Effective classroom management can make the difference between a miserable or enjoyable year for both you and your students. The challenge of managing a rowdy, talkative class can often seem like a towering challenge, but the fact is that countless teachers have faced situations very similar to yours. With a well-rehearsed teacher “look” and a handful of classroom-management suggestions, you’ll be armed and ready for a successful school year.
Present your students with clear rules, boundaries and punishments from Day 1. Begin enforcing these rules from the moment your establish them. Your students need to know that you have high standards for their behavior and they will rise to your expectations.
It’s alright if you come across as a bit strict at first. In fact, depending on the age of your students, you’ll probably want to develop somewhat of a stern reputation. That way, students will begin preparing themselves to respect your rules as soon as they find out they have a class with you. However, keep in mind that developing a reputation takes time, so if you’re a new teacher it might not happen right away.
Chris Dunbar cites J. S. Kounin’s five characteristics of effective classroom managers in his University of Michigan paper entitled “Best Practices in Classroom Management.” The first of these includes a characteristic he calls “withitness.” In other words, teachers should be quick to observe what is actually going on in the classroom and amongst students. If the class is collectively distracted by something, the teacher should pick up on it immediately. Communicating this awareness to students will make them feel both that you are in tune with what concerns them and that they can get away with less.
Follow a clear progression of consequences that is appropriate for the age of your students. For example, when a student won't stop talking, begin addressing the misbehavior by simply maintaining steady eye contact with the offender. If the disruption continues, stand beside the student’s desk while continuing to teach. If this doesn’t work, verbally address the student’s behavior. If the problem still continues, separate the student from the rest of the class. Have a tried-and-true policy for calling parents and contacting the office when misbehavior escalates.
Be consistent. Follow through on your threats as well as your promises. Be generous with your positive affirmation, too, recognizing individual accomplishments and progress your students make as a class. Let them know that you are in control of both their behavior and your own emotions by never losing your temper. In some cases, it may be appropriate for your students to understand that you are angry, but never do so in manner where you lose command of yourself.
Consider classroom-wide punishments when the problem becomes widespread and out of control. While this may be somewhat unfair to your well-behaved students, it promotes self-monitoring among your problematic students. When members of a trouble-making group realize that one of their friends’ actions will affect everyone, they are more likely to influence each other to cooperate with your classroom procedures. This makes for a more productive learning environment for everyone.
Tiffany Bennett is a recent graduate from Toccoa Falls College. While earning her degree in counseling and psychology, she discovered that she enjoys various forms of writing. She is currently living in Athens, Ga., and looking forward to beginning a graduate degree program in international affairs at the University of Georgia.