When I first started teaching in my own classroom, I kept waiting for the “real” teacher to show up. I mean, who was going to set up the schedule, create files on the students, begin early year assessment and who on earth was going to set up the rules and routines of the classroom? It was a shock to realize it was all up to me.
I believe a lot of teachers approach classroom management through a trial and error process. And I do too. But I used some advice my grandma gave me about relationships to start my classroom off right: You need to establish trust, cooperation and clearly defined roles between you and the person (or people) in the relationship with you.
You have a responsibility to your students and they have a responsibility to you. Both are happiest with this arrangement.
Make training sessions short. Provide positive feedback immediately. Repeat training as needed.
After ten years of teaching, I would add a few pointers.
First, I’ve learned to motivate my students by sharing my interests. I love murder mysteries and I share that with them through read alouds (Two Minute Mysteries by Donald Sobel and You be the Jury by Marvin Miller are two of the books I use). I love to sew. Sewing involves measuring, creativity, problem solving, and constructing. It is a lot like engineering in that way. So I tell my students about that. Many begin to find interests of their own in areas that are academically-based but are not directly related to the curriculum. I also love all animals. Caring for, and about, animals builds empathy and community. In my class, we tell animal stories, read news articles about animals and I assign a weekly advice column for the students to advise others on animals.
Second, I would emphasize that creating a community is paramount to teaching. Students must belong to the group in order to explore their own academic interests. Creating and maintaining that community is the responsibility of the teacher. A great way to build good will is through “good news” notes, where you award one or two notes each day for random kind acts. Students bring these notes home to be congratulated again.
Third, be fair. A survey published within my school board a few years ago showed that the most appreciated teacher trait was fairness. That was defined overwhelmingly as not playing favourites. Later, at in-service, we were asked to recall the traits of our favourite teacher. And the teacher I admired most was very fair – no favourites. As a teacher, I know that this can be difficult to do, some students are better helpers than others, some things need to be done readily and I like to have a dependable student to call on. But I keep a list and tick off that name when I call on a student to volunteer. It may not be perfect but it definitely gives every student a chance. Be vigilant about being fair, everyone will thank you for it.
From the manual: Make training sessions short. Provide positive feedback immediately. Repeat training as needed
Learned through experience: Share your interests. Create a community. Maintain a fair and unbiased protocol.
Nothy Lane is a currently a teacher in Toronto and has taught across North America. She is a reading specialist, a special education specialist and a math specialist in Ontario. She has a Masters in Science in Education from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York and is a doctoral candidate in Disability Studies at Brock University in St Catharine's Ontario. She has taught across North America for the last twelve years, including New York, Georgia, Florida, California and Mexico City. She believes there is no job better than teaching: each day is different, and working with children is both a challenge and the highest privilege.
Stop by her site, A Question for the Teacher, to read more of her insightful posts and useful lesson plan ideas.