Are you a teacher stuck in the ether of an uncontrollable class? Do you feel like your classroom is disorganized, or full of children who aren’t respecting your lessons or policies? Are you afraid that the ability to do your job somewhat relies on a classroom that’s willing to…actually…LISTEN, and maybe even respect you?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, seek no further guidance than the expertise that almost thirty years in this business can give you. You know the deal- you have most likely heard your colleagues discussing specific students that seem to be a constant distraction in class, and probably have a few students of your own in your mind. Here’s the bottom line: It ISN’T difficult to teach in a classroom where students are misbehaving. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE!
So how do you implement a system that is strong enough to withstand whatever classroom problems you may be facing? Well, it’s actually not that simple. Every classroom is different, yet so many can be the same in some fashion. You might have to adjust some of these Golden Rules to fit your needs, but these are PROVEN building blocks on which to maintain a safe, functional classroom:
1. No foul language
– This is a BIG one. So many teachers allow their students to get away with swearing in class. It’s a bit different in context at the collegian level, but in grades K-12, it’s something that can really turn a classroom upside down. Allowing students to swear even once could give them the green light to keep it up. Destroy this problem the FIRST time it occurs in class. Give a harsh warning, talk to the student after class, whatever you think is appropriate for the situation, but do SOMETHING. If you don’t stop it as soon as it begins, the problem will grow! PROVE to your students that you won’t tolerate it.
2. No hats
– Bad hair days are the student’s problem. But seriously, a hat in class is a sign of disrespect. You may not think so, and if so, skip this rule. However, remember it’s possible that if students see that they can get away with something, they may try to break boundaries in even more areas.
3. Raise your hand to ask a question
– In some courses, student led discussions are pivotal. However, as the teacher, it’s a smart idea to keep control of class discussion. The last thing you want are students screaming across the room at each other. That is why students MUST raise their hands and be called on to ask a question. The more random blurting that occurs, the noisier and more chaotic the classroom can get. Make it clear on the first day of class that students MUST raise their hand and be called on to make a comment or ask a question. It’s YOUR class. YOU are the only one who should be speaking without being called on.
4. Never throw your work out
– Why do students always complain they don’t have that handout from a few weeks ago? In every course you teach, students should be made aware that they are responsible for every piece of paper handed out in class. Accidents happen, but generally you want to make it clear to students that they keep all work from the first day until they receive a grade. Do it this way, and there are no more excuses about not having required class materials!
5. Garbage gets thrown out at the END of the period
– Don’t allow students to wander around class. Tell them that all garbage can be disposed of when class is dismissed, barring unique circumstances. When one student gets up, more will see it’s acceptable, and more WILL follow!
6. The student is responsible for ALL work even when absent
– Let’s get clear- the whole “I wasn’t here last class, can I make the homework” speech, and all of its variations you’ve probably heard; THEY SHOULD NOT EXIST! In 2014, you can send emails or syllabi from one phone to another person’s phone. Nearly every student has one, or at least has some sort of access to the internet. If students are absent, they should know it is their responsibility to email either you or another student so they can complete the assignment and hand it in ON TIME. There are still some extreme circumstances, but the more lenient you are with late assignments, the more you will be handed late assignments. There are due dates for a reason! Stick to them!
7. The Period is over when YOU say so. The bell means nothing.
– Anyone who has taught even a day knows what the ‘bell’ really means. Or, more importantly, what a few minutes BEFORE the bell means. It means that some students aren’t listening and some are packing up. This cannot be tolerated. You are given your entire class period for a reason. Your students should feel free to pack up AFTER you officially dismiss them. The bell is there to tell YOU that in 5-7 minutes, the next period will start. It does NOT mean that students can turn off their ears and pack their notes away. Two minutes lost per day is two weeks of teaching time! YOU be the bell!
8. Don’t forget to have FUN.
– Kids love to have fun. Even though you need to be forceful sometimes to keep control of a classroom, it is easy to motivate students by laughing, having some fun, and doing hands-on activities. Reward your students for excellent work with a (relevant) movie day, or class outside in warm weather. Students generally hate sitting in a seat and not being able to move for a whole class period. That is WHY some classrooms can spiral out of control. A balance between fun and seriousness needs to be maintained, and if it is, your class will respect you!
There you have it! This is a small guide to managing a classroom. As teachers, we have two real jobs, which some people who aren’t in the business aren’t aware of. Mastery of teaching the material and mastery of the CLASSROOM. All that knowledge means nothing if you cannot communicate it to your class. Be clear with your students about what is expected of them and don’t bend your own rules. Remember, it’s your classroom. What you say goes!
Want more info about Grade Success? Have any questions about teaching methods, tutoring, bullying or parent involvement in education? How about an entire book on classroom management, and collaborative teaching? Visit our website or like us on Facebook and Twitter, and read some info about The Ninth Period, a handbook designed to help teachers!