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Dictator or Doormat? - Effective Classroom Management Techniques for New Teachers

Market: Education

When young teachers leave the field, they frequently cite classroom management issues as a critical factor in their decision.  Research indicates that it takes an average of 10,000 hours to become proficient in a profession, about five years.  One teacher remarked that he’d like to “apologize to the students” he had in his first five years of teaching.  Before you start considering an apology, review these effective classroom management techniques for new teachers and keep your classroom running smoothly, whether it’s your first year or your twentieth.

The Importance of Effective Classroom Management Techniques for New Teachers

Special bug presentation in the third grade classroom

Photo Credit: WoodlyWonderWorks

About you

In deciding how you will run your classroom, think about the culture you want to create.  Do you like a quiet environment or can you tolerate noise?  Do you prefer neatness or can you tolerate clutter?  Is following the rules important to you or is occasional rule-bending acceptable?  Your position on these factors will significantly influence how you structure your classroom.

Managing noise:  First, it’s much easier to start off with a quiet environment and allow the volume to grow during an activity or lively discussionThe volume that starts off high increases quickly and can be difficult to bring back down.

Managing space:  If you prefer a neat, orderly environment, make that clear and make it easy for students to comply.  They need a space to turn in papers.  How will you collect and store them?  How will you return papers?  If you are more comfortable with clutter, how will you keep it from becoming a distraction to you and your students?

Managing rules:  Effective classroom management requires rules, but that doesn’t mean rigidity.  It means knowing what you are comfortable with and adhering to it.  It also means making sure your students – and their parents – understand your position and trust that you’ll enforce the policies consistently and equitably.

About Policies and Procedures

Classroom Rules Poster

Photo Credit BarbaraLN on Flickr

Before you begin, think about the policies and procedures you want in place to govern the way students interact with you and with their classmates.

No  It’s helpful to require students to respect one another, but it’s better to explain what that looks like and sounds like.  Define “tardy” and what constitutes a late assignment.  If you use rubrics, explain each performance level and confirm students’ understanding.  This will save you from feeling defensive later if a student challenges you about a grade.  What is acceptable when students question you or challenge a grade?  Make sure this is completely clear in your own mind.

Be consistent:  Students need consistency.  Just because you are in a good mood one day and a bad mood the next doesn’t mean you can tolerate bending of the rules one day but not the next.  Inconsistent enforcement confuses students, causing a loss of trust and leading them to suspect that you enforce the rules differently with different students.

Be fair:  Some students are more likeable than others, but this cannot influence your treatment of them.  Get to know each student and appreciate his or her unique characteristics.  Base your comments to them on objective factors.  Avoid conveying your personal approval for their behavior or performance.  Instead of “I like your writing style,” say “Your writing is excellent – clear and concise.”  Students need to find an inner motivation to do well versus just trying to please you.  A culture of “make the teacher like me” creates a difficult environment for objective evaluation.

Learn to love silence:  When students become unruly, it’s tempting to try yelling over them.  Yelling, however, is ineffective and shows students they’ve pushed you into an emotional reaction.  At that point, they have take control of the classroom.  Silence is a more effective tool for classroom management.  When students become unruly, simply become silent and still.  You may wish to use a non-verbal signal like a raised hand to indicate that you expect students to come to order.  Be patient.  It may take several seconds before the students comply.  You may need to turn off the lights in the classroom if students are particularly uncooperative.  Students will continue to challenge your authority until they realize that you will react calmly and firmly in every situation.

About Your Students

Tell them you believe in them:  It’s hard being a kid today.  So many voices tell them to look a certain way, act a certain way, achieve at a certain level.  You can increase your ability to effectively manage the classroom by telling them every day that you value them and believe each one is growing into a worthwhile, respected person.  Learn their names right away.  Help them recognize and enjoy their own successes, especially the incremental ones.  So much emphasis is placed on results today.  Help students see the importance of simply making progress.

Show you expect the best:  Convey to students your high expectations regarding the quality of their work and their behavior.  Acknowledge when they excel; catch them being good.  When they choose not to comply, be firm in your expectations for improvement.  If it’s a quality of work issue, offer to help and make it clear you have faith in them.  For behavior issues, expect immediate improvement.

Be inclusive:  Talk to all of your students, not just the easy ones.  Students take their cues from you.  When you make an effort to gently draw out and reinforce a quiet student’s ideas, other students are more likely to listen.

Be in tune:  Students are tested often, which can be stressful.  Young elementary students are stressed in the early weeks of school over being away from home.  Middle school students are stressed over any number of issues.  High school students experience stress over college prospects, relationships and peer pressure.  Keep these stressors in mind and occasionally give your students a day off.  Watch a movie, play games or just talk.  It allows everyone to slow down and relax.

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