George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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.

Photo: Rich Anderson & Matthew Grapengieser and brizzle born and bred; CC by-NC2.0 via flickr.

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New Teacher Academy Series
A five-part series for new teachers that covers best practices for classroom management, lesson planning, delivery of instruction, working with parents and building relationships.

Comments (32) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Bailey's picture

Thanks for the post! As a new teacher I have struggled with classroom management at times. Like you said, when you graduate you have a picture in your head on how teaching your own class will be is not how it usually is in reality. I loved the humor you included into your post and agree that it is extremely important to laugh, and sometimes we all need to realize that it is okay to make mistakes and there is no need to tear yourself apart when you do make mistakes. You mentioned how important it is to have a plan and include your students in this process, but I was wondering if you had any classroom management approaches, such as pulling cards or the token reward system, that have worked well for you?

Niesha fennema's picture
Niesha fennema
Primary special education teacher from Albuquerque, New Mexico

Like many others , classroom management has been the most difficult thing for me as a new teacher. I appreciate your humor and perspective as I continue on my journey of empowering students and making a difference! I truly believe that those with exceptional behavior and classroom management are those who can help their students to make progress. As a new teacher, classroom management was also never something I thought about when graduating college......I wish there were time to focus on this topic for those in undergrad teaching programs. I will most definitely be referring to your suggestions and passing this blog on to other struggling teachers who are even more new than myself. Thanks again.

Isabel's picture
Parent of 1 High School Student in VA

I am pursuing a career to become a teacher. I really enjoyed reading this blog. Justin shares some exciting ideas on how to get the involvement of the students. Time management is one of my concerns. I am looking forward to when I get my own classroom of students to using some of Justin's ideas. Thanks and keeping the information coming especially for us newcomers. : )

Taylor's picture
Kindergarten teacher, Iowa

I took a course in college on classroom management and as this year comes to an end I am realizing more and more how little that class did to prepare me. I am assuming it is typically not offered for undergraduate programs because classroom management is learned best by experience.

bmich23's picture

As a new teacher, I found this article to be very helpful. I very much enjoy the advice on making sure to laugh a lot. In my young teaching career I have already experienced so many mistakes that I have made. These could be anything from just making myself look like a goof to handling a behavior in a wrong fashion. I definitely agree that it's good to just laugh. Also, I think asking for help can feel like a shot to one's pride, but oftentimes you will find out how willing poeople are to help, and that in all actuality it makes you seem as a stronger educator who wants to grow professionally.

Kendra's picture
Third Grade Teacher from Ohio

Improving student learning begins with classroom management in my opinion. I believe that for learning to take place, classroom management must be effectively used. I think that you have some wonderful tips here. As I begin to prepare for my first year, I too will be reading The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong. This book is full of tips and tricks to use in the classroom to establish routines that are so important for the success of your classroom management. I used this book in my college courses, but have not looked at it in a year or two. I also like your suggestion of laughing... a lot. I enjoy having fun while teaching and often times you do just have to laugh to get through some of the situations that you are thrown into throughout the course of the day. I hope to use your information to help guide some of the classroom management in my classroom to assist me in growing as a professional! Thank you for the information.

Alicia S - 104052's picture

I think that classroom management will require a lot of reflection. I agree that you need to be consistent and make sure that the students know the rules. It is always helpful to be fun and playful but you need to know when to be serious and not let the students run the classroom. I think that classroom management is going to take a lot of practice, a lot of revision and what works one year may not work the next. If you notice something working, write it down and do the same if something doesn't work. This is a continued process and you should constantly be asking what is causing the student behavior rather than writing a student off as just a "bad kid". This is something ever present where i work because it is a military facility where parents constantly deploy. A child may be well behaved normally but suddenly starts acting out. it always makes me question what happened if I didn't change my management strategies. I always try to look at outside influences as well as internal causes before judging a child.

Joan's picture
Third Grade Teacher

Someone earlier commented that they too had taken a classroom management class and that it seemed almost pointless, because you really don't learn it until you are out there trying it. I completely agree! This last year was my first year teaching and I felt like nothing I learned in school seemed to be working. I was constantly adding new behavior agreements and throwing out things that didn't work and I felt like a failure because I didn't have it right from day one. It was good to hear Justin say that its okay to throw something out that isn't working and to listen to your students to help you come up with something new. After hearing that, when I look back on the year, maybe it wasn't so bad after all!

JR_TechEd's picture
New Language Art Teacher with EdTech MA in the process.

At first, it's really difficult to have good classroom management because you don't want to become the evil teacher. It's difficult but not impossible!

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