What's The Best Classroom Management Advice You've Gotten? | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

What's The Best Classroom Management Advice You've Gotten?

What's The Best Classroom Management Advice You've Gotten?

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I thought it might be useful/interesting if people shared the best piece of classroom management advice they've gotten/read/heard... Mine comes from Marvin Marshall, who is my favorite (by far) writer/thinker on positive classroom management. He’s written a question that we as teachers might want to consider asking ourselves regularly. He wrote: Will what I am about to do or say bring me closer or will it push me away farther from the person with whom I am communicating? Of course, we’re just human and all of this is far “easier said than done.” But it’s not a bad level to aspire towards…

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Alice Mercer's picture
Alice Mercer
Elementary Computer Lab Teacher

was from my BTSA Master Teacher when I was starting out. It was new teacher advice, but it applies to classroom management, and is good for those of us who been at the job a while. She said the biggest mistake she saw teachers make was not asking for help, or asking questions. They would struggle alone, not wanting to look like they didn't know what they were doing, and burn themselves out. You can't figure it out alone, and you need to find mentors and peers to help you on the way.

An example, when you were having difficulties with a class last spring, you talked to one of your Asst. Principals, and used a behavior mod system for the first time. At the same time, you worked on building the intrinsic reward system, even as you weaned the kids off extrinsic rewards. You were willing to try something new, but you also stayed true to your beliefs.

Roselink's picture
Roselink
Public Secondary Shool EFL Teacher in in Madrid

There are times when I definitely hate not being an English native speaker, and this is one of them because I express my feelings and ideas much more accurately in Spanish, I really do.

I simply love (maybe "love" sounds a bit odd and exaggerated) all the pedagogical issues that come with our teaching practice. In short, I strongly, firmly believe that if teachers do not wear our students' shoes when necessary we are not doing our job well. This is especially true when dealing with teenagers, they are so fragile and irritating at the same time that we have to be extremely careful about what we say and how we say what we need to say.

As a teacher in public high schools I have to deal with students of all sorts: newcomers to the Spanish public system and those who simply hate schooling and teachers, to mention but a few. They are quite difficult to engage in learning activities.

Declines in achievement, decreased motivation, lowered self-esteem, and increased psychological distress are also, among others, very common in adolescents.

If we (adults in general, teachers in particular) don't try to help them overcome those feelings and difficult situations there will be almost certainly negative consequences for these students including achievement loss, dropping out or falling behind and failing to graduate.

Well, there is one book I want to share here by French writer Daniel Pennac.

I have been reading about him for a while but a few weeks ago I came across a really interesting article published in my favourite Spanish newspaper, El Pais. The article is about "bad students", poor achievers just like Pennac himself was during his early school years.

The self-analysis a posteriori of this experience helps Pennac as a teacher to find out the dunce-saver teaching method.

Pennac writes in his essay:

Everything starts from an initial misunderstanding, a problem of inhibition caused by shyness, chance, or any other cause. And it accumulates and becomes internalized. You say to yourself that you are an idiot, a moron, there's nothing to do with you. If you consider yourself an idiot, then you feel released from any effort. Your problem is irreparable. (...) However, the whole time I worked as a teacher of high school students I never ran into any idiot boy. Parents can be idiots, television, books and teachers as well, but the kids are not. They can be more or less vivid and bolder or faster, but none is idiotic."

Nonetheless, this is not the first piece of advice I've ever got. That one came from a colleague I met in my first year as an EFL teacher in a public secondary school. The school was in the city of Madrid, in a very poor area and the groups I taught were "bad students", poor achievers and newcomers from South America, China and Eastern Europe countries.

Pretty soon I realized that teaching English to this kind of students, some of them could barely write or read properly in Spanish, needed to be approached from a different perspective. By that time I had no idea of the diverse methological approaches that a foreign language teacher could use in the classroom. My colleague, who was working as a teacher assisstant at that time, told me that, in order to evaluate their previous knowledge, the tests' questions should be displayed in a childlike manner: very large letters and graphics. That simple! and that difficult too because the students were 15 year old and they didn't want to be treated neither as stupid nor as children, in their own right of course.

That piece of advice helped me find the right track to engage students in active learning, doing activities that were accessible and enjoyable at the same time.
That helpful colleague is still a good friend of mine.

Gary Latman's picture
Gary Latman
English Teacher / Technology Coordinator / Instructional Technologist

Early in my career, I would confront students in class and then get into an argument with the student over what he or she did or didn't do; you know how that goes. One day, I had an "aha" moment, realizing that whenever I had confrontations in front of their peers, it often escalated, until I would kick the student out or send for security to remove the student. I won the argument, but lost the goal, which was to regain control of the situation for the benefit of everyone, not everyone minus one. I began to ask a misbehaving student to step out of the classroom to talk to me. I usually remained calm and reasoned with the student, but remained firm in what behaviors I would and wouldn't accept. Ninety percent of the time, we'd return to the classroom, no one would lose face, and the situation would be resolved.

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