Classroom management dominates conversations around teaching. I spent my first few years incredibly stressed over how to manage a classroom. Add to that the teachers in my ear, sharing horror story after horror story of awful student behavior, and panic set in.
I wish I could tell you the magical secret to getting students to listen to you, engage with your content, and turn in all their work perfectly. However, I also have to stay grounded in reality. The truth is, no classroom will be perfect. No set of students will exhibit the behaviors you want or hope for every day.
The goal of classroom management is to reduce your stress and increase your effectiveness as an instructor. Essentially, you are freeing yourself up to maximize the time you have with your students. Keeping that in mind, apply these elements to your classroom management.
Their Expectations, Not Yours
What behaviors do you want your students to exhibit? Your answer to that question is based on the way you were raised, the school environment you grew up in, and the learning style that you respond to best. (More on that here)
Understand that your expectations of their behavior are subjective, not objective. You may be interfering with their learning process by boxing them into your standard.
Some students will be comfortable in silence, while others need talking or singing to conceptualize the concepts. Quite a few of my students preferred movement to sitting, even during lectures and presentations. Each student will have their own idea of positive classroom behavior and it may not match yours.
Your job in classroom management is not to force compliance. You must be an obstacle remover. Think instead of how you can navigate the expectations of your students. Instead of imposing your behavior ideals, consider how you can create a space where their behavior ideals can play out without interrupting each other.
There are no rules!
How detailed is your rule list? How many rules must students follow? Consider that as you plan your classroom management strategy. Each rule you list requires constant monitoring, consistent action, and clear repercussions.
The longer I taught, the more rules vanished from my list. I critiqued the importance of each rule and made myself defend the use of them. Quickly, I found most of them to make little impact on the learning environment. Conversely, they made a huge impact on my time, energy, and effort.
My rule list dwindled to the point of uselessness. That’s right, I stopped using classroom rules. Better results were achieved through modeling, exhibiting high expectations, and engaging with (not at) students.
You might not be ready to toss your rule list. However, I strongly recommend that you start cutting, condensing, and evaluating each rule you hold dear and precious.
Classroom Management implies management
The best classrooms display a co-learning environment. The teacher educates the students. The students educate the students. The students educate the teacher. Learning becomes reflexive and constant in a shared space of curiosity and intrigue.
Management is not the key to unlocking your perfect classroom. It may actually be the lock. When your job becomes more about disciplining and delegating, it means that you are less engaged in the learning process. A disengaged teacher is the recipe for disengaged students.
Whenever classroom management feels difficult, slip into the role of a curious learner. Show up, engage, and provide genuine interest – both for the material and for your students. Be an infectious force of intrigue. If your frustration and rigidness rubs off on students, so will your compassion and joy.
Lead and learn with love. Your classroom management will improve with each year and every experience. The pressure you put on yourself will not help you grow. Relax, embrace the challenge, and apply these elements to your new classroom “management” plan.