As a first-year teacher, I faced a harsh reality. I could plan and execute meticulous lesson plans with enthusiasm and seamless transitions — if my students exhibited perfect behavior (eleven years later, I still have never encountered a perfectly behaved class, FYI). I was lacking classroom management skills.
Contrary to widespread, fallacious belief, classroom management is not synonymous with discipline. Classroom management includes how a teacher manages the classroom before an issue arises and his or her response to an issue. Take comfort in knowing that every teacher has encountered a learning curve at some point relating to behavior. While experience will likely enhance your skillset, there are some habits you can adopt today that will improve your classroom management.
To effectively manage a classroom, it is important to maximize student engagement in your lessons. Engagement does not just mean fun, it means that students are authentically working and learning. In order to increase student engagement, you must take time to know your students. What are their interests, strengths, and weaknesses? You can gain this information in a plethora of ways such as observation or student and parent surveys.
When you have taken time to understand the learners in your classroom, use this information to plan lessons that engage your students. Incorporate student interests where you can, and allow opportunities where students can utilize their strengths. When an activity will require students to work within their weaknesses, offer heavier support and modeling. Also, consult your students about how you can engage them and use their ideas where you can. A classroom where students are engaged is always a well-managed classroom.
Glean from More Experienced Teachers
One reason that I love working with teachers is our propensity to support each other with resources, knowledge, and more. As a new teacher, more experienced educators will always be a great resource, and classroom management is no exception. Reach out to your colleagues when facing behavior challenges. Take time to observe other teachers during your planning time when you can. The teachers that you work with have unique knowledge of your school culture, so their advice can be invaluable. Also, don’t just aim for the seasoned veterans. Educators who have been teaching for a short time have fresh experience with new teacher challenges and can also provide useful information.
Address Issues Early
No matter how proactive you are, classroom management issues will arise. When they do address issues as soon as possible, and set new expectations when necessary. Use wisdom about how to fix negative behaviors, but don’t ignore them and allow them to fester. Students will test the waters to see how much they can get away with, and prolonging a latent issue will send the message that you tolerate bad behavior in your classroom.
Remember that challenging days will come. The key is facing classroom management challenges effectively, and being willing to adjust your methods as needed. Yes, you can “smile before Christmas” if you implement practices that cultivate a well-managed classroom environment.