynamic learning experiences is time saved on classroom management issues. 2. Although developing a relationship with each student is important, new teachers need to really understand the nature of a professional teacher/student relationship. Too many new teachers are so worried about being "liked" that they don't realize that if a student respects you, then you've won half the battle. We are not there to be their best friend - we are there to be their teacher. I see this issue develop into a problem a LOT in High School when a 23 year old teacher becomes "buddies" with a 17 year old student. Never a good idea.
Lots of great things on this board! I think that classroom management is one of the most important aspects of teaching, but so few teachers really learn how to manage a classroom before they start teaching.
The thing that helps me most with classroom management is keeping students busy. If they are just listening to me talk, they tune out and act up. If they are engaged, working, figuring stuff out, having successes, getting help, working together, etc. they are too busy to cause problems.
I often ask questions and have students write answers on their little white boards. This makes it easy to make sure all kids are actively engaged. I also play lots of bingo-type games - these replace "practice worksheets" and are much more motivating - kids love to play games. Using the projector to show the questions seems to be more engaging than me writing questions on the board. And I take the class to the computer lab to investigate topics through technology - always a big hit, and again, they are busy so they don't cause problems. Make sure they have a detailed "task sheet" for any computer investigation.
One book that I highly recommend to sharpen your classroom management and teaching skills is "Teach Like a Champion" by Doug Lemov.
Thanks for sharing your suggestions as well as the book on classroom management. I taught for 35 years in public schools, and some of my best tips for classroom management came from colleagues. I also became well aware that all students have bad days and their attitudes often have no reflection upon their learning environment, but their negative attitudes definitely affect their learning. So I picked my battles and tried to avoid conflicts with students by approaching them one-on-one and finding out what would help them accomplish their goals (and my objectives) for the class that day. It's amazing how a little individual attention can make a bad situation much better.
One of the most informative and popular discussions on this topic is located in the Community Hub. You may want to read some of the posts in How do you motivate the unmotivated? to gain some additional insights.
Thanks for joining this group and offering your ideas.
I just was reading an article on building relationships with students and trying to get them to be successful in the classroom called the Power of the Walk and Talk by Jim Peterson. After reading about the technique, I created a walk and talk goal sheet for struggling students and plan on using it this year.