Don’t make idle threats
When students are disruptive, it’s tempting to say things like, “Unless you quiet down, I am going to give the entire class a zero on the test.” But this is neither fair, nor is it something you could ever follow through with in good conscience.
Fairness and consistency are both critical to your effective classroom management plan. Never make idle and arbitrary threats, or issue blanket forms of discipline.
Do get your rules straight
I’ve heard many teachers proudly proclaim that they only have one rule in their classrooms: “Always be respectful.” This sounds nice, but what in the world does “always be respectful mean?” And how can you enforce something so general? You can’t.
Definitions of what it means to be “respectful” often vary from one person to the next. Students might disagree that texting during class is disrespectful; teachers, on the other hand, would argue the exact opposite. Rather than debate the nature of “respect,” circumvent the issue altogether by creating rules that are specific and enforceable.
Don’t take things personally
Disciplining yourself not to take things personally is essential to any effective classroom management plan.
It irks us when students fail to turn assignments in on time, when they talk through our lecture, when they goof off during an in-class exercise, and so on. But most of us are bothered by these things for the wrong reasons: because we take it personally, because a missing assignment is something else for us to keep track of, because we spent a lot of time putting together our lecture, because these things are important to us.
Taking things personally will only burn you out. Take yourself completely out of the situation and first understand why your students didn’t make the investment you asked for.
Do create a late-work policy
I have enforced no-late-work policies with college students, but in hindsight, I can see that this was a mistake.
Like any teacher, I want my students to take responsibility for their learning experience. In my opinion, taking responsibility means submitting work on time. On the other hand, I know that in the professional world, deadlines are often negotiated. The freelance writer and the client, for example, often negotiate a deadline that is conducive to both parties. That is not to say that the writer will not suffer the consequences when she misses her deadline. I’m simply suggesting that the “real world” often gives us an opportunity to negotiate, make good, and receive extensions—especially when we have a reputation for upholding our end of the bargain, consistently making deadlines, and turning in excellent work.
As someone who has tried (and failed) with the no-late-work policy, I would suggest setting a policy that maximizes student learning while emphasizing timely work completion. To illustrate what I mean, checkout Reed Gillespie’s approach by clicking here.
Don’t worry about your students liking you
You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and even if you haven’t, you know from experience that love and intimacy are basic human needs. We all want to love and be loved—but look, you’re going to do a lot of damage when you try to earn your students’affection by letting your classroom management slip.
It can feel unnatural, especially for young teachers, to be “uptight” or “nerdy,” but keep in mind that freedom is easier to give than take away.Your students already have friends—and let’s be frank, you’ll never be as cool as they are. You are an authority figure and a leader. Act like one.
If you're looking for more information on how to create an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, Pedagogy with a Personality. Inside, you'll find 20 ways to engage challenging students and create an effective classroom management plan.