Okay, okay. So the idea of classroom management makes sense to you. You get it. Maybe you even agreed with my first post in the series. But maybe the idea of getting started overwhelms or intimidates you. You’re not alone. When I first started, whenever I would say or do anything related to classroom management or discipline, my hands would start sweating, my face would get hot, and I’d feel short of breath (which coincidentally is just great when you’re trying to explain things in front of your entire class).
So let me come alongside you, friend, and give you a few practical ways to get started. Next week, I’ll post about practical classroom management techniques I use, but first it’s important to give you a little push to get started. So here we go:
- Work through the discomfort. If you’re not naturally the “strict” or “disciplinary” type, it’s important to work through the sense of discomfort you’ll feel in setting boundaries, establishing routines, and explaining rules to your students. But it’s so necessary. So take a deep breath, pray a little, feel confident that this is important and your students need it. And then go for it! Yes, your students might be a little miffed at you, but they’re teenagers. You’re the adult. There must be boundaries. They’ll get it, readjust, and go right on back to loving you once their irritation subsides. I promise 🙂
- Involve your students in the process of making the rules. Trust me, it’s not too late in the semester. Just take 30 minutes out of your class period and have students brainstorm classroom rules that they think will create a safe, respectful, fun, comfortable learning environment for the entire class. Have them share their rules with a partner and then pair down their list to 2-3 ideas. One partner goes to the board and writes down their ideas (because what student doesn’t love writing on the whiteboard?). Then you discuss each rule with the class. If the class agrees, write the rule down on butcher paper. Once you have a good list, tell students these are the new class rules and have them sign their names to the paper. I do this with sophomores the second day of school and then hang up the poster for all to see the rest of the year.
- Explain rules and the reasoning behind those rules. When you’re implementing new rules or re-iterating old rules with your class, always explain the “why.” You know what students hate? Being told “because I said so.” Do you like when someone implements rules randomly that don’t make sense to you and then won’t explain them to you? Of course not. So take the time to explain the positive effect your rules will have on the students and on the classroom as a whole.
- Actually enforce the rules. Yeah, I know. Seems obvious. But I truly believe that most teachers don’t follow through on what they say. I remember my first year teaching, I’d state a rule and then pray students would follow it. I wouldn’t actually have any consequences so students walked all over me. Nowadays when I see two students having an off-topic conversation, I walk over and kindly say “How’s it going?” It throws them off and also shows you’re not angry. Then I say very calmly “I’m very concerned that you two aren’t going to finish this assignment this class period. I want to see you succeed and not have homework. So this is your warning and next time you’re off topic, I’ll have to move you.” And 5 seconds later when they’re off-topic again, you know what I do? Move them. Matter-of-factly. Calmly. Without anger.
- Be chill. Not in the sense of letting everything go- remember, you have to follow through. But approach discipline and consequences in a calm manner. Don’t discipline while angry. If students can count on you to be even-tempered, they know that you don’t “hate” them or think they’re a bad person. It’s simply that they broke a rule, there was a consequence, you enforced that consequence, everyone moves on. Yelling at kids or showing your anger does not a managed classroom make. When students live in fear of you, they can’t learn from you. So again, take a deep breath, let go of the frustration, and then enforce the rules.
Friend, if you’re struggling with managing your classroom, I hope you can start today. I hope you feel the freedom and joy of doing the hard work to create a well-managed, stress-reduced classroom.
P.S. Part Three here.