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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

"I feel like I'm playing Whac-A-Mole every day," said the beginning teacher as she wiped the sweat from her brow.

I nodded and had flashbacks of my own first months teaching middle school. The class is settled, focused, and calm for two seconds, and then pop! On the other side of the room, a kid shouts, throws, reaches, jumps, and I dart over to "smash" him down. And then pop! I'm dashing to a distant corner, and smash, and pop! Pop! POP!

Some of us are good at Whac-A-Mole. In the early 1980s, I logged weeks in the arcade, smashing down the stuffed animals with the big padded mallet; oh, the adrenaline rush and the triumph of victory!

But be warned: If you are playing Whac-A-Mole in the classroom, it's unsustainable. You can't handle that kind of adrenaline day after day. And you're not teaching.

I promised practical tips in this blog, so let's review some classroom-management strategies. This is always the biggest issue of the fall -- more so for novice teachers, but also for veterans (although we're reluctant to admit it).

By now, you are probably figuring out that student behavior (or misbehavior) is going to stump all your brilliant plans and instructional fantasies. The good news is that in some ways, classroom management is the easy piece. You can learn to manage any group of kids.

My suggestions here, which I'll call the Four-Piece Plan to Peace (think a jigsaw puzzle), are by no means original. Hopefully, they're a refresher course in what you've already heard and learned. I believe that if you implement each piece, you won't have management problems.

But before I review them, I invite you to take a minute to reflect on why you think you are having classroom-management challenges. Why are your students misbehaving? When are they not doing what they're supposed to do? What do you do when they are misbehaving? What do you do when they're following the rules?

Bringing to the surface your assumptions about why your students are behaving the way they are is critical to making any changes in your classroom. Most likely, you are carrying around some powerful beliefs about your students' feelings, behaviors, and attitudes. Check out your assumptions; they're often quite revealing.

Please share your assumptions and your thoughts, and check back for the next part of this entry, in which I present the first piece of the peace plan.

Comments (32)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

nikki b's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I like your insight! Attention is attention whether positive or negative.

Tia's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Classroom management is key to being able to actually teach your class. I love learning new strategies or new behavior plans. Every year teachers recieve a new set of students with different problems that can probably be addressed by using a differnt stlye of behavior management.

Tia Odom's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Management is key to actually being able to teach your class. I love listening to others insight and behavior management strategies. Each year I recieve a new set of students who have different behavior problems that can possibly be handled by using a differnt mangement technique. I believe every teacher should have a bank of behavior strategies to pull from.

Jennifer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Classroom management begins with the design of the lesson. Is it engaging? As a teacher, are you trying to address all the different modalities of learners, ie. kinesthetic, visual spatial. Do you have transitions thought out? Have potential problems been anticipated? These are all things I look at first. Addressing these things will help to keep about 90% of the students on track. Then, you must work through strategies to help the other 10%.

Tarrah D.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I feel that classroom management is the most important ingredient in the classroom. If management is lacking, then there is no learning going on becaause a teacher is constantly having to redirect students that are misbehaving. The students who are behaving are "tossed" to the side and left waiting for the teacher to get everyone back on task. Lots of instruction time is lost because of this.

Jennifer Duguay's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Discipline in my class is not the issue so much as peace. We have many talks about being non-violent, using your words, etc... and then someone in my class will get in trouble on the playground or bus. I can't seem to get the carryover into the real world. Any suggestions?

Nada's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Classroom management is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you have a large number of students in the same class, not to forget the increase in the number of learning disabilities students. This will put more pressure on teacher to handle various type of learners with the same level of interest and engagement.
I believe another factor contributes to this failure of discipline, is the group age, I find children when they reach middle classes, they start to act in a way to get attention and be noticed. They need to leave the impression that they are strong and can face any problem, which they create. At this age they lack the sense of responsiblity and they are very ego they look at the world from within their own vision based on their little experiences.

Susan Wright's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My 7th period class of art students are out of control. Sometimes I think that it is just me trying to overmanage the class and sometimes I just don't know what to do. Other students visit me and say "What did you do to get all of these kids in the same class?" They are loud, they don't listen and some are downright rude. They are mostly ninth graders...maybe that answers it.
At the high school level, I am not sure how to go about the reward system. Having names on a poster or handing out rewards every day just seems too juvenille. Any suggestions?

Tracy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I look at classroom management like a mom. These children need consistency, consequences, negative or positive, and some tough love. I think the one thing that has worked with my students is I treat them like they are my own. They know that I care about them. I show interest in what they do and say. They now that if they are having a problem they can come to me and we will problem solve. They know if I am getting after them for something it is because I hold high expectations. Many teachers don't let the children know they really care and the students know it. They are more willing to do things for people that care for thier best interests.

Tracy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Jennifer,
Hi! I worked in urban elementary school in New Britain, CT. I have recently signed onto the Positive Behavior team. We are looking for way to encourage peace, kindness, respect, and good behavior. Here is one thing that I really like and I am working to get this started at my school. Hopefully it could work for you. If you don't like any part of it change it and put in what will work for you. I only hope I can explain it. Here is the word. MEDABO. Meaning: Making Every Day A Better One. Our school is going to make a card that say this word. Every time someone is spotted doing a random act of kindness is given a card. They may turn it in for something at the school store, lunch, whatever you would like the reward to be. Every time a student passes in a card I will collect them at the end of the day and put the childs name and homeroom on a cut out leaf. That leaf will be added to a tree that has been made by the Art classes. These trees will be placed in the hallway by the main office. As we need more we will add them down the hallway. We will watch as our trees grow.

I hope this is some kind of help.

Tracy

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