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Should We Redefine Classroom Management?

Betty Ray

Senior Editor at Large
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We've been very impressed with the collaborative movement that's happening on Twitter, where you can find a weekly open forum discussion called #edchat. Each week, educators from around the world debate, ruminate, and brainstorm on the top issues of the day.

We'd like to bring a bit of these discussions to you. Every Thursday, you'll hear from a guest blogger from #edchat -- and if you'd like to join in on the #edchat fun, here's a post from our first guest blogger, Shelly Terrell, on how to to get involved.

Shelly is a technology teacher trainer and social-media consultant from Stuttgart, Germany. On Twitter, she's known as @ShellTerrell and is an #edchat coordinator. One of this week's topics was classroom management, a lively discussion with a lot of insights and ideas. Here's Shelly's take.

--Betty Ray, Community Manager (@EdutopiaBetty) and Elana Leoni, Online Membership Coordinator (@elanaleoni)

During Tuesday's #edchat (January 5), educators discussed what works and doesn't work when managing student conduct in the classroom. I remember feeling nervous when my principal observed my classes. My students and I would try to model the ideal class.

The students were silent, sat straight in old wooden desks too small for them, and raised their hands while I lectured. Every other day, students scattered all over the room, working in groups on their various projects. Some shared our one computer. Other groups stood by the whiteboard, brainstorming ideas. Some students worked silently at their desks. I walked around the room and facilitated.

This is not the ideal way of teaching for most, but my English-language learners' high test scores and incredible achievements motivated me to continue teaching this way.

After #edchat, I was anxious to read my colleagues' thoughts. Many of them did not believe the best way to manage students is to keep them busy and silent. Here were a few of the ideas shared:

@Readtoday: There is no such thing as an "I don't care student" -- only an "I don't know what you are interested in" teacher.

@Andycinek: An active/engaged student is always well behaved.

@NicolRHoward: Are silent classes really better managed, or are they "controlled" better? Classroom management requires balance and student engagement.

@Elanaleoni: Mixing up your teaching styles is a good way to keep students involved.

@Evab200l: Sometimes I prefer the noisy ones; a lot of good work is produced then.

@Msmithpds: Then why do we expect children to sit still all day and expect proper behavior with 100 percent attention?

@Bedellj: Setting up stations might be helpful. A computer would be one of several activities.

@Awksome: Completely agree. Not championing lecture style. I'm not really a fan. It certainly has a time and a place, though.

@Hoprea: Some noise is our friend, and it's very necessary. But noise is different from talk and discussions, in my view.

@Doctorjeff: Class management needs to reflect the human experience of learning. Learning is a joy!! A classroom needs to be joyful.

@Parentella: A joyful experience to me would be one where the students are engaged and discussing the subject they are interested in.

@Morsemusings: Teach children how to manage conflict.

I am excited other educators have redefined what a well-managed classroom looks like. Perhaps it is not a bunch of silent students busy with textbook work? Perhaps it is one where students share ideas, test them in various ways, and collaborate with their peers?

Perhaps it is one where students are engaged and so excited about the material they are speaking to each other or helping each other with projects? Perhaps it is a teacher walking, around helping students draw conclusions? What do you think?

Check out the rest of the #edchat transcript here. If you have never participated in an #edchat conversation, please join us on Twitter every Tuesday at 12 p.m. EST/6 p.m. CET or at 7 p.m. EST/1 a.m. CET.

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a technology teacher trainer and social-media consultant for language institutes, schools, and educational organizations worldwide. She focuses on providing professional development for developing countries and teachers English in Germany to students of various ages.

She also is the director of educator outreach for Parentella. Explore her Teacher Reboot Camp blog for tips on professional development and integrating technology effectively into the classroom. She can be reached via Twitter: @shellterrell.

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Joan Young's picture
Joan Young
Fourth grade teacher from Redwood City, California

I missed the #edchat but enjoyed the chance to catch up on the conversation here! I believe that classroom management is an outdated term, and implies the outdated idea of a teacher as an "expert" and the students as quiet, passive receptors of the information. It's difficult to find a replacement "catchphrase"! In my classroom the main goal is for all students to become actively involved in learning and to build autonomy and efficacy. I can challenge my students to stop, ponder and go beyond lower level questions when I have made the environment a consistently positive one. Joy, fun, humor can all be part of a classroom environment that is relationship focused while also rigorous and empowering. Thanks for the insightful discussion.

Justin Schwamm's picture
Justin Schwamm
High-school Latin teacher from North Carolina working on a "new thing"

Like Joan, I missed the #edchat but was glad to find this summary. @Joan, I agree: classroom management, as a term, is outdated. It's part of the factory model that is so deeply ingrained in education, but is (1) so destructive to authentic, deep learning and (2) so opposed to the needs of today's learners - and even today's manufacturing businesses! When you think about it, doesn't "classroom management" imply that
1) the classroom is a knowledge-production assembly line
2) students are either raw material or assembly-line workers
3) the teacher is either the assembly-line worker or the foreman
4) the principal is either the foreman or, at best, the plant manager
5) thoughtful engagement not only isn't the goal, but is actually counterproductive - it slows things down and reduces efficiency!
We can see how well that system worked for GM and Chrysler, and for the American TV industry! :-( Meanwhile, in Japan and Korea, even manufacturing plants are built around the idea of teamwork, continuous improvement, and personal empowerment (we've probably all read about the way that Toyota assembly-line workers can stop the whole line if they notice a quality problem).
I love the description of your classroom, Joan; it's what I strive for with my own students and with another project I've been working on and blogging about here at the Joyful Latin Learning blog. Thanks again for the opportunity to share in this conversation!

Andrew Pass's picture

I've never really understood why there's such a huge focus on something called "classroom management." Such a focus is missing the mark. The real focus should be on engaging and insightful teaching and learning. Because I completely agree that engaged students are not behavior problems.

Andrew Pass
My Current Events Blog

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Just a reminder that this week's #edchat is tomorrow, 01/12 at 9 a.m. PST/ 12 p.m. EST and 4 p.m. PST/7 p.m. EST on twitter.

Just do a twitter search for #edchat and follow the conversation.

Also, if you'd like to vote for this week's topic, you can do so here. This week has a record number of votes and 3 topics are within 2 votes!

See you all on #edchat,

Shelly Terrell's picture


Preparing a lesson keeps the flow going and gives the teacher confidence so in that respect it really does help to be prepared. When working with technology, the teacher should also be prepared to make sure the lesson runs smoothly. Having to fix technical problems during a lesson could cause students to become distracted and disinterested.

Joan and Andrew,

You're right! It is an outdated term. We should be facilitating versus managing, because interested learners aren't misbehaving. Not every student will like the same lesson, that is why blended learning and differentiated instruction is important. Moreover, I believe that students should have many options of how they would like to achieve learning objectives and explore a particular topic. If the student decides, then the student is taking ownership of that learning.


I am enjoying your series on student ownership of learning which I believe is key to engagement and interest.

S.Gatterson's picture
Sixth Grade Reading Teacher from Houston, Texas

I believe that different styles of teaching can help to foster a community of learners who are engaged and actively involevd in the learning process. As a teacher, I am essentially the manager of my classroom. As mentioned, mixing up your teaching styles is a good way to keep students involved. Differentiated instruction is very important to the learning process. We know that our classrooms are diverse, so therefore we need to provide our students with many opportunities to share their ideas and allow them to take ownership of their learning. Classroom management is one aspect of teaching that shapes our views of how an effective class functions.

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