Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Classroom Management- From Day 1

Several years ago, when I was a first year teacher, and teaching middle school, I learned the importance of good classroom management, and how important it was to establish rules and procedures from day 1. If you don't set the tone on the first day, you'll find yourself up a creek with a crappy paddle!

The first year, I was not that much older than many of my students, and I thought a friendly rapport would be the way to go- with rules like "Laugh with everyone, but laugh at no one". Now I'm laughing at myself!

By winter break, I was miserable, stressed beyond my limits- and ready to quit. Over the holiday, I made a firm decision that things were going to change in my classroom. I worked hard to set up some more specific rules for my classroom, with more specific consequences regarding when warnings, referrals, removal, and detention would take place. I also set forth specific rewards, like iPod days or outdoor time. My students could see the change in my attitude as I presented the new classroom norms when we returned from the break.

It took some work that year, but my students learned that I was not a nice person when learning time was disrupted. They also learned that I was the most fun teacher they had when they worked hard, did what I asked, followed the rules and treated one another with respect.

The next year, I set up my system from day 1. Now, years later, I'm very firm and strict with my rules, and my students know I mean business. If I ask them to do something, they know I want it done right away, and I won't ask again. They also are clear on the rules, rewards, and consequences.

Sometimes it takes several weeks to get students used to the system- that's ok! One year, I had a 7th/8th grade mixed ESL LA class that struggled with the system at the beginning of the year, but I did not give in. I knew we had finally made it one day when I sat for over an hour without saying anything to the students (other than hello) after they entered the classroom. They came in, went to their desks, took out their materials, and started working. They knew what they needed to work on, and they were so engaged, they didn't even talk amongst themselves (I do allow quiet discussion if it doesn't interfere with work). I finally broke the silence to tell them how proud I was, and that we would take Friday off for some much-needed soccer time!

Over the years, my system has been tweaked and changed, but it is still the same basic system that I started with that first year. If you're a new teacher, the best piece of advice I can offer you is this: find a system that works for you and your students, implement it, and stick to it. Also make sure that parents and students are clear on the rules, rewards and consequences related to your system. You'll be glad you did!!

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