Classroom Management

There are plenty of blogs about classroom management surfacing at this time of year.  The two I have read most recently and inspired me to write are Always Formative and ABrandNewLine  .

My classroom management has already begun even though I won’t see students for another week.  It started with the 3 books I read/reread this summer.

  1.  I have reviewed Harry & Rosemary Wong’s The First Days of School each summer before school starts.   I am not a ‘religious’ follower of Harry Wong but I do believe I would be a better teacher if I was more organized and I spent little or no time on behavior problems in class.
  2. I am in the middle of  Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov.  It is a compendium of techniques and strategies he observed in excellent teachers.  Once again, I use what fits me.  But it certainly makes me think.
  3. At my daughter’s suggestion I also read Mindset The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.  It gave me a new way of thinking about my lowest students.

Now the week before school, I am setting up my classroom (I changed rooms this year) and I am continuing to work on classsroom management.

My desks are arranged in pairs and in groups of two pairs, with an aisle across the class (32 desks).   This allows me to stand beside every student and to move across the classroom easily.  I have cut construction paper for the students to use as name tags for the first 2 weeks.  As soon as our rosters are finalized (well, closer to being finalized) I will make seating plans and assign each student a seat from the first day!  As well as writing a name tag for their desk, each student will fill in an information sheet and possibly take it home to get parents’ phone numbers and contact info. I will go over a handout titled “How to Succeed in Ms. Harris’s Math Class” which includes a supply list.

My point is that on the first day I want students to know that I am in charge – I know what I’m doing.  I also like to keep them busy the first day (and everyday thereafter)  I love to hear kids say “Class is done, that was so fast.”

I used to say that I managed my class by force of my personality.  But after having 2 student teachers and presenting in an “Opening Day Classroom Management Workshop” I realized that I do a lot of things to make my class run smoothly, as well as using my strong personality.  So as well as preparing to get students in and started I will also implement the strategies and procedures from the books I read.

In terms of classroom rules my mantra is “Respect yourself, your teachers, others and property.”  DONE!   This is not the tax code – I won’t list every infraction possible.  But the simple ‘crimes’ like dress code violation, chewing gum, using the phone during class, speaking when someone else is speaking, walking around during instruction, poking the boy/girl in front of you, are all covered by RESPECT (and, yes, sometimes I sing it).

I teach middle school math so it is not difficult to structure a class period so that everyone knows what happens and when.  This makes life easier for all of us.  A side benefit is that I notice kids who after a month still don’t ‘get it’ and I can look out for those kids.

In a few sentences my best advice is: Be prepared, know what you are doing and why you’re doing it. (Middle school students are a little like wolves if they smell fear/indecision they start to circle and then …) Don’t look for new bff’s, you’re the teacher, kids want you to be the teacher.  Most kids are comfortable with rules/procedures, take advantage of that. Be real, show your passion for your subject/education/students.

And lastly ENJOY.  If you aren’t having fun teaching then it’s not the job for you, find something else to do.


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