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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.

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Frances Vitlai's picture

Classroom Management involves a very thoughtful approach. The missing piece may be the teacher. How do you see yourself in managing your students: as a disciplinarian, someone who wants to be in complete control; or someone who resonates a more humanistic and democratic approach? What management style are you comfortable with, is a big question to explore?

Students mirror interactions of the teacher in the classroom. A culture of mutual respect where listening to others without interruptions becomes the standard communication, will confirm to your students that they are valued and recognized. They, in turn, will emulate this courtesy to other peers. If you make it a priority to recognize, validate and honor them and their work, it will be easier to build a working and learning relationship of trust within your community of learners.

Providing meaningful learning opportunities that differentiate according to their varied learning needs will also be an important piece. You and your students can collectively plan some of the class rules after you share with them the kind of person you are and how you expect to guide them during the year based on your management style. Sharing this with students and being transparent about your style and expectations of them as respectful listeners, citizens and problem-solvers in your classroom can only lead to positive interactions and a nurturing place for learning.

Best Wishes for a productive school year!

Frances Vitali
UNM Teacher Education Program

Cherisa Ellis's picture

Classroom management is what can make or break the success of your classroom. If a teacher does not have effective techniques to manage their group of students, it is hard for learning to take place. A well managed classroom is a necessity to ensure that learning is taking place. Teachers also have to understand and know that what may have worked well with one students one year, may not work so well with the new students the following year. The important key components of classroom management are: consistancy, respect, high expectations, and showing interest. We as teachers need to be consistant with our students and our instruction because it is easier for the students to follow and catch on. We also need to show respect and encourage respect among our students. We need to set positive examples because we are always being watched. It is also important for us to show interest in our students. Get to know them personally. Ask questions. Show them you care.
When we see a student failing, or one is bored, etc. we should not let the blame fall on the students. Instead, we should point to ourselves and ask ourselves what we can do to engage them, to make sure they have a great experience.
I'm still learning as I go, so I hope that when my time comes, I will be able to apply these methods and make sure I have a successful class. And I believe that asking for help from mentors is a great idea and way to recieve the best advice.

Cherisa Ellis

Gladys Fitzgerald's picture

Managing a classroom takes time to learn and refine. It requires common sense, consistency, and a sense of fairness and courage. It also requires that teachers understand the psychological and developmental levels of their students. It requires you to know what you want and what you don't want and being specific in showing and telling the students. When you get what you want acknowledge it. Rules that aren't going to be consistently enforced should never be developed.
Teachers should identify expectations for student behavior and communicate those expectations early on. Having a clear understanding of consistent standards and procedures holds students responsible for their behavior. We must teach students to be responsible, to make good choices, to respond to each other and to adults in appropriate ways. These are lifelong skills.

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