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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

This is the sixth part of a six-part entry. Start with the introduction.

Get help before you start and while you are trying to do the Four-Piece Plan to Peace. Don't wait to ask for help until after you've torn your hair out and started looking for jobs in coffee shops.

Ask your principal for help. Ask him or her if you can receive any outside-of-school help. Observe other teachers in your school (if you see that they have respectful, functioning classrooms), and ask them to observe you and give you feedback. Most first- or second-year teachers have a mentor, a new-teacher coach, or another support provider. So, ask for help! Ask again and again if you're not getting what you need.

And then, of course, there's what's on the Web, which is a whole overwhelming lot. If you want a short, engaging article to start with, try the Teacher Magazine article "Teaching Secrets: Take Charge of Your Classroom." Then, go to this Web site, which lists just about every site out there on classroom management. Or you can do your own Web searches for resources.

Although it may not seem like it now, it is possible to manage a group of thirty to thirty-six small (or-not-so-small) people. It takes time, practice, support, perseverance, and patience, but you can get to the point where the classroom-management aspect becomes almost invisible and you spend 95 percent of your time and energy on instruction.

And now for the missing piece. Here's the thing. I've described four pieces, as in jigsaw pieces, that together make the big picture of classroom management coherent. I have argued that if your students are clear on procedures, and if you have a reward-and-consequence system, and if you've targeted some challenging students for extra attention, you'll have peace. And now I will disagree with myself.

I think I'm missing something here. I'm missing the foundation. I'm missing what you put the pieces on or what kind of frame they settle in. And I have a feeling that in certain frames, the pieces just won't hold together. I have a hunch that I need to explore the qualities that allow the pieces to transform into peace. There's a little more to this story if we're trying to achieve peace. I'm going to think on that. Stay tuned.

Readers, what do you think? Are these pieces enough? What's helped in your classes to bring about peace? What does a teacher or the foundation of a classroom need to be like in order for these pieces to function? Please share your thoughts.

Comments (13)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Kimberly Quackenbush's picture

When the year first starts out teachers need to lay down the rules and the teachers needs to be clear about what is excepted of the students. The students can help in this process so they can feel that they are part of the class community. Teachers can't be afraid to ask for help if something they are doing isn't working right. It is perfectly fine to get ideas from another teacher. If something is happening in the classroom the teacher needs to respond quickly so the problem doesn't escalate. What works one year may not necessarily work the next year. Children are different and we have to learn to be flexible with how we run our classroom.

If the classroom is run smoothly then there is a good chance that the students will become better learners. There is so much information that the teacher has to cover in such a short time and if the teacher struggles with classroom management that means that valuable teaching time is being wasted.

Dana Murray's picture

Classroom management comes with experience. I feel like there are different ways of managing your classroom depending on the type of children who are in your classroom. This means, every year is going to be different. At the begining of the year we set a foundation. We give rules and consequences. I think the most important part of this though is following through with your consequences every single time. I think that if the children know that you are going to be fair and consistent, then they know what they cannot get away with. I think that teaching the students how to respect eachother as well as the classroom is important. Some oft he kids do not have this knowledge because they are not all taught at same things at home.

Jessica Williams's picture

The beginning is about learning each other. The students learn your high expectations, personality, and which buttons to push. You learn how to form these students into community members who take responsibility for their learning. This has to be consistent and established early on to prevent losing time later in the school year. Since every child is an individual and it is known differentiating instruction is best then is it obvious that sometimes classroom management needs to be adjusted for this year's students. Every aspect of teaching is about learning that includes classroom management. When we become set in our ways that is when our classroom management becomes ineffective. Consistent is a requirement but adjustments have to be made for the different students that come every year. Since classroom management is always changing like the students it also means it comes with practice and can be done many different ways. There is no right or wrong way just the way that works for each individual teacher. I am excited to be developing the way that works for me.

Patricia Hill's picture

I have thoroughly enjoyed this blog and the comments of all the teachers that are participating/contributing. I hope I can keep my classroom management as an underlying force in my class. I hope when issues arise, I will handle them well and never fail to let the student know that I care about them as a member of our classroom- that I am glad they are there.
A concern of mine-the children I see in classrooms today span many levels of ability and need. How to keep everyone progressing...that is the issue for me. Planning engaging tasks for those who finish early while, spending extra time with those students who need it is in the back of my mind always.
I really liked a comment posted about allowing the class free time. I have also seen class games, learning games that really generate enthusiasm and community in the classroom. When the teacher can join in the fun, I think everyone benefits. When the work is done, let's have some fun.

