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Mindful Classroom Management & the Power of Patience

Mindful Classroom Management & the Power of Patience

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This week, I called in a substitute for my third grade class. When I returned, along with a stack of spelling projects, I found a little post it note which nearly knocked me off of my feet. It read: “I’m not sure how you did it, but you have transformed this class since the beginning of the year.” Needless to say, her notes from two months ago sounded markedly …well…different. 

Looking back over the course of this year, I had my moments of doubt with this particular class. “Will I ever get this class in working order? Are they even capable of behaving?” These were just a few of the pesky little thought clouds that popped up at those not-so-comical moments with my third graders.

In November, I was called in to take over as a second language teacher at a local school. With over a decade of teaching experience and a few education degrees under my belt, I felt confident that I could breeze into any classroom feeling cool and calm. 

Entering my new school, I was greeted with five sets of students who would come to see me throughout the week for second language instruction. While several of the students knew how to “test limits” as so many do, there was one class of third graders that nearly ripped the cool and calm out from under me. 

Flying paper airplanes, shouting, standing up on chairs, and forgetting every possible school supply were just a few of the antics on my long list. Walking into this same class a few months later, it is hard to believe that any of that ever really happened. 

What I would like to share with my substitute, and anyone else who has ever struggled to control a group of (extremely) rowdy children, is that it can be done. Here is the gold standard treatment that worked for me.

Patience. In this day and age, it seems that everything is instant. Instant music downloads, instant picture uploads, instant soup, and of course, the instant gratification that comes along with all of that. Forget about it. This one will take time. 

Faith. Believe in your students. Believe that they can and will behave; one behavior modification at a time. If they don’t know how to walk into your classroom, give them the opportunity to try again. One routine at a time. Again and again.

Respect the little people. Know that one day, in ten years, you will walk down the street and meet face to face with the sweet little airplane throwing third graders and that they will remember you. When you speak to them and give them directives, speak to them as you would like to be spoken to. Never use shame to modify behavior.

Praise the positive. When you notice your students on task and doing what is expected of them, let them know. Some students appreciate being mentioned individually, and others may like to be praised in pairs or groups. Experiment with rewards, and find a system that works for your environment. 

Relationships, relationships, relationships. Take every opportunity to get to know your students. Incorporate opportunities for them to share about themselves in daily assignments and discussions. Respect their willingness to share or not to share. Provide multiple avenues for students to share opinions. Rather than sending the “trouble makers” out of class, draw them closer and invite them to have lunch with you. What appears to be “bad” behavior may actually be a cry for help. 


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Dr. Azi Jankovic's picture
Dr. Azi Jankovic
Educator and Parent

Your point about students being different these days is well taken.. and I love the notion of letting students see us as fellow human beings. What are some strategies that you use to do this?

Hannah's picture

I agree 100% that to have a successful classroom you MUST have patience, faith, respect for little people, praise the positive, and relationships. I love that you mentioned that bad behavior could simply be a cry for help. I believe that's where the importance of relationships comes in. If you know your students and have a healthy relationship like you mentioned then it may be more appearant when it is a cry for help than simply acting out for attention. I also strongly agree with your statement that says, "believe in your students". I love that statement because some students don't have anyone else but their teacher so if we don't believe in them who will?

Liza Carmon's picture

I love everything about this! I completely agree with everything that was said. Patience, faith, respect, praise, and relationships are very important not only in everyday life, but in the classroom. These five things can definitely change a class. As a pre-service teacher, I hope to have these same outlooks and also have a successful classroom. Thanks for sharing your story about changing your classroom! I will keep these ideas in mind because I know that the things you have mentioned are they keys to success.

Ann Weiss's picture

Excellent thoughts! When I was at one of our elementary schools this past week I noticed the "rowdy" students were being punished by being made to sit out 5 minutes of their recess! I probably did the same thing when I was a classroom teacher, but I began to think that this was backward thinking! Don't we want the "rowdy" ones to be out there running and using up their energy! I would do it differently this time!

Cheztacular's picture

I love this post. Respecting a child is the most important step to creating a strong relationship. I wanted to teach a group of preschool teachers about this topic, do you have any suggestions on some activities I could incorporate using these concepts?

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I'm a big believer that we learn best when we start with the learners' experience and then help them apply new content in their own context, so I'd start there: I would use this post as a discussion text and ask participants to break each of these things into concrete, observable attributes. What does it look and sound like when you are being patient- you personally, in your context, with your kiddos? What does it look and sound like when you aren't? What do you need from those around you to make this possible? What gets in the way? This is such an internal process, it would have to happen there.

bellb22's picture

I totally agree with this. Praising the positive is one of the best thing you can do. Even if it's something so minute. Even though it may seem minute to you it may mean the world to that child. Even as an adult you never know what the next person may be going through. Your positive interaction may be only positive thing they hear all day. This also goes hand in hand with getting to know your students and building those relationships. Some students need a little more positivity than others.

Geoffrey K's picture

I agree with Dr. Azi. Let me give an account that supports Faith: One parent asked me to assist her child in mathematics since she had lost hope in her. The girl was in standard 5 (may be grade 5 in your system). Her highest mark was 02% by that time. I told the mother to have faith and believe that she will improve. I then started creating good relationship with the young girl by telling her that she was able to get high marks. After a two week's tuition, the girl managed to score 05% in a mid term exam. I praised her and she was very happy. We continued with her until standard 7. She gradually improved to a point of getting over 60%. At the end of Primary National Examination, she had a B+ which was 68%.
The mother was very happy with her. Let's have faith

akjacks2's picture

All of these things are essential when thinking about creating a community within a classroom. Students must feel safe, respect and appreciated in their environment to perform to their fullest potential. As I read the article, I thought about never giving up on a student. We should keep pushing until we reach a point where we have made a connection and headway with each student.

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