Thursday, August 8, 2013

Classroom Management #1....Being Clear and Meeting the students where they are!


Classroom Management is probably the single biggest struggle for Middle School teachers.  It takes years to figure out what works best for each of us as individual teachers in the classroom.  I struggled enormously in the early years, and I beat myself up over it.  I wasted a lot of energy, and I did a lot of ineffective yelling.  I've learned some stuff along the way that has helped me be able to manage 84 children in one classroom and over 300 students at a concert....but it took me a long time to figure it out.  I never could have done that during the early years.  So, today, I am going to start sharing a few of the key things that have helped me.
 
I want to touch on an important aspect of classroom management that I think a lot of us forget.

We must remember that when this age group is confused, they often behave badly.  They do it out of frustration.  They do it to impress their peers.  They do it for a variety of other reasons. 

Perhaps they shouldn’t. Perhaps they know better, and they do it anyway.  Perhaps they don’t know better and their parents should have taught them better.  Whatever….All of that is irrelevant, and thinking about it stands in the way of what we really need….A structured, fun classroom where learning easily happens and one to which the students look forward to coming back the next day.

It is our job to recognize the times when our students are behaving poorly simply because we haven’t been clear. 
 
When we give out instructions on an activity, for example, we must make sure our instructions are easy to understand for the age group we teach.  By doing so, we eliminate so many discipline problems from ever occurring, and it makes our classrooms a much more pleasant place to learn.  I have seen so many great activities turn into a fiasco when instructions for the activity were not delivered well and appropriately for the age group.

MAYBE THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND……

What if we have been clear in our instructions on an activity, for example, but they are still behaving poorly?   Maybe the material we handed out to them made absolutely no sense to them at all.  For example, if we are a math teacher, and we are trying to teach Algebra, but many of the children don’t even understand how to multiply yet……

In that situation, we have two choices: 

1)       We can complain that they don’t know how to multiply or that the administration grouped    the children poorly, keep teaching Algebra, and continue dealing with bad behavior that is the result of the fact the children don't understand.

2)      …or we can creatively determine ways to teach them how to multiply and work toward catching them up.  In doing so, we are showing that we care enough to meet them where they are and help them. 

It took me a few years to figure this one out, but ultimately, I chose the latter, and I have found that once I get them through the information they should have already learned, they are willing and ready and excited to learn the new stuff.

I truly believe middle school children want to learn. They want to be successful.  We have to be able to recognize the signs that they don’t understand the material, and we have to help them “get it” using their learning modality…whatever that is…We have to find it.  It’s our job. 

When we do, there is less chaos, and everyone is happier in the room.  The teacher AND the students are less frustrated resulting in fewer discipline problems and a better relationship with your students.

They will behave better. They will learn more.  We will enjoy teaching more!
 
Here is my YouTube link that contains the story of my first year teaching when I began to realize that my students were behaving badly many days, in large part, because I hadn't followed the advice I gave above in this post:
 
 
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