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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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Doug Campbell's picture

The best advice I ever got was to have as many rules as you want and make rules for minor misbehaviors. When students see you won't accept the little things, they often won't even consider the bigger ones. #TheDisciplineDR

Bob Sullo's picture
Bob Sullo
author, educational consultant

I had a hard time trying to figure out if this comment was serious or not. I have waited a few days before commenting because I wanted to see if it was followed by an "only kidding" post. The best advice you ever got was, "Make as many rules as you want"? Really? I guess that would make sense if you wanted only a few. If a teacher wanted lots of rules, it would seem to be a recipe for classroom disruption, especially if you are working with adolescents. In m y classroom, I'd want to have as few rules as possible and have kids focus on learning, nit "the rules." Create a long list of rules with older kids and their focus will be on trying to figure out how to circumvent what they will perceive as an oppressive system where they have little or no control. I find this post disturbing because it advances the dynamic that we are in competition with kids and need to show them who is the boss. Then again, I believe that we are inherently driven to learn, gain skill, and be competent. I reject the "Lord of the Flies" world view that would fill our classrooms with "as many rules as you want" to keep the little savages from running wild.

Dr. Tracey Garrett's picture
Dr. Tracey Garrett
Professor of Teacher Education

I was also perplexed by this comment! As a professor education with a specialization in classroom management, I continuously emphasize the idea that classroom management is a process of key tasks that teachers need to address to create an environment conducive to learning. These tasks include organizing the physical environment, creating rules and routines, developing caring relationships, implementing engaging instruction and addressing discipline issues. Effective classroom management is about balancing all of these tasks to create a safe, caring environment. An environment that is dictated by too many rules is rigid, cold and likely to create an atmosphere of rebellion as the previous posts suggests. Rules and routines are an excellent way to communicate your behavioral expectations, but not the way to completely "manage" your classroom.

Marta O'Brien's picture
Marta O'Brien
FIfth grade teacher, Blue Bell PA

This was a very quick quote that has stuck with me over the years. Sometimes when you get down on yourself because you are not reaching everyone, my advisor told me to remember this: focus on the 22 kids that are engaged and listening and not the 2 that are not.

That is not to say we do not want to reach those 2 students but we have to be proud of all the ones that we ARE reaching!

Doug Campbell's picture

Mr. Sullo and Dr. Garrett--I am definitely not kidding when I say that a teacher should have as many rules as they want. I respect your opinions on this issue(and they are shared by many in the education field), but I think that approach is outdated. I have 52 rules in my high school classes(some punishable, some not). Other teachers like Ron Clark, who wrote a book about his 55 rules(The Essential 55), have had similar ideas. It is not the number of rules that make students want to rebel(or make things rigid and cold), it is the approach of the teacher in their excecution of the rules and consequences that makes students feel threatened. That can be true if you have 2 rules or 100. I wrote a book about this called Discipline Without Anger: A New Style of Classroom Management(on Amazon). I also have a website at withoutanger.com. I welcome any discussion on this topic. The way many teachers handle discipline today is the biggest problem in education.

Bob Sullo's picture
Bob Sullo
author, educational consultant

Mr. Campbell,
I really have no interest in getting into an online argument, so I suspect this will be my last comment. I did take up your offer to watch the promotional video your students made. In a previous comment, you suggested that Dr. Garrett and I have "outdated" ideas. I have never met Dr. Garrett and don't speak for her, but I find it interesting that you characterize our positions as "outdated" while you offer Rule #32 ("Never miss an opportunity to be a gentleman") and Rule #1 ("Respect the ladies." I can't capture the tone of voice in words). Both of these seem a decidedly "dated."
I taught English for a number of years. I'm not certain that Rule #48 ("This isn't therapy time") is a rule. It's a simple statement of fact for your classroom.
I stopped counting all the "don't" rules in the video - a mere sample of the 52 - but a host of "don't" rules seems incongruous with Rule #12 ("Positive energy only.")
I'm sure I missed things, but it looked like a room with fewer than 10 students. Lot of rules for so few students.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I got the sense in watching the video that the students genuinely like and respect you. I have the strong impression that you are a charismatic teacher who builds strong relationships with his students. I'm guessing you have lots of success and your students learn a great deal from you. I bet my own three kids would have enjoyed having you as a teacher. Where you and I disagree is that I think your 52 "rules" have little to do with your success. I think you succeed and your students thrive because you develop strong relationships, run an organized class, and engage the students in meaningful work.
Enough said. I wish you continued success.

Shannon's picture
Fourth Grade Teacher from Perrysburg, OH

The best classroom advice that I have ever gotten was that you need to be stern with the students the first couple weeks of school, so that they know you mean busy. After they have learned the rules then your classroom will run smoothly. You can always start hard and turn softer but you can never start soft then turn hard. The students willl respect the rules in classroom if you require respect of the rules. It is also very important to earn respect from your students. Once they have your respect they will give you theirs.

Mindy Keller- Kyriakides's picture
Mindy Keller- Kyriakides
High school english teacher and blogger.

Mr. Campbell, I really like your point that:

It is not the number of rules that make students want to rebel(or make things rigid and cold), it is the approach of the teacher in their excecution of the rules and consequences that makes students feel threatened.

A teacher's attitude makes all the difference, and developing habits that help us respond to student misbehavior is surely at the core of your methodology. I am so glad that your students were part of a class with a teacher who understands the difference between punishment and discipline. No doubt they responded well to you as a role model. : >

However, depending on the age of the student, a "list" of rules can be counterproductive. I've found with high schoolers that the use of ONE RULE helps offset more behavioral issues. Further, by NOT establishing consequences up front, but clarifying that whatever occurs will be handled fairly, teachers can breathe more easily about how they determine what constitutes a misbehavior and how they handle the consequences for misbehavior.

For the most part, my classes self-regulated. For example, if a student said something disrespectful to me or another student, generally, that student apologized and attempted to redeem him/herself WITHOUT my having to say a word. That is the difference between their embracing the principles of a rule and complying with many.

I write about this in my book: Transparent Teaching: Creating the Ideal Class for Students and Teachers. : )

Mrs. Keller-Kyriakides

Dr. Tracey Garrett's picture
Dr. Tracey Garrett
Professor of Teacher Education

Mr. Campbell,
Thanks for sharing your video. I enjoyed watching it! And, yes, Ron Clark was the first person who came to mind when I watched it. It is obvious your students care and respect you. As I mentioned previously, I ground a lot of my classroom management philosophy in the idea of developing caring relationships with students and implementing engaging instruction. However, by no means does that negate the need for clear rules and routines and a thoughtful and purposeful physical design of the classroom. I have a feeling that our philosophies are probably not as different as they sounded in our posts. I think the way your first post reads can possibly catch people off guard and create an image that is different than the one that is presented in the video, which is perhaps, one of the downfalls with communicating this way. I teach two sections of Effective Classroom Management every semester and it is completely full with preservice and novice teachers who learn how to effectively manage a classroom by balancing the five tasks I mentioned in my previous comments. I have also conducted over 175 professional development workshops on the topic. Therefore, I am very confident in saying that there is nothing outdated about my approach or philosophy. Recently, I created an app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. You can check it out at www.classroommanagementessentials.com. I love to talk about classroom management, but something is lost when everything takes place online. Good luck and thanks for sharing.

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