Thursday, December 27, 2007

Classroom Management

In each of my teacher preparation classes, my professor said that the most difficult thing to teach and to learn was the skill of classroom management. They all said that each person must learn classroom management through a trial and error process. There is no single most effective method to organizing and policing a classroom full of teenagers. I would have to agree with these assessments. All of my classroom management strategies are now the direct result of two years of experience. Yes, I learned some tips along the way. But, those tips would be worthless without experiences on which to reflect. The first thing that I learned about classroom management is to always remain calm. If students manage to make you flustered through their actions, those actions are only going to continue. Once you, as the teacher, show frustration, resentment, or uncertainty, they lose respect for you and begin to take your words and actions less seriously. This is certainly a struggle, as students can and will do things to try to get under your skin or to test you. However, I have found that maintaining a calm demeanor greatly helps in my ability to manage a classroom. If I do not react strongly to anything, students learn that I am not easily frustrated. Remaining calm also helps me because, if I ever do get frustrated, they take it seriously. They know that it is such a rare occurrence that they must have done something rare and notable.

I have also learned not to yell. During my second year teaching seminars, the instructor made this point and so I went back to school determined to try it. Much to my surprise, not yelling really helped in my classroom management. Students only laugh when you yell. An even-toned statement about what makes me angry seems to have a much better effect, if I’m trying to scare them back into line. Students have even written this to me, in end of year surveys, so this idea certainly seems to have a great deal of merit. Next year, during my third year in the classroom, my goal is not to yell at all. I do not know if this completely doable, but I certainly plan to try, as this method seems to have plenty of benefits.

The most important aspect of classroom management for me is knowing the personalities of the students. I spend a great deal of time talking to each student and trying to gauge their reactions to comments I make, their sense of humor, and to which strategies they respond best. This helps immensely in classroom management. I know which students enjoy humorous banter, which need attention, which are very sensitive, and which just need to be motivated. The students also feel as if I am speaking to them personally, which of course, I am. In this aspect, teachers become social workers, most interested in catering to the specific needs of our students. When done properly, students also know that I respect them. This makes all of the difference. How often do kids feel disrespected these days? If I can show them that I will treat them like full-fledged human beings, they are almost one hundred percent certain to return the favor. This helps to eliminate many difficulties in classroom management. Respect is so simple, yet difficult to attain. However, it does wonders in the classroom, as it builds a community of individuals who respond to each other in a positive fashion.

Written: 6/27/07

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