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Controlling a Classroom Isn't as Easy as ABC!
Educators, administrators, and experts say classroom management -- the ability to calmly control student behavior so learning can flourish -- can make or break a teacher's ability to be successful.
"The hardest skill"
"It is probably one of the things that's least understandable and most complex about teaching," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "This is the hardest skill to master."
Study after study confirms the importance of classroom management. But unlike teaching calculus or chemistry, there is no single best practices method for managing a classroom. In fact, there are many, and pedagogical debates abound about what works best; however, all agree that teachers must be consistent in their message and consequences and lay a strong foundation of expectations early in the school year.
Your Classroom Management Profile
Classroom management styles of teachers can be characterized along two dimensions (Baumrind, 1971): type ofcontrolexercised over students, and degree ofinvolvementof teachers with students.
- Theauthoritativestyle is characterized by behavioral principles, high expectations of appropriate behavior, clear statements about why certain behaviors are acceptable and others not acceptable, and warm student-teacher relationships.
- Theauthoritarianstyle tends to be characterized by numerous behavioral regulations, is often seen as punitive and restrictive, and students have neither a say in their management, nor are they seem to need explanations; the teacher's character is sometimes perceived as being cold, even punishing.
- Thepermissivestyle is characterized by a lack of involvement, the environment is non-punitive, there are few demands on students, and there is a lot of freedom.
- Theindulgentstyle presents an environment where there are no demands on the student of any sort, and the students are actively supported in their efforts to seek their own ends using any reasonable means.
These four styles represent extremes, and most teachers demonstrate a certain degree of inconsistency in their use of styles.
Research has shown thatthe type of management style used results in characteristic behaviors.
- The authoritative style helps to produce students who are socially competent and responsible.
- The authoritarian style helps to produce students who are ineffective at social interaction, and somewhat inactive.
- Both indulgent and permissive styles help to produce students that are immature, show poor self-restraint, and who exhibit poor leadership skills.
I took a classroom management profile test to see which style I use mostly in my classrooms and the results were as follows:
Laissez-faire or permissive 9
Indifferent or indulgent 7
I believe that as you gain teaching experience, your classroom management profile will change definitely. The most successful teacher is one who can evaluate a situation and then apply the appropriate style. Following the same style consistently might not work in some situations.
"Tell me and I will forget, show me and I might remember,
involve me and I will understand." -Confucius
Effective Classroom Management Practices
Everything starts with TEACH:
T - Tailor for diversity. Make it a point to know as much as possible about your students, including their diverse cultural, ethnic, behavioral, and learning characteristics, along with stressors they may experience outside of school.
E - Encourage positive behavior. Aim for a 4:1 ratio of positive comments to negative corrections for all the students.
A - Arrange the environment for success. Teach your behavioral expectations directly and immediately through collaboratively-established classroom rules and well designed classroom routines.
C - Consult your peers. Seek collaboration with experienced teachers and specialists before difficult problems start to become entrenched.
H - Hug yourself. Prevent stress and burnout by focusing each day on what you are accomplishing and not just on what is frustrating.
- Culture Counts! The effective management of any classroom starts with a solid understanding of who the students are. Schools today are diverse groupings of children, youth, and adults who see the world through their own lenses of experience, culture, and ethnicity. The teacher who fails to take into account the profound influence of these human differences can never expect to truly reach his or her students in a meaningful way. Effective teaching and effective classroom management means recognizing that the classroom is full of "other people's children," and the teacher's first task is to learn who they are.
- Play by the Rules. Probably the best investment in time a teacher can make at the outset of the school year is the establishment of communally-developed classroom rules. Done well and at the appropriate developmental level, this investment can pay returns in all of the days to follow.
- Consequences Count! Implementing classroom rules means implementing classroom consequences so that the rules can have real influence on student behavior. If a rule is broken, there must be some form of unpleasant consequence that follows. Remember: Rules without consequences are only suggestions. If it is not important, don't make it a rule. If it is, enforce it.
- The Bob Dylan Rule. Building enjoyable activities into the school routine serves a dual purpose. They give the students something to look forward to, and they contribute to the overall positive climate of the classroom. Anticipating an enjoyable activity - such as computer time, class game, or a special Friday video - can serve as a motivator for work completion and rule adherence. Plus, it simply makes the school week more fun!
- It's Just Routine. Think about what you did in the morning before you arrived at school. It was probably pretty much what you do every workday morning - Bathing routines, dressing routines, eating and transportation routines... We like regularity; it is comforting and lowers stress because it reduces the many decisions we have to make over the day. We don't start the day agonizing over whether to brush our teeth before or after the shower - we have our routine already established.
- Catch 'Em Being Good. It's an old bit of advice, but still one of the best. Positive teacher regard is given when the student is demonstrating desirable behavior. It's really just that simple. Positive comments should not be hollow, phony praise. Positive social praise should come only when it is earned, but then it should come.