Sarah Bean's picture

It is easy to simply agree with what the blog posts and those who have commented have said. Of course classroom management is important and will differ with each group of students. There should be rewards and punishments and yes, they should be forever consistent. Differentiating instruction and spending one-on-one time with students is a dream we strive for to come true.
One thing is missing though - I am not sure I would call it the foundation (I agree that the foundation is the teacher). We can throw all the management experience we want at the kids. We can differentiate until our little hearts explode with the effort.
We MUST start where the kids are. We are, of course, far ahead of them. We believe ourselves to be one step ahead. We are the teachers, after all. But if we start ahead, how can we ever expect them to catch up?
We MUST get on their level. Luncheons are fine and dandy and heart-to-hearts are heart-warming. They may be frightened kids inside, but they still don't deserve to patronized or talked down to. They know what you're doing. They know what you're trying. It's awkward to sit there with Teacher and have them ask about movies and games. Try as we may, we are NOT hip. In this way, we also have to start where WE are and then move down TO THEM. Please, don't pretend to be cool. We're not.
But as long as we start where we need to, we can all finish together.

Suzie's picture

I feel to have true peace within the classroom we must first have respect. I do mean respect for the teacher by the students but I also mean respect for the students by the teacher. Oftentimes I beleive that many teachers approach the classroom as a place to exhibit control. Students do need guidelines and firm rules to follow, which are then followed by consistent punishments that are appropriate to the offense, but the classroom should be one of collaborative teaching and learning more than it needs to be one where I have control over all aspects. Children do well and have more of a comfort level when boundaries are established but they will continue to thrive in an environment where their ideas are respected and they feel free to try new things without fear of being putdown.I want my own classroom to be a place full of learning where the lightbulbs, in students minds, are continously turning on.

Nick Akins's picture

In reading this I was reminded of two things. One, that asking for help is not a shameful thing to do. And two, my classroom is about the students, not me, and I need to do everything in my power to make sure their environment is optimized for learning. This includes a management system that runs behind the scenes and doesn't distract.

I also appreciate that after all of the advice you've given in this six part article you address the fact that classroom management is not a one size fits all for the student or the teacher. When I read I often have a negative or positive reaction to something based on how singularly an author champions their ideas. If the author presses his/her view as the only view or something that is independently awesome, you can guess how I might react. However, if the author has the humility and intelligence to suggest that the reader needs to fill in some of the blanks and think for his/herself, that all of the answers aren't found in their words alone, that is something special. Thank you for encouraging my thoughtful development as a teacher, especially with an issue as daunting (to a future teacher) as classroom management.

Amber Jones's picture

As a VERY soon-to-be student teacher,I must admit that the classroom management aspect seems to be what I am most scared about failing in. I have been through three classroom management workshops in three semesters of school, and just when I think I might have it figured out, something else is mentioned that I didn't think of.

However, I do believe it really comes down to the students. What do they need. Figure it out fast, and get your plan in place. Every year is going to be different, because the students will be different. Set clear expectations for them and BE CONSISTENT. Also, as was stated in a previous comment, don't hesitate to ask for help, or advice. Someone else has been through it, and may have just the answer you are looking for. I appreciate what you have said. Thank you!

Cynthia's picture

Thank you for your insights. I agree with your point that it's important to be willing to ask questions of others for help with classroom management. Each student is different, and I think that teachers need to constantly remind themselves that there is no cookie-cutter approach to dealing with students' issues. Other teachers and principals are able to provide insights into different personality types that might be influencing classroom behavior problems. I believe that teachers will be respected as much as they respect themselves and show respect to their students. So much that is learned in the classroom does not come from textbooks. Teachers model appropriate social behavior to their students, and since it is unfortunately the case that many students do not have quality role models at home, teachers often serve as the main source of information for students to know how to be treated and treat others with respect. By respecting students as individual personalities, teachers also respect the potential that students possess and allow students to grow and explore in the best ways. I think adults sometimes underestimate the abilities of young people, and such underestimations become a self-fulfilling prophecy as students meet the expectations that are set before them. Classroom management problems can be minimized if teachers provide clear and high expectations that challenge students. Setting high expectations communicates to students that the teacher has confidence in their ability to do the tasks assigned, and thus, respects their potential. High school students, in particular, want to believe that they are mature enough to make decisions for themselves. By allowing students to take responsibility for their decisions and actions, students learn the content presented in class as well as the social skills necessary to function in the classroom and the world.

Meagan Tracy's picture

This article is wonderful! It is so refreshing to hear that classroom management does not come from text books. Classroom management is so difficult to teach until you are in the actual classroom setting. Learning how to do so takes time, patience, and understanding from both the teacher and the student. This happens when one takes the time to truly get to know and understand his/her students. The key is perseverance.Classroom management is difficult and can take weeks, months, and years to achieve. The important thing to remember is, that there will be times when management in the classroom appears to be gone and lost forever, but there is always a light at the end of that tunnel and good classroom management can appear again. Teaching is a tough job. Remembering to stay positive and persevere will allow for the classroom management skills to develop and eventually be mastered.

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