New Teachers

New Teacher Academy: Classroom Management

Who’s in charge here?

January 17, 2012

Welcome to Edutopia's New Teacher Academy! I'm so happy to be here sharing my passion to support and mentor new teachers. I hope that you will join us for all five key topics that we'll cover in this series, because that's our mission: offering resources to new teachers. To collaborate in more detail on these and other topics, I invite you to join my weekly New Teacher chat on Twitter, and also to visit my blog Teaching with Soul.

Please view this introductory video as I share a little more about our five-part blog series.


Classroom management is a term used by teachers and educators to describe the process of ensuring that classroom lessons run smoothly despite potentially challenging or disruptive student behavior. The term also implies the prevention of this kind of disruptive behavior. Many teachers find that classroom management is possibly the most difficult aspect of teaching; indeed, experiencing problems in this area causes some to leave teaching altogether. It can be even more challenging when you're a new teacher!

Our first guest contributor is Justin Stortz. Many thanks to Justin for sharing his humor and great resources on the blog this week!


Justin Stortz teaches fourth-graders to read and write better in McKinney, Texas. He strives to teach with authenticity, humor and technology. He has amazing energy and is very eager to share, collaborate and offer support to new teachers. He blogs at Pursuing Context.

Classroom Management with Justin Stortz

Classroom management was the last thing on my mind as I graduated college. Little did I know it would be the first thing to kick my rear when I taught my first class. How you and your students manage your classroom will make or break everything else.

Here's what I've learned so far:

1) Realize You Need a Plan

Don't hold it all in your head. Start writing things down. What's working in your room? What's not working? What exactly do you want students to do?

Get your class involved, too. Ask for their input and thoughts on the classroom atmosphere. Let them see you writing those things down. Take their suggestions and write a plan on your own, or collaborate to make a plan together. Take some time to think of the behaviors you want, those you don't want, and possible consequences. My early classroom management plan came from reading the classic First Days of School.

I use Evernote to help me collect school plans, notes and lesson ideas. I don't do so well with the paper, so it's nice to have all of my thinking in one spot. See if it helps you.

2) Throw It in the Dumpster

Set the classroom expectations and test drive them for a bit. Get rid of things that aren't working. Or revise them. It's okay to add as well. Talk to your students about it, so they'll know what you expect.

I created a behavior stoplight for my kindergarteners. It was big, bold and colorful. I redesigned it when I moved to first grade, and I completely threw it out when I started teaching fourth graders. Now I just have one small poster and rely on my verbal communication to do the heavy lifting.

3) Be Consistent

This is important once your plan gains traction. State your expectations clearly and often. Students shouldn't be surprised by them, so you need to be consistent. If you let certain behaviors slide once or twice, then be prepared for an encore.

I love the idea of being a velvet-covered brick. Be soft and approachable on the outside but firm and solid underneath. Ideally, your expectations will turn into an external presence that is not affected by your mood or energy level. Coffee always helps.

Some of The Essential 55 might be a good place to start when thinking about what behaviors you should expect from students.

4) Laugh... a Lot

One of the best ways to manage your classroom is to laugh. A lot. Laugh with your students, and laugh at your goofy self. You'll make lots of mistakes. I know because I'm still making them. I don't have it all figured out, and I've never met anyone who does. Accept that and move on. Fill your classroom with laughter. Life will be easier. I promise.

5) Ask for Help

I have a problem with this hulking, ugly monster called pride. I want to think that I know it all and don't need help with my students from anyone. Dead wrong. I need all the help I can get, and so do you. Ask someone on your team, reach out to a veteran teacher on your campus or talk with your mentor.

There are many online communities as well. You can ask questions on Twitter with the #ntchat tag. I participate in #4thchat. Check out Cybraryman's Twitter chats for even more educational chats.

Best wishes to you on your classroom management quest. Get out there and go make a difference in someone's life!

As you are looking at ways to keep your classroom engagement at peak performance, here are a few additional links that you may want to check out. We'd love to hear about your classroom management strategies. Tell us about what works for you and what new strategies you may decide to work on. If you have questions along the way, share them in our New Teacher Connection group and we will get back to you.

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