Many times we teach very challenging groups and draw conclusions to justify unsuccessful classroom management. We end up blaming parents for their kids’ misbehaviour. Had they been firmer with their children and provided them with interpersonal skills knowledge we wouldn’t need to teach them manners in school. Sometimes we label students according to their social background and accept the situation as it is, behaviour as displayed and we do very little to change what we can act on: the lesson. We are definitely not responsible for our learners’ home education or what happens to them outside the classroom. However, we are in charge of the classroom and the diversity of what learners bring to class. There are no ideal conditions in teaching since each learner may act unexpectedly and demand unplanned actions from the teacher.
I see the changing circumstances in society as a new challenge for us, teachers. If learners and their families have changed so much bringing us different conditions and demands, why haven’t we changed even more? Not to please the learners and the parents, but to do our jobs even better. Learners and parents usually respect teachers who make all the efforts to teach and help others learn. Here are some ideas of how to develop a repertoire in classroom management throughout our teaching lives and become better professionals:
- Observe other teachers: focus on how the teachers you choose to observe deal with classroom management. Observe what the teacher does and what learners do. It is a good idea not to expect things to go wrong. Sometimes a teacher is successful in managing many different groups and lessons and this needs to be observed as well. You may want to talk to the teacher whose management was effective to understand why it worked the way it did.
- Read: study what is available for teachers – either lessons from the classroom with case studies from different schools, different scenarios or books that offer a range of classroom management techniques (see, for example, Scrivener, 2012). You may also read and join discussions in blogs such as this one (see also Edutopia). The exchange of ideas or reflection about what other people have tried or suggest may enrich our own repertoire.
- Establish clear goals and expectations: sometimes what one teacher expects from the groups is not the same the previous teachers had established (diversity once again). So it is important to (re)introduce rules, goals and expectations (Marzano & Marzano, 2003) in order to help learners understand the reasons why you do things and the outcomes they may achieve if everyone contributes to a constructive atmosphere in the classroom.
- Experiment: the classroom is organic, many times unpredictable, the richer our repertoire, the more situations we may understand how to deal with. Ensure you experiment with different techniques (grouping, seating arrangement, types of activities) and do not settle for what is working at the moment. Acting proactively may save time and stressful moments later.
- Encourage discussions: not only with peers and your leaders, but also with your learners. The more conversation and transparency, the easier it is to sort issues and become a better teacher. Discussions include feedback, evaluation of what works and what doesn’t and questioning what we do. A constructive work environment – the staff room and the classroom – welcomes honest conversation and promotes growth to all those involved.
Overall, classroom management requires consistency and the confidence that we know what we are doing (or that we are learning to do it better and better) in order to make learners aware of their progress. Learning demands change and so does teaching.
Marzano, R. J. & Marzano, J. S. (2003) “The Key to Classroom Management”. In Educational Leadership: Building Classroom Relationships. Sept 2003. Vol. 61. Number 1. Alexandria: ASCD.
Scrivener, J. (2012) Classroom management techniques. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.