Whenever I pass by the teachers' lounge in my school I would hear teachers talking about issues related to students' misbehavior in a certain session, or a class that they all agree is the worst one in the school! And sometimes I can hear them nagging about a certain student with whom they have tried to use many techniques and nothing worked! In fact, the problem of classroom management had persisted for decades and till know teachers are still concerned about how to efficiently manage their classes. Are there actions teachers can take to create successful classrooms? Well I think that the answer is "yes". However, teachers should take this matter seriously. They should be aware that classroom management is one of their major challenges and responsibilities, regardless of the subject matter they teach.
Classroom management is described by experts as the process of ensuring that the lesson runs smoothly in the classroom despite disruptive behavior by students (www.wikipedia.com). It is a skill acquired over time. However, in order to be acquired it needs practice, feedback, and willingness to change and accept differences (www.adprima.com) what is evident is that the term classroom management is definitely linked to issues of pro-action, leadership and discipline which should be considered as an action that facilitates the development of self-control (www.wikipedia.com).
An efficient classroom manager is a proactive teacher. Pro-action is about being prepared and in control as well as knowing what is going to happen in contrast with reaction which is about dealing with problems as they come up (www.honorlevel.com). A preventive approach to classroom management involves a positive classroom climate, where there is warmth and acceptance as well as mutual respect between the teacher and his/her students (Bear, 2005). There are, however, fundamental things teachers should consider for preventing problems from happening in their classrooms. These include, setting classroom rules at the beginning of the year and being consistent in the application of consequences with students. By doing so, misbehavior would be less likely to occur, because students would be committed to the plan discussed with their teacher beforehand. In addition, Students should be given frequent and consistent feedback regarding their behavior. For instance, whenever a student misbehaves the teacher should be able to redirect him/her to the appropriate behavior by stating what he/she did and refer to the applicable rule. This is something that not all teachers practice. Many times I had students sent to my office by the teacher and when I ask the students for the reasons they say" I did nothing, I don't know why the teacher sent me out!" or they give me silly excuses that for sure the teacher won't be sending them for. This, in my opinion, is due to the fact that students are not aware of what they have done maybe because their teacher had sent them out of the class without explaining to him/her what is the rule that he hadn't abide by and the consequences that he/she had brought to him/herself, or the steps that he/she followed that led him/her to make such a decision, and this is a major problem. Another important factor that would give teachers time to be proactive is, arranging the physical environment. This includes students' seating plan which should allow the teacher to be able to observe all the students as well as reach them easily. It should also make it easy for students to move smoothly without disrupting the whole class. Organizing lessons that have a logical flow is also a crucial step, and this requires good preparation which in turn leads to productive use of time. Another key element is motivating students to strive towards educational goals, and this involves using praise. However, praise should be used effectively i.e it should be given for real effort, progress and accomplishment of students. In addition, Students' success should be attributed to their abililty and performance and not to external factors (Tom & Marsha, 2010). When all the above factors will be taken into account, both the teacher and his/her students will experience fewer surprises in the classroom because there will be well-known routines that the teacher and her students had agreed upon.
Some teachers confuse the term leadership with autocratic power relationship between the teacher and her students. They assume that they should be the "Boss" in their classes and their students should follow with unquestioned obedience (Tom &Marsha, 2010). This, in my opinion, is a major misconception. I think that teachers who think that they should be tuff with their students and act as the boss to run their classes will always engage in struggles with their students. That's what's happening with one of my teachers. However, I somehow agree with Hoover and kindsvetter who claimed that teacher personality is the most important factor in determining success in classroom management and discipline (1997). For instance, since the beginning of the year this teacher has been in constant struggle with her students due to her discipline technique that's negatively challenging them. I've tried to convince her to change her dictatorial attitude because this won't lead to anything but dissatisfaction for both parties but till now the struggle continues. As long as this particular teacher is not willing to change the struggle will continue and the losers will be, both the teacher as well as the students! In fact, teachers should start thinking of management as "Lead management", a management style where the teacher is the leader rather than the Boss in his/her classroom. In Lead management power among the teacher and his/her students is shared and teacher power is used in service to his/her students rather than something to enhance his/her own status (Tom & Marsha, 2010).
Many experts have tackled the issue of handling discipline problems in the classroom, but in my opinion there is no one practice that works best all the time with all students. For instance, we as teachers would never expect that all our students would learn math or any other subject at the same pace or in the same way. The same with discipline, teachers should not expect that all students will react to the same discipline technique the same way. They should be aware that there is no one best solution for every problem or classroom setting. This is because, as students go through stages of moral and ethical reasoning, they also function at different stages on the road to self-discipline. For this reason teachers should be prepared to address discipline in their classroom at different level (www.adprima.com). For instance, in the same classroom you can find students that often refuse to follow directions but they just do it out of fear, or simply because they expect a reward when doing so and at the same time you have other students who abide by rules because they care what their teacher thinks about them, and they want him/her to like them, whereas, you can find students who function at a higher stage of morality. Those students rarely get into trouble because they have a sense of what's right or wrong. They behave in a certain manner not just for pleasing their teachers or out of fear, but because they are aware that it is the right thing to do (www.teachers' guide.com). In fact, at the beginning of my career as a head of division, I wondered why a particular student would be catastrophic for a certain teacher, while at the same time a manageable one for another. However, now I know that if teachers take into consideration the stages their students go through and use different techniques that suit their students' developmental level, they will suffer less from discipline problems in their classroom.
It's true that students function at different level of morality, and teachers should take this fact into consideration when planning disciplinary strategies, but at the same time teachers should not forget that at the end the purpose is to help students get to the stage where they would be internally motivated to act the way they act and not just for external factors. Students should reach a point where in their mind they say "I behave because it is the right thing to do!" Therefore, it is crucial for teachers not to confuse discipline with punishment. Discipline should be considered as (2009) defined it as an action to facilitate the development of self-control, responsibility and character (Tom & Marsha, 2010). This definition indicates that the term discipline is more than a response to misbehavior; rather it recognizes that the development of self-control is a major goal of education and it should be achieved through democratic and humane management. The purpose of discipline should not be just fear of authority and intimidation rather, students should be aware and agree that they did something wrong and realize that they're responsible for their behavior. The best way to do so is by allowing them to make choices and reflect on the consequences of their actions (Tom and Marsha, 2010).
In conclusion, stress is a normal part of being a teacher. We as teachers may be worried about covering the material in the book and getting to the objectives of the curriculum but we should be aware that whether we are teaching Science, English, Math, or Arabic, we are teaching "Students". We are teaching students who are immature young individuals, and who are mostly in the classroom because they have to be there rather than they want to be there. Those students are aware of behaviors that teachers find stressful therefore they have the ability to frustrate him/her. For that reason, one of the major ingredients to success for any teacher regardless of the subject matter he/she teaches is to establish a constructive, respectful relationship with his/her students and this requires effective classroom management skills.
Bear, G.G. (2005). Developing self discipline and preventing and correcting misbehavior. Boston: Allyn & Bacon
Hoover, R. L., & Kindsvetter, R. (1997). Democratic discipline: Foundation and practice. Columbus, OH: Merill.
Tom, S.V.,& Marsha, S.K. (2010). Successful classroom management and discipline: Teaching self control and Responsibility. 3rd ed. California: Sage
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