A teacher walked into my classroom, and her comments really got me thinking.
“I love coming into your classroom! You are an awesome teacher!”
I sheepishly bent my head, avoiding eye contact. I am not a fan of compliments. Then she asked this question:
“Where did you learn to manage your class so well?”
“My first year of teaching… It was sink or swim.” I answered with a small smile.
Now, a few days later, I have processed this sincere question. My “teacher toolbox” took years to develop, but early in my teaching career I learned to always include these three components in my “classroom management toolbox:”
1. Relationship building
2. Teach expectations
1. Relationship Building:
My first year of teaching, I learned that relationship building is one of the most powerful tools a teacher can include in classroom management. As a teacher, I need to keep this at the forefront of every decision I make. Positive relationship building takes time. In my eyes, every student in an elementary school is a future fifth grader (the grade I currently teach). Cultivating a relationship takes me, the teacher, being authentic and vulnerable with all students I encounter.
2. Teach Expectations
Teaching expectations is very different from setting expectations. It is the second step… I do not know a teacher that doesn’t set expectations for their classroom. The difference between setting and teaching is this: assumption. Teacher assumptions are very dangerous. Instead of assuming my students know what my expectations mean, I teach them what my expectations are. For instance, instead of assuming my students could actively listen during class meetings, I teach them what it looks, sounds, feels like to actively listen during a class meeting. Teaching expectations is one of my most powerful tools in managing my classroom.
Adaptation is key to successful classroom management. I will never forget when I drew a large cloud on the board in a classroom of students who were “running amuck.” Everyone stopped and asked me what I was drawing. “The cloud of success,” I explained, “to recognize students doing a good job.” Everyone sat down and started working. Recognizing when your classroom management system isn’t working and improvising to improve the system is one of the most powerful tools a teacher stores in that “teacher toolbox.”
I really can’t pinpoint where I learned classroom management. I can pinpoint lessons I learned, though. These lessons changed me as a teacher and helped me develop a “teacher classroom management toolbox,” that I heavily rely on every day I teach.