I hear lots of teachers requesting professional development on classroom management. I think it makes sense in some respects. As educators, our training usually doesn’t involve practical experiences with the intricacies involved in managing a complex environment like a classroom of twenty or more students. We may be learn certain skills, routines, and strategies that others have employed and found successful. But not all of these work for all educators. Our personality enters into the equation of whether we end up being a successful manage of classroom dynamics.
Some schools adopt formal programs like Second Step or restorative classroom practices, while other schools help struggling teachers through mentoring relationships with experienced teachers who have well-honed management skills. All these programs and strategies are clearly useful.
However, Educate Update just published an interesting piece by Sarah McKibben entitled, Stay Calm and Teach On. In her article she profiles a teacher, Paul Murphy, who employs a strategy that is simple and effective. He explains it this way:
I’d much rather have students see me as someone who doesn’t respond to anger and who doesn’t feel the need to win power struggles. It’s a long year, and the best way to positively influence students is to build good relationships with them.” (page 1)
Murphy’s advice is stay calm, don’t respond to a behavior with a more overt behavior, and build trusting relationships with students. Seems like simple, good advice.
Is the problem that when we’re confronted with a challenging classroom management issue, we overreact, exposing our feelings in ways that only make the situation more difficult? Teachers need to reflect on the question, their behaviors and strategies, and their level of success at managing their classroom and decide if they tend to “stay calm,” not overreact, and resolve situations to the benefit of students.
The article references a teacher’s comment:
One of the biggest causes of teacher stress and anxiety is trying to convince students to behave. (page 4)
We should use our lesson plan as a vehicle for managing classroom behavior. If students are engaged in interesting, relevant and meaningful work, they have a propensity to focus on the learning objectives, maintaining their attention for long periods of time. If there is misbehavior, we should first manage the behavior but then look at our lesson and ask the question: “Is this lesson interesting enough to engage students?”
If you struggle with some classroom management issues, read McKibben’s article and consider strategies that help you moderate your response to misbehavior and think about your lesson plans. Put your lesson plan through the interesting, relevant and meaningful lenses.
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