Today I’m introducing part two of my series on classroom management tips for elementary music teachers. In each post, I focus on one of four basic principles of my own unique classroom management style. These principles consist of four short phrases; keep them laughing, be consistent, let the rules speak for themselves, and be the role model students deserve. Last time, I discussed some ways to use humor to build relationships with your students. This time, I’ll be focusing on the importance of being consistent.
- Students have learned the classroom expectations and know the consequences for not meeting them. They’ve modeled what to do and what not to do successfully. They’ve reviewed all of these things multiple times, and as a class, can repeat them back to you through modeling.
WHAT COMES NEXT
Now that you’ve reviewed expectations, your students know how everything should work. But what they don’t know is if you’ll actually follow through.
In my experience, consistency was a vital component in building trust with my students. For example, if the expectation is to keep your hands to yourselves, and a student doesn’t do that, then they receive a consequence. Each. And. Every. Single. Time. This includes the consequences listed in individual behavior plans that are created in partnership with the students’ families and school counselor. Consistency doesn’t mean that every student has the same consequence. Rather, it means that you consistently do what’s laid out in individual behavior plans and whole class expectations.
I think it’s important that the entire class (including you) understands the expectations and consequences fully. For example, in order to define what it means to “keep your hands to yourself”, you have to define what personal space means to you and what it means to your students. Your students need to understand what your expectations are before they’ll be able to meet them.
Additionally, it’s important that students know that adults have rules too. Sure, they’re self-inflicted, but they’re no less important. There were times where I broke my own rules in class (usually by talking out of turn). I would apologize to the class (or student as the case may be). And though they usually giggled about it, I do think it helped them understand that we were all working together to be good role models for others.
- Write out your classroom expectations and the consequences of not meeting them.
- Review these expectations and consequences with another music teacher. Consider the following questions:
- Are my expectations age appropriate and/or reasonable?
- Will these expectations benefit my students in the long-run?
- Do my consequences give students the opportunity for self regulation?
- Will my consequences encourage students to learn and grow?
- After reviewing your expectations and consequences with another teacher, revise and edit them.
- Write down a student-friendly version of these expectations and post them in your room.
- Envision what you’ll do if a student doesn’t meet expectations. Consider the following questions:
- If a student is asked to leave the classroom activity as a consequence, how would I prefer that they return later?
- How will I balance compassion with consistency?
- What will my facial expression and body language indicate to my students?
- Will my students see a kind and firm teacher or will they see an angry and resentful teacher?
- How do my expectations and consequences encourage my students to model empathy, self control, and perseverance?
DOES CONSISTENCY GUARANTEE PERFECTION?
Nope. A principal once complimented my classroom management style, and commented that I was “unflappable”. And yet, that didn’t guarantee that my classroom ran smoothly every day. Most days were good, and I was exhausted. Some days were great, but I was still exhausted. And other days I was tempted to believe in the full moon theory. And through it all, I came nowhere near perfection.
We can’t be perfect, just as our students can’t be perfect. And why would we ever want them to be? We’re building relationships with complex and fascinating human beings. Hopefully, they’ll be inspired to keep music in their lives forever. And music is all about making mistakes, learning, and growing.
While we shouldn’t strive for perfection, I do think consistency goes a long way in building trust with your students. If you’d like to chat about classroom management, head on over to my Facebook page or drop me a line via email.
Links to the Classroom Management Series
- PART ONE: keep them laughing
- PART TWO: be consistent
- PART THREE: let the rules speak for themselves
- PART FOUR: be the role model your students deserve