Students’ first impression of you as an educator begins on the first day of school. This impression can signal to students if you are a “pushover teacher,” if you can be easily maneuvered off task and will bend to students’ wants and allow non-learning activities to occur in the classroom without any consequences. Your first impression as a teacher will display how you approach instruction, manage your classroom, and how organized you are as an educator. Your first impression will show that you are relatable and care about students’ learning goals and your educational philosophy.
When you consider what you want your school day, semester, and year to look like, you must convey your expectations to students. It is important to do so on the first day of school; if you allow disorder and chaos to ensue on the first day, it will persist through the first week, to the first month and eventually the entire academic year has gone by with no progress towards creating the classroom environment you originally envisioned.
My first experience teaching was through a substitute position, I had the benefit of seeing what grades I work best with. As a substitute teacher you spend a large amount of class time managing behaviors, Although most of the students observe their teacher’s classroom procedures, some students will try to take advantage of every opportunity possible to be off task.
Through my substitute teaching experience I realized three very important things. First, I work much better with young adults than with children and pre-teens. I give elementary and intermediate teachers a lot of credit for working with these age groups; on the flip side I know quite a few elementary and intermediate school teachers who say the exact same thing to me. We all have our niches and teaching the grade levels where you excel as a teacher in turn allows your students to excel.
Second, I cultivated an authoritative style of classroom management. I strive to create an environment that is fair, flexible and encourages students’ independence. I manage my classroom by combining my authoritative style of classroom management with student created norms. This provides students with my needs of them in the classroom and how the procurers benefit their learning experience, and by allowing students the opportunity to create their own agreed upon norms, students take ownership of their responsibilities, behaviors and interactions within the classroom.
This brings me to my third point, pick and choose your battles. By providing students with flexibility within the classroom, students appreciate and respect the additional freedom. Students understand how to monitor and adjust their behaviors accordingly. Students know that in order to have these additional privileges, they must take on the accompanying responsibilities.
I manage my classroom with three key aspects - the district’s policies and procedures, my classroom expectations and the students’ norms. These aspects work together to create a classroom environment of learning, open discussion and mutual respect to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills, increases their self-confidence and allows for their growth and independence.
I am often asked the question, “How do you handle a disruptive student in your classroom?” What I have found is that if I spend the first week of school implementing, practicing and enforcing the classroom procedures and norms then I can spend the rest of the academic year focusing on learning versus behavior management. When the school year begins with a firm foundation of positive, respectful behavior very few major disruptions occur during the rest of the academic year. If a student becomes disruptive, I can easily refer to the procedures and norms to dispel the behavior. Very few times will behavior escalate beyond a polite, firm reprimand. On the rare occasion that it does and I have to take disciplinary measures, I do so after careful consideration of the circumstances. During instances where a student chooses to persist in disruptive behavior and after I have warned and reminded the student that if the behavior does not cease the next reprimand will be accompanied by the school district’s official consequences for the situation. I have found that district policies are more severe than any of my classroom consequences. My goal in classroom management is to dispel disruptions within the classroom before they escalate to the point of requiring administrative assistance, parental involvement, detention, or in extreme cases suspension.
the well managed classroom
“There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.” - Carl Sagan, The Demon-Hunted World:Science as a Candle in the Dark
A well-managed classroom is engaging, thought provoking, a place where students are encouraged to voice their opinions and ask questions. It is a place built on mutual respect and understanding. In a well-managed classroom students are actively involved in their class work, students know what is expected of them while in class and students demonstrate their understanding of these expectations through their behavior. A well-managed classroom utilizes time efficiently, maximizing learning and minimizing off-task behaviors and disruptions. A well-managed classroom has an atmosphere that is productive, calm, and enjoyable.
In my classroom I promote students’ participation and teamwork to increase productivity and creative thinking. I model class procedures and behaviors to provide a consistent example for students. This gives students a sense of comfort in the classroom; students know that the classroom is a judgment-free zone to explore new ideas and concepts. In the beginning of the school year I organize the room’s physical environment so that materials and equipment are easily accessible and allows for efficient room cleanup. Students know where materials are and know where to store them; students know where and how to turn-in assignments, handouts and other lesson materials. The room itself allows both myself and my students the ability to move about without causing disruption. The room is arranged to maximize students’ ability to view presentations and demonstrations as well as allow me to observe students during work time and assist students with one-on-one instruction.
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