Classroom management is a fundamental characteristic of a well-run classroom because of its ability to exponentially make room for learning. It creates structure based on efficient, respectful systems and procedures that cut down on ‘time suckers’ like misbehaviors, misunderstandings and overall distractions.
To successfully manage a classroom of students requires two essential teacher behaviors: 1) creating a safe, encouraging environment conducive for learning and 2) implementing a philosophy and/or approach to learning that encourages students to become active learners.
Regardless of student misbehaviors, all children want to feel safe and noticed. Teachers
redesigning classroom environments can start with four simple tweaks to promote learning through intentionality:
- Setting up a classroom’s physical space so that it is inviting, like using natural
light and bright colors, welcomes students into the space as learners daily.
- Arranging desks in pods or a circular shape instead of standard rows encourages students to collaborate with peers rather than learn in isolation. When students see the desks arranged in way that promotes a sense of community and belonging, they feel safe and take interest in being part of it.
- Teaching in all areas of the classroom engages students regardless of where the teacher is stationed. Standing in the front of the room and talking at students makes them feel unsafe and unimportant, which leads to disengagement.
- Incorporating learning supports throughout the classroom space ensures students can access the necessary materials and learning aides without judgement or embarrassment. By normalizing the use of learning supports, with items such as calculators, dictionaries, and manipulatives, increases the likelihood students will take the risk to help themselves learn.
Philosophy and Approach to Learning
Even if a teacher creates an inviting physical space or creates a shared responsibility culture, their classroom management efforts can fall flat without the right philosophy and/or approach in terms of rules and procedures, relationship building and student ownership.
Just like teachers set up the environment so students feel it is a safe place, they must provide the same feeling of safety as a learner by setting the tone of support and encouragement so that students take risks during new experiences.
Rules & Procedures
A safe learning environment means all rules and procedures are created out of fairness and equity for all students who reside within the classroom. They should be aligned to a school’s mission so that students see the big picture connection between how their learning journey is part of the working whole. Strong procedures and clear expectations should not only be initially taught to students, but also retaught and reemphasized as the year progresses to increase student compliance.
Whether the teacher creates the rules ahead of time and then explains the purpose and impact to students or sets aside instructional time to create the list together with students, the importance is on keeping students’ best interests front of mind.
Once students realize the rules are created fairly, it is important for a teacher to consistently implement rules and procedures in all interactions to build students’ trust. When students know the rules apply to everyone, they begin to open up as learners causing their insecurities to transform into proficient skill sets.
Fairness creates a “we” mentality that all actions have a cumulative reaction which builds responsibility, ownership and empowerment. Students rely on their foundation of a safe classroom with a teacher whom they trust to utilize their voice and make choices to better their learning environment. This empowerment propels student motivation and creates a culture of accountability.
The theme that resides within the foundation of any effective classroom management plan and the teacher who implements it is putting relationships first. No matter how strong procedures and expectations are, if students are not personally connected to the one enforcing them, they will not abide by them. Relationships come first. Teachers can showcase respect and interest in students by getting to know each of their names immediately, having a pleasant attitude in all interactions, learning about student interests and conducting home visits or attending extra-curricular events. This approach ensures the teacher can create interesting yet relevant lessons that keep students wanting more.
It is a wise investment for a teacher to spend a significant amount of time at the beginning of the year getting to know students as people first and learners second. As the year progresses, continuing the relationship building on a smaller scale is also encouraged so that students can trust that the teacher always cares and supports them, and not just in September.
A common struggle for most teachers is that students are solely complying with current behavior management systems due to the rewards and consequences game. Instead of complying to avoid trouble, students should be taught to reflect and readjust their behavior and mindset so that they can continue to be a contributing member in the classroom. A ‘fresh start’ policy allows students to make mistakes without the mistakes labeling their self-concept as a complete failure.
Just like with a safe physical environment, learners need to feel valued through choice and voice and when a teacher is able to involve students in the running of a classroom management plan, they build investment in their students to not simply comply out of fear, but to comply out of investment. Therefore, teachers should provide a rationale behind all instructional and behavioral requirements. Students feel supported when they understand the teacher’s approach and when they see how their involvement benefits themselves and their peers in the long-run.
All teachers can become masters of their classrooms if they thoroughly prepare and consistently implement a classroom management system that has students’ best interests in mind every step of the way. By preparing a classroom management plan from scratch or overhauling a current management plan to incorporate the tips listed above, teachers can gain effectiveness in the classroom while positively impacting student achievement.
What other aspects of classroom management would you add to this recipe for success?