Why Classroom Management Is Not the Answer

Photo: https://www.learningpaths.in/classroom-management-lets-start-class/classroom-management/

By Denise Fawcett Facey

In virtually every teacher education program, classroom management is a major emphasis. While it encompasses the order and structure for how everything is done in a classroom, the part that everyone seems to focus on is controlling students’ behavior. After all, the thinking goes, if you don’t control your classroom, you can’t teach. However, have you considered what that traditional view of classroom management really means? Here’s the general goal:

  • Straight rows of seated students
  • A quiet room, with students working silently
  • Students completing highly structured, explicitly defined assignments
  • Unquestioning obedience to a list of rules
  • Foregoing group work and partnerships to maintain order

You get the gist. Overall, order is the primary goal, and compliant students are a major objective. But here’s the thing: This focus on regimentation might effectively provide teachers control and compliance, but it also takes the joy, creativity and individuality out of learning. What you have left is a quiet room, which likely reflects both boredom and apathy. That’s not exactly a recipe for active, innovative learning.

On the other hand, perhaps quiet and compliance are precisely what you want. You have a lesson plan to complete, and all this collaboration and creativity often lead to noisy, messy classrooms. And you certainly don’t want that, do you? If this sounds perfect to you, I invite you to consider what learning really means.

Real learning entails noise and, quite often, mess. Both are byproducts of discovery, innovation and just plain engaged learning. In fact, without the first two, you are hard pressed to develop the others.

Moreover, here’s another fact: a compliant child is not a thinking child. Sure, an understanding of each teacher’s parameters as well as the benefits derived from working within them is essential to a productive learning environment. However, creating a highly regimented environment in which every step is predetermined and predictable, leaves students without any room for higher-order thinking — analysis, synthesis, evaluation, creativity. Equally bad, it’s simply not fun. And, yes, fun is a key to learning. It’s what propels lifelong learning.

So what’s the solution? Consider creating a classroom in which students learn to manage their own individual behaviors, working within a common construct. Rather than a long list of rules and regulations, for instance, a basic agreement to respect one another covers virtually all negative behaviors usually seen in class just as an agreement to put forth one’s best effort boosts academics. Together, those two rules incorporate practically any classroom eventuality.

Then, to keep students cognizant of what it means to demonstrate respect for others, social and emotional learning (SEL) makes a difference. The character development that SEL represents is the real replacement for classroom management. And while we’re at it, the tenets of restorative justice — its emphasis on repairing a relationship harmed by one person’s actions toward another, rather than on punishment for that behavior — go a long way towards fostering self-analysis and self-awareness that benefit both behavior and academics.

When you use SEL and restorative justice, you really don’t need to focus on discipline and punishment. Instead, you can focus on learning, which makes learning and teaching so much more productive and enjoyable.

Starting the School Year Right

Photo: http://houseofhurst.com/2017/08/15/from-us-to-you-our-top-tips-for-starting-the-school-year-off-right/

By Denise Fawcett Facey

Now that the school year has been underway for several weeks everywhere across the country, how’s it going in your classroom? For some, your classrooms may be humming along. Both you and your students are enjoying the learning that occurs in your classroom. Fortunately, you’ve infused it with the right balance of ingredients that work for your students.

However, that’s not everyone’s story. Right about now, the struggle has become real for other teachers. Sometimes it seems that nothing is going right, and, even worse, that it never will. Keeping students on task, getting them actively engaged in learning and maintaining even a semblance of order, all at the same time, can seem like the impossible dream. In fact, it can be quite daunting. But there’s hope!

It all begins with building relationships. Creating an atmosphere of mutual respect, of valued students and of safety — physically and emotionally — is the underpinning for everything else that occurs in your classroom. These elements enable you to begin creating the sense of adventure that real learning encompasses. To get you started, here are a few tips:

  • Greet Students at the Door

    It’s such a simple act but one that makes a big difference to students. Standing at the door and greeting them as they enter sets the tone for what awaits them. This tells students that you’re happy to see them and eager to be with them. In short, your greeting says, “welcome.”

  • Learn Students’ Names

    Names are integral to students’ identities. That’s why learning them quickly and accurately matters so much. Yes, some names are truly complicated. However, asking, “Miss Johnson, would you pronounce your name for me, please?” enables you to learn the name and means so much to the student. It’s your second show of respect for your students. On the other hand, mangling students’ names serves only to publicly humiliate them, just as not addressing your students by name says they aren’t worth the effort. By learning their names and saying them correctly — and often — you reveal your value of their identity and individuality.

  • Make Few Rules

    No one wants to feel that everything they do is wrong. Yet, that’s essentially the atmosphere created when a long list comprises your classroom rules. Let’s cut to the chase: what really matters to you? The answer to that question forms the basis for the rules in your classroom. Respect for everyone else in the class and a willingness to work every day are the essentials. If you need more than that, be sure that it’s only a couple more and that they get to the heart of what really promotes learning and camaraderie in your classroom.

  • Create Continuity

    Having fresh, new learning experiences each day is part of what makes learning exhilarating. Yet there’s something to be said for structure. Students need to know what to expect in your classroom, basic parameters within which activities are carried out each day. Having procedures and an overall order to tasks and learning provides continuity from day to day. It ensures the structure and safety that students crave — even those who seem to rail against it — and allows creativity to thrive.

  • Be Authentic

    While there’s plenty of advice from educators, telling you to be stern from the outset, inflexible about rules and never to smile, forget all of that. Being your authentic self resonates with students. And, yes, they definitely know the difference. Being who you really are, sharing tidbits about yourself in an appropriate manner and being unafraid to be vulnerable, to admit mistakes goes a long way toward building a strong rapport with students along with trust and respect. Of course, all of these are ingredients for an authentic relationship as well.

Teaching is not an easy profession, regardless of how many people seem to think anyone could do it. But a few key understandings can transform the entire experience. The bottom line is that students want to learn and want to enjoy doing it. Creating an atmosphere for both makes all the difference for you and your students.

Why Teach?

Kids are intriguing people. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I became a teacher. In the early years, they taught me as much as I taught them, imparting life lessons they had earned the hard way on rough streets as I set about sparking an interest in history. And we all gained from it.

Looking beyond tough and gruff exteriors, I discovered vulnerabilities that students had carefully hidden, fearing that revealing a softer side might elicit ridicule or, worse, bullying. Countering that required me to find ways to uncover those softer skills and present them as just that: skills. In so doing, gifts and talents were often revealed as well, allowing students who may not have shone in class ever before to take a bow. Watching them blossom under the admiration and applause of their peers was priceless. That’s another reason I became a teacher.

Then there were the “smart” kids. Continue reading “Why Teach?”

Changing Classes in Elementary School

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Educational changes can be good, but sometimes you need to weigh the benefits gained against the disadