George Lucas Educational Foundation

Overcoming the Challenge of Classroom Management

Overcoming the Challenge of Classroom Management

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If there is one thing I have learned as a high school teacher it is that classroom management is vital to success. It is important as an educator to find a variety of strategies that assist one in overcoming the challenge that class management poses. Creating a strong relationship with students, having lessons that are student-centered, and establishing clear expectations of students all aid in constructing an effective classroom management structure.

In my experience as a teacher I have found that the in order to get respect from my students they first need to respect me. The teacher’s relationship with his or her students will make an impact in the students’ willingness to comply with classroom rules and expectations (Gregory & Ripski, 2008). This strategy for classroom management is defined as the behavioral approach (Gregory & Ripski, 2008). Teachers who implement the behavioral approach as a classroom management strategy spend time getting to know his or her students and creating positive and quality relationships.

Another strategy to improve classroom management is creating more student-centered lessons. In many secondary schools and colleges, the majority of instruction is lecture-based (Sezer, 2010). Research has shown that students are neither engaged nor is their learning enhanced using this lecture method of instruction (Sezer, 2010). Instead, students prefer lessons that are project and discovery based. Students also will be less disruptive during class if they are more engaged in their learning (Sezer, 2010).

As a secondary level mathematics teacher, I find that lecture-based lessons are all too frequent. I have decided that I need to create more meaning for my students through student-based learning opportunities. My students frequently ask me why they are learning math. I need to take responsibility for the lack of exploration in my classroom, and I need to make sure they discover real-life applications to their learning. My students will be more engaged in the lessons and therefore less likely to cause classroom management issues.

In order for teaching to be effective the classroom needs to be run in an efficient way, which means setting clear expectations of the students. “Effective teachers have learned that students are more likely to work hard and produce quality work when their teachers are organized, evaluate and return assignments quickly, and maintain consistent standards and expectations” (Pallumbo & Sanacore, 2007, p. 68). Students who have teachers that lay out clear expectations for them are more likely to obey these rules (Pallumbo & Sanacore, 2007).

As Suggested by Pullumbo and Sanacore (2207), the key to successful classroom management is consistency; the more consistent one is as a teacher the more the students get into the routine. During my first year of teaching I learned how important clear expectations are in relationship to classroom management. I did not begin the year with a clear outline of what I expected from my students. Therefore, I struggled the entire year with creating class norms.

After reflecting on this year I realized that my norms were not consistent, and therefore the students never knew what they were expected to do. After my first year of teaching I have improved greatly on creating class norms and expectations, I feel that my classroom runs much more smoothly now. However, there is always room for improvement in this area. I continuously strive to find the best routine for my classes.

In conclusion, classroom management is a challenge that all teachers face. Implementing effective strategies such as building quality relationships with students, making learning more student-based, and maintaining consistent classroom expectations helps one overcome this challenge. Making the decision to integrate these strategies in my own teaching will increase the day-to-day efficiency of my classroom and allow my students learning to become more deeply enriched.


Gregory A., Ripski M. (2008). Adolescent Trust in Teachers: Implications for Behavior in the High School Classroom. School Psychology Review, 37(3), 337-353.

Palumbo A., Sanacore J. (2007, November). Classroom Management: Help for the Beginning Secondary School Teacher. Clearing House, 81(2), 67-70.

Sezer, R. (2010). Pulling Out All The Stops. Education Spring, 130(3), 416-422. Retrieved November 27, 2010 from Teacher Reference Center.

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Comments (5) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Heather Sawyer's picture
Heather Sawyer
High School Math

Does anyone else have other suggestions, tips or tricks to improving classroom management?

Laura P.'s picture
Laura P.
High School Math Teacher from Detroit, MI


As a fellow young math teacher, I have found that giving less instruction and allowing students to start working on the material right away is beneficial. For example, I might only lecture for 10-15 minutes and then give them required problems to turn in at the end of class. During that work time, students can work together and I can walk around providing feedback so they know if they understand the topic or not.

Last year I found that if I lectured the entire time, students would go home and not know what they learned. By allowing them lots of time to ask questions, they are able to get the feedback needed to learn the material. To hold them accountable for the subsequent homework assignment, I give a 5 question homework quiz consisting of problems that are similar to their homework. This way, students are held accountable for asking questions in class. The grade on their homework quizzes is their homework grade.

I hope this helps! I have found students stay on task and respect you more for not giving them as much homework.

Tom T.'s picture
Tom T.
High school English teacher from North Shore Massachusetts

The graphic for this discussion thread above says the important words: "I will respect my students." For a myriad of good and noble reasons, these words should always be true, but there is more that is of a practical value to the teacher. Simply from the view of enlightened self-interest, the classroom teacher should never give up that high road. At the first sign of rudeness the teacher can firmly say, "I have never been disrespectful to you, and this is how you decide to treat me?" You'd be amazed at how much a student will take it to heart. Kids know what "fair" means and if you hit them with that they will understand. I have used this method in many situations from tough inner-city schools to privileged suburban students and it works.

The second piece of advice I would give is to phrase everything in terms of decisions that are in the hands of the student. Sometimes you'll come up against a student who wants to create a dramatic moment. She'll refuse to obey your command or he'll want to storm out of the room to make a point. Perhaps she'll threaten to not see you at an appointed time. Never take it personally or emotionally. Comment upon the behavior as if it were any other decision the student could make. "Really? Is that what you want to choose to do? I think there are better ways through this situation, but it's up to you. I just think it might end up being a bad choice." Of course, how well you are backed up by the administration will determine whether this strategy pays off for you because you are going to have to make sure that should a bad choice be made, there will be consequences.

Discipline students the way a good and crafty mother does it: If you want to tell a class how they are not behaving the way you want, first tell them how good they are in other situations. "I really like teaching this class. You have been improving every day since the first class in September. I am really starting to see how far you are going to go and the great things that are in store for you. But then I read the note the substitute left for me when I was absent. How could you have treated another human being so shabbily? He was a guest in your room and he deserved better. Now he thinks this is how I taught you to behave. I deserve better than how you behaved yesterday." The higher you set them up in a way that they will recognize as realistic and true, the harder the blow when they find out how much they came up short in your expectations.

Patti Sperry's picture

Tom, thank you for your great practical suggestions. I've always tried to treat my students with respect with the hope that they will respond in the same way, and for the most part, they do, but you always have the students that does not seem to understand the concept of respect. I do use my "mommy" skills quite often - by the way, I teach high school English too - with my students, and that nearly always works. It is amazing.
Thank you again for your contribution to my education:)

Fawzia Chowdhury's picture
Fawzia Chowdhury
Teacher trainer

It is important that expectations are clearly spelled out to students in the beginning. These should be specific and not too many. These should be discussed with the students and they should agree with them. Consequence of not following your instructions/ set rules should be determined and be agreed by them.You should be consistent and make sure you do not overlook even for once if they have not met your expectation. Remind them of the expectation as soon as they attempt to break the rule.
Other little tips that help are
* Make sure the students have settled down and are ready to start the class before you start the lesson.
* Never give your back to students while teaching.
*As soon as someone is defying your rule, lets say started talking while you are teaching, instantly stop teaching and eye the student until he/she has noticed you. You can say when the student have stopped talking and realized 'may I continue.'Never ever go on talking/ teaching while a student is also doing the talking.
Be always prepared for the class and try to have student- centered lessons (you already discovered the benefit of it).

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