George Lucas Educational Foundation

How prepared were you to manage students by your degree program?

How prepared were you to manage students by your degree program?

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I'm doing research about how poorly most teachers were educated about classroom management by their college/university education programs. I'd love to hear from you. Did you actually have a class that addressed managing students? I give a workshop for new teachers, and I would like to use some comments from you all.

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Bonnie Yelverton's picture
Bonnie Yelverton
Still looking for a way to use my credential in secondary math & science

Thank you for this topic! I am a very mature 3rd career person (my first career was teaching another subject in another country) and took an MA degree program in secondary math education at what is supposed to be a very good education department. Our course was much more about teaching minorities than teaching math, and classroom management was left to some readings and a couple of "expert" lecturers who told about using timers and bells, or using cooperative learning techniques. I feel that I am very unprepared for classes of 40 students (in the other country there is a max level of 28.) And I, too, just experienced being let off completely from a charter school after 4 weeks of teaching in a very chaotic time at the school. The students I took over where completely undisciplined and way behind in what they should have learned.

Karen Greenberg's picture

I was not at all prepared by my education degree for classroom management. All the theory in the world will not prepare one for the real world. I walked into student teaching in August thinking that I had to have all these tricks and plans. My mentor teacher finally told me to relax and form a relationship with the students. Once the students know you care they will do anything for you. I wasn't sure about that advice, but I took it because my plan wasn't working. In just a couple of weeks teaching because so fun it was exactly what I had pictured when I went to school to become a teacher. No one had ever told me that just being myself would be my best tool.

Kathryn Roe's picture
Kathryn Roe
Professor of Education, William Penn University

As an undergraduate 30 years ago, I had absolutely no training in classroom management. My first teaching position was in a juvenile detention facility where I was given a week of intensive training. Later, in public and private schools, I had an excellent principal who taught me a lot about classroom management. When I became an administrator, classroom management became an issue again -- so few of "my" teachers had a clue!

Now I teach pre-service teachers at a college. And what do I teach? Classroom management. It is a semester long class for elementary, secondary, and K-12 "specials." Because of my experiences as a teacher and an administrator, I try to make sure the class focuses on practical application, not theories. The pre-service teachers develop a comprehensive classroom management plan during the semester that includes procedures, plans for introducing rules and procedures to the class, rules and consequences, etc. But, like all classes that do not have a field experience component, many of the students do not seem to recall what they learned, or they do not understand how to apply their knowledge when faced with real, live students. Many struggle with classroom management when they begin student teaching.

The areas I believe pre-service teachers struggle with most are creating a classroom structure with procedures and routines, knowing how to work with students with challenging behaviors, and the way the teacher's language and behavior affects student behavior. Many seem to fall back on the idea that punishment will change behavior. (If punishment solved behavior problems, why are there so many repeat offenders in detention?) While we know that classroom management is the number one reason why teachers fail and why learning is slowed, it shocks me how few colleges and universities teach classroom management, and how few school districts have knowledgable people available to support and help new teachers with this.

I see classroom management as a high priority for both pre-service teachers and for mentorship programs. While it is helpful to know theory, we need to make sure teachers know how to translate theory into practice.

Jane's picture
lead educator juvenile corrections

I agree that teachers are not prepared for classroom management. I am a mentor to new teachers because of this. I remember being thrown into a classroom. A veteran teacher told me that the most important thing in the room was my attendance/grade book. He was right, but I had never used one before. My very first year of teaching was substitute teaching. It was the perfect experience. I learned a lot from being in other teachers' classrooms, and I could walk away from my mistakes at the end of the day. Personally, I think every new teacher should spend a year subbing. I consider myself one of the pros in classroom management, but it took me several years of on-the-job training to get it down to a fine art. Above all - respect your students and earn their respect at the same time.

FutureEducator's picture

I, like many other readers that responded to this post, had little education on classroom management. During my undergraduate degree, I had one course devoted to classroom management and it was only an 8 week night course. Mrs. W's comment really jumped at me: "It's hard to learn classroom management without experiencing it. That is the problem in education programs is until you are in a classroom and use the strategies you can't get a full grasp on them." I think what Mrs. W said is so true. No amount of information from a textbook can prepare you for the real world classroom. Yes, you can learn strategies, but some are not realistic. I learned the most about classroom management during my field experiences and student teaching where I could actually observe and exercise classroom management strategies. Classroom management has so many variables. Two teachers can have the same strategy, but the way it is implemented can lead to either success or failure. Also, every class will be different. Some strategies and techniques can work for one class but may not work for another class. Adapting is another skill that teachers need because strategies will need to be edited or changed based on the composition of the students and the classroom environment. As the author mentioned, the consensus seems to be that there is little to no time devoted to classroom management. It also seems that many agree that no amount of textbook/theories can prepare you for the real classroom and it all comes down to time and personal experience in the classroom, so is that the reason why there is so few time devoted to teaching classroom management? Also, should there be more courses focused on first-hand experiences in the classroom? That way everyone can have more time to learn about classroom management in a real setting and be able to practice the strategies.

Melissa Meverden's picture

After reading these other responses, I feel lucky to have had a Classroom Management course as an undergraduate and again in my M.Ed. course. While my undergrad management class prepared me to correctly write rules/consequences and design a classroom management system, I didn't feel prepared for many of the classroom management issues I was presented with my first year, particularly with some of the students I taught that had major behavioral and emotional disabilities. After three years I began to feel much more comfortable with my teacher persona and cultivating a businesslike but warm approach to my students. I think I had developed a good rapport with my classes but still struggle with how to manage different behaviors while also overwhelmed with so many other responsibilities. I think that's a major stumbling block for new teachers -- it just feels like there is SO much to learn and practice, and sometimes it feels like all you do is manage and discipline rather than teach.

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

I just came across this old post and it still resonated with me b/c this lack of training always has been and continues to be a major problem. As someone who specializes in classroom management, it dives me crazy that classroom management is consistently cited as the number one concern for beginning teachers and yet nothing seems to change during teacher education (traditional or alternate route programs). I recently took matters into my own hands and created a new app for trying to fill this void.

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

I just came across this old post and it still resonated with me b/c this lack of training always has been and continues to be a major problem. As someone who specializes in classroom management, it dives me crazy that classroom management continues to be cited as the number one concern for beginning teachers yet both traditional and alternate route teacher education programs are not including course with an explicit focus on this topic. I just created an app for the iPad and iPhone in an attempt to fill this void.

John Yu's picture

Listening to an educated individual lecture about classroom management is one thing, but being able to implement it effectively is a totally new ball game. Even if I took four years of only classroom management courses, I would still be struggling.

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

I completely agree! That is why an effective course should incorporate lecture, video clips, case studies, role plays and, most importantly, field based experiences so the techniques can be observed and practiced. I can hear the frustration in your post and know that there are lots of others feeling the same way. Hang in there and keep looking for resources to help. Taking advantage of this forum is a great idea.

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