- Consult, Don't Sulk. There is something about the culture of schools that makes teachers uncomfortable about seeking assistance. Am I admitting ignorance? Will my supervisor think less of me? To change this culture, leadership needs to come both from within and from the top. Principals must send the message that peer consultation is not just approved, but it is expected as a criterion of positive professional evaluation. This should especially apply to beginning teachers.
- Be Good to You! Teaching is a high stress profession due in major part to the fact that teachers are given enormous responsibilities but too little in the way of decision-making power. This is especially true in large school districts where policy is frequently made at the top and delivered to the building level as a mandate. For many, each new school year seems to bring a new initiative, a new curriculum, a new program, a new something to learn and teach. Top-down policy making in the context of the needs of high risk students can create an exceedingly stressful working condition. Add to this the long work hours, student discipline problems, and the seemingly ever-present media reports on "how schools are failing our children" and one can easily understand why so many good teachers leave for other professions.
Effective Classroom Management Context
Four things are fundamental:
- Know what you want and what you don't want.
- Show and tell your students what you want.
- When you get what you want, acknowledge (not praise) it.
- When you get something else, act quickly and appropriately.
Effective Classroom Management Practices
- The teacher must be able to observe all students at all times and to monitor work and behavior. The teacher should also be able to see the door from his or her desk.
- Frequently used areas of the room and traffic lanes should be unobstructed and easily accessible.
- Students should be able to see the teacher and presentation area without undue turning or movement.
- Commonly used classroom materials, e.g., books, attendance pads, absence permits, and student reference materials should be readily available.
- Some degree of decoration will help add to the attractiveness of the room.
SETTING EXPECTATIONS FOR BEHAVIOR
- Teachers should identify expectations for student behavior and communicate those expectations to studentsperiodically.
- Rules and procedures are the most common explicit expectations. A small number of general rules that emphasize appropriate behavior may be helpful. Rules should be posted in the classroom. Compliance with the rules should be monitored constantly.
- Do notdevelop classroom rules you are unwilling to enforce.
- School-Wide Regulations...particularly safety procedures...should be explained carefully.
- Because desirable student behavior may vary depending on the activity, explicit expectations for the following procedures are helpful in creating a smoothly functioning classroom:
- Beginning and ending the period, including attendance procedures and what students may or may not do during these times.
- Use of materials and equipment such as the pencil sharpener, storage areas, supplies, and special equipment.
- Teacher-Led Instruction
- How students are to answer questions - for example, no student answer will be recognized unless he raises his hand and is called upon to answer by the teacher.
- Independent group work such as laboratory activities or smaller group projects.
MANAGING STUDENT ACADEMIC WORK
- Effective teacher-led instruction isfree of:
- Ambiguous and vague terms
- Unclear sequencing
- Students must be held accountable for their work.
- The focus is on academic tasks and learning as the central purpose of student effort, rather than on good behavior for its own sake.
MANAGING INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR
- Address instruction and assignments to challenge academic achievement while continuing to assure individual student success.
- Most inappropriate behavior in classrooms that is not seriously disruptive and can be managed by relatively simple procedures that prevent escalation.
- Effective classroom managers practice skills that minimize misbehavior.
- Monitor students carefully and frequently so that misbehavior is detected early before it involves many students or becomes a serious disruption.
- Act to stop inappropriate behavior so as not to interrupt the instructional activity or to call excessive attention to the student by practicing the following unobstructive strategies:
- Moving close to the offending student or students, making eye contact and giving a nonverbal signal to stop the offensive behavior.
- Calling a student's name or giving a short verbal instruction to stop behavior.
- Redirecting the student to appropriate behavior by stating what the student should be doing; citing the applicable procedure or rule.
- More serious, disruptive behaviors such as fighting, continuous interruption of lessons, possession of drugs and stealing require direct action according to school board rule.
Example: "Please, look at the overhead projector and read the first line with me, I need to see everyone's eyes looking here."
PROMOTING APPROPRIATE USE OF CONSEQUENCES
- In classrooms, the most prevalent positive consequences are intrinsic student satisfaction resulting from success, accomplishment, good grades, social approval and recognition.
- Students must be aware of the connection between tasks and grades.
- Frequent use of punishment is associated with poor classroom management and generally should be avoided.
- When used, negative consequences or punishment should be related logically to the misbehavior.
- Milder punishments are often as effective as more intense forms and do not arouse as much negative emotion.
- Misbehavior is less likely to recur if a student makes a commitment to avoid the action and to engage in more desirable alternative behaviors.
- Consistencyin the application of consequences is the key factor in classroom management.
Classroom Management Wrap - up
In conclusion, there is no single best practices method for managing a classroom. As you gain teaching experience, your practices will change with time and you will become more focused. You might use many different kinds of practices depending on the situation that would arouse. The most successful teacher is one who can evaluate a situation and then apply the appropriate style and practice.
Citations and References
- www.corwin.com/booksProdDesc.nav?prodId=Book226221 -
- www.intime.uni.edu/model/ teacher/teac3summary.html-