I always had colleagues asking me about my style of classroom management. There was often the appearance that my students were loud, off task, and learning was non-existent. I would often invite those colleagues into my classroom to chat with my students, who would blow them away with their explanations of what they were working on and how it tied into the curriculum. Everyone’s style of classroom management is different, but there are some pieces to keep in mind.
Establish a classroom culture from day one.
When I was a new teacher, I thought all students would behave themselves as long as I was clear about the rules and consequences. It only took a few days for this to fall apart. To make my students active participants in their learning, early on we created our class norms.
Deciding on the norms with my students allowed us to set expectations for not only good behavior but also how they would be contributing members of our class. There are many ways to run a classroom, but knowing your expectations help guide you when the inevitable “oops” moments come up.
Have high expectations for all students.
Every single person in your classroom is important, and we need to react that way. Letting a student sit and wait for someone else to teach them can be somewhat frustrating and embarrassing. If I see another teacher doing this, it’s usually because they don’t know how to bring that student into the lesson or because it’s easier than figuring out how to do so.
Either way, it’s not acceptable. Even though I’ve taught students with various special needs, having high expectations means thinking about the variety of ways you can reach all students in your classroom.
Remember why you’re there.
Your style of classroom management begins with reminding yourself what your role is in the classroom. You are a facilitator, a helper, and an enthusiastic learner. You hold students accountable for their work and behavior but also give them room to make mistakes and figure out how to work through challenges.
If you can’t come up with your own list of classroom rules, try taking what I’ve found works well in my classroom: Teach the social/emotional skills you want to see in your students, along with the academic content of the course.
It’s not enough to say that you expect students to be respectful of each other and of the teacher at all times. It’s more powerful, I’ve found, to tell kids what they’re expected to do in different situations. For instance:
When another student is talking, give him or her your full attention. That means no sleeping or texting.
When you disagree with someone’s idea, tell us why without talking over him or her. That means no name-calling or profanity.
These are things that students have to do in the real world, so it makes sense that they should be able to handle them in your classroom as well. Plus, this type of language allows you to be very clear about the behaviors that are expected of students.
You can also tell students what you expect from them–and what type of person you want them to become now and later in life. Your purpose in being a teacher is to help these students become productive adults, and these little moments in your style of classroom management will help that happen.
Have high expectations for yourself as well.
This one is tough because everyone has their own set of skills and challenges that they bring with them to the classroom. If you’re still trying to figure out how to manage your class, look for opportunities where you can practice.
Working with a mentor teacher, going to a school-wide PD, or working on your own can all serve as opportunities for you to work on your classroom management.
If you screw up one day and mismanage your class because of a mistake or a bad day, don’t let it get the best of you. When I first started teaching, I really struggled with classroom management. I learned from my mistakes and kept trying to improve myself in my own style of classroom management.
Don’t get discouraged when you make a mistake.
Everyone makes mistakes in the classroom at some point or another–the key is not letting it be a big deal. With each class, have a quick debrief after class. Ask your students what went well and what they think you could improve on for next time. Then, ask them why they like working with you. It’s also a great opportunity to ask if there is anything that will help them learn and do their best at school.
I find this helps students feel more comfortable sharing things with you as well. Sometimes, kids will want to share what they really like, and sometimes it’s the opposite. Either way, always remember that you’re still learning and your style of classroom management can ebb and flow with this.
Have an open door policy.
For all of my students, I’m available anytime during school hours for them to come in and chat. I also have an email address that they can use to contact me, but the personal touch is much more powerful. We all need a break from academics, so having this time with them does everyone some good! Obviously, there are times when I’m working with other students or doing other things, but usually, if something is urgent, I can make time for them. This is probably one of the most effective pieces of my style of classroom management.
Plan how you want to handle misbehavior before it happens.
I tend to find myself reacting when behavior gets out of control rather than planning ahead of time what I will do if that occurs. That being said, there are some simple things that have worked for me in the past. First, I remind myself that students are often trying to figure out how they can fit in or what is expected of them. If something does happen, I try using humor first before anything else (“Did you really think it was a good idea to throw your pencil?”).
I trust that my class knows that I don’t mean any real harm and I’m simply asking them to put the pencil down so we can get back on track.
How to define your personal style of classroom management
Getting students to learn is a team effort, not something that one person can do alone. Work with your colleagues, mentors, and administrators to define what success looks like in your classroom. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel! As you practice management strategies in the classroom, keep track of what works best for you. Notice which misbehaviors are most challenging for you. Once you have a sense of what might work, you can consider whether there are any techniques that don’t work for you.
After all, just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work in your own classroom.
If something isn’t working, try something different!
There are always new strategies around the corner that will help you be more successful in the classroom.
Don’t allow your management challenges to impact how much you love teaching and working with students. Education is all about growth and most things come with trial-and-error. If something fails one day, try it again the following week with a different approach!
Your teaching is your own business; you are responsible for it and it represents yourself, not the school or district that employs you. A lot of people want to teach because they have a natural passion for the field, but sometimes you have to motivate yourself too.
Build a strong relationship with your students and their families. Be consistent in how you manage your students’ behavior. Use humor to diffuse challenging situations in the classroom. Reflect on what techniques work best for you and your students. All these will help you create a functional, personal style of classroom management that works.
Your Style of Classroom Management and the 4 Keys
Creating your own style of classroom management isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom.
If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.