As promised, I will always keep it real with you, and with that said, classroom management is an area of growth for me.
However, where I was day one and where I am today seems like two different worlds.
I would like to think that classroom management, similar to all other areas of teaching, is one of those things that develops over time and you just tend to get better at it. So go ahead and pat yourself on the back for the work you did today and despite the chaos that might have occurred – just remember – it does get better!
It goes without saying though, it is going to take a lot of time and energy from you to see the change you want. BUT IT IS SO WORTH IT! An ‘out of control classroom’ is one of the most exhausting things I have come to know. So nip that shiz in the bud and lay down the law!
In order to keep this blog post simple and easy to digest (because goodness knows we could go on and on and on and on about what strategies work best) I am going to include my top 10 tips for better classroom management!
#1) RULES. Set them. So many educators now claim that “rules” are unjust and we need to lean more towards ‘expectations’ or ‘class norms,’ but let it be known, that is ridiculous. You need them to respect your space, so establish the rules, AND STICK TO THEM! Keep them simple and easy to follow and establish a specific discipline action if any are broken. Fairness is key here.
#2) PROCEDURES. Teach them. Reinforce them. Demonstrate them. And don’t add a new one until one has been solidified. I generally spend about 2 weeks reinforcing a procedure. Whether it be where to sign in, where to find absent work, how to get the warm-up started, or even asking to go to the bathroom. Granted, there will be students who still don’t know where to pick up the homework from the day they were absent 15 weeks into the school year – but you can’t get caught up in that. Default to the FIO method at that point. Figure. It. Out.
#3) SEATING CHARTS. Oh for the love, no, you do NOT get to pick your seat. There will be plenty of opportunities for group work, partner talk, projects, etc. where YES they will be able to work with their friends – but for the day to day – the constant buzz of friends chit chatting in the back corner IS SO ANNOYING and my students (I don’t know about yours) are so quick to snap back at me when you call them out. So just avoid that altogether and assign seats. The moment they move- ¡detención! They’ll figure out you mean business.
Now I will say, sometimes I make compromise – for example, with one of my classes – I let them choose their seats and in return, they receive an immediate detention if I see their phones out. Give and take.
#4) WARM UPS. These will change your life. As for me, I call it the “para empezar” and have students do them on a paper that I pass out on Mondays and collect on Fridays for points. Remember- EVERYTHING IS WORTH POINTS. You can access my ‘para empezar’ sheets here:
Having structure from the get go is so important. However, I still fight every single day with students about getting their warm up started and there are many who just refuse. You can’t save them all (problematic, I know- get over it.) But overall, it is a great way to start class and is generally successful. To increase participation, I provide an example of the warm-up and then go around and stamp their papers as long as they are actively working on it. That way, however many stamps they have at the end of the week equates to the number of points they will get. This looks good on your evaluation too. Check out my “para empezar” post for ideas!
#5) BACK TO BACK ACTIVITIES/ TRANSITIONS. I will be honest, I get dinged sometimes on my evaluations because of how fast I talk- but I promise there is a method to my madness. The thought is that if I continue to talk and teach all 55 minutes and always have another activity or random fun fact to fill the space, there is little time for anyone to speak out or cause a disruption because they are constantly trying to keep up with you. I know it sounds crazy but I have come to find out that the kids will catch up- don’t slow down for them. High expectations, right? Anyway, plan for at least 5-7 activities a day, and although you may only get to 4, there won’t be a lull in the lesson and therefor you can usually keep control.
#6) GET ON MY LEVEL!!!! I mean shoot, what student wants to listen to anyone who doesn’t know a thing about them and doesn’t seem to care to ever learn. For goodness sake, take some time to learn about the music they like, who their friends are, who they are dating, what makes them tick, their favorite class, why they do or do not want to be in school, and then use that as leverage. Meet them where they are at, get on their level, and be that teacher who can actually relate. They’ll eventually be on your side.
#7) CLASS JOBS. Create a couple jobs within the classroom and assign them to very specific students. You know the ones. Mine take their jobs very seriously and truly help to create some strong classroom management. Some examples might be the paper passer, or the classroom husher (for when they get to0 loud) – careful though, our kids like to just yell out “AY! SHUT THE F*** UP!” which can quickly cause issues…Other fun jobs include the class manager, the class motivator (hype-man), or even a welcome committee (“buenos días, clase”)
#8) HOMEWORK. Oddly enough, I am one of the only teachers in my school who gives homework and my students know it!! How does this play into classroom management you might ask? Well, if they know there is going to be homework every. single. day. then they are more inclined to listen to what you have to say and write down the notes so that they are successful on their homework (which in my class makes up most of the points). Of course, you have cheaters who just google translate everything, but it’s pretty easy to know when that happens and to call them out or deduct points. The most important thing to remember with homework, again, is consistency. If you say you’re giving it every day, every other day, every whatever…you make sure that you give it every day, every other day, or every whatever. When you slip, they slip.
#9) CALL HOME. Again, this is something that I am continuously working on, but I do think it works more often than not. Being in a high school, it is challenging as we walk that fine line of knowing when to put the responsibility on the student and when to call home to address a problem. Regardless, if a kid knows that you are in constant communication with their parent/guardian, they might just shape up the next day in class after a phone call home. Now I know this doesn’t always work – mom/dad/guardian doesn’t care, the school can’t seem to find a legit phone number, you leave 100 voicemails but never hear back, blah blah blah, but it is worth a try. Just because they think ‘they grown’ does not mean they’re not still afraid of their dad. Also, remember to call home to give a little praise every now and then- it won’t kill you and it will actually go a really long way.
#10) LOVE. If you can create an environment of love and respect that which your students can really see and feel, I promise you, more often than not you will have them on your side. This takes time though, and energy, and patience, and understanding, and communication. Quite frankly, getting to know your students and developing a love for who they are is another full time job in itself. Yet, it is worth it. It is the most important thing at the end of the day because we all need someone who believes in us.