I’ve debated for a long time whether or not to write a post about classroom management. If you talked with any of the three principals I’ve had over the years (one went on to become our superintendent), they would say that I was “one of the best” teachers they’d observed when it came to classroom management. Despite the boost in ego one usually gets when receiving compliments, I still feel like I’m constantly struggling. In other words, I’ve felt like I don’t have much to offer other teachers on the topic. That is, until I read comments from other music teachers in a Music Teachers’ Facebook Group.
Overwhelmingly teachers requested posts about classroom management. I was surprised, and somewhat relieved, to read that other teachers struggled with this issue too. And I figured, since we’re all struggling anyway, I might as well take confidence in what my principals have said about me!
The problem with classroom management (I believe) is that it’s a mixture of art and science, but mostly, it’s an art. Rulebooks and procedures can be created and followed, but ultimately, the teacher’s task is to build a relationship with the class that fosters the trust, compassion, and mutual respect that goes into successful classroom management. That being said, here are my top tips for classroom management. I will write more on these in another post, but this list is the foundation upon which all the details of my classroom management rests.
BE CONSISTENT. ALWAYS. WITHOUT FAIL. SERIOUSLY.
Without consistency, no amount of creative rewards or suitable consequences will ever work. If your rule is that students must raise their hand before speaking, and a student doesn’t do that, then you must deliver a consequence every…single…time. I often hear my fellow teachers complain about how they told a student to do something, and the student continually ignored them. When I ask about the consequence the student received, the teacher unfailingly says something along the lines of, “Well, I should’ve given a consequence, but I didn’t. I need to do that more.” Know your class expectations and consequences forwards and backwards (whatever they may be) and stick to them. You can read more about this HERE.
The more entertaining I am in class, the fewer disruptions I have. When I do have disruptions, I quickly dole out the appropriate consequence and go right on being entertaining. The fact is, when you’re making students laugh, they’ll be less inclined to cause a disruption. I also use humor to break tension and get the class started off on the right foot. Sometimes students will come into my room and I just know they’ve had a rotten day. When I see this, I start the lesson with something that I know will make them laugh and get them prepared to focus (happily) on the music. You can read more about this HERE.
LET THE RULES SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
We’ve all probably had a teacher (or know of one) that lets their emotions be known, including their frustration toward students who are disruptive to the learning environment. There are many problems with showing emotions in this manner, so I’ll hit on a just a few.
First, it shows that the teacher lacks control. We strive for students to manage their anger and frustration in healthy ways, therefore, we must model those expectations no matter how we might feel on the inside. Second, if teachers become overwhelmingly frustrated every time a student is disruptive, they’re in for a very long and agonizing career. Students will be disruptive. Period. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it’s simply a result of kids growing and learning. So, let the rules speak for themselves. Deliver the consequence without showing emotion and move on to the rest of the lesson. Better yet, develop a hand sign for consequences so that the lesson continues to flow seamlessly, even with multiple disruptions. You can read more about this HERE.
BE THE ROLE MODEL THAT STUDENTS DESERVE
Who was a good role model for you while growing up? Did their example change you as a person? If so, was it because they told you what to do and how to behave or was it more about how they behaved and modeled good behavior?
Let’s start with the example of Mr. Rogers. While it’s true that he didn’t have to teach a classroom full of children or dole out consequences, he’s still a good role model for how to interact with children. His calm and patient manner is comforting, and his insistence that every person has worth (including children) is outstanding. It’s worth noting here that not every child gets a person like this in their personal lives. Some students only have their teachers and the characters on TV to serve as good role models. So it’s important that we model exactly what we wish to see from our own students. You might be surprised with the number of students who look to you just as millions of students looked to Mr. Rogers. The positive impact of a good role model is priceless! You can read more about this HERE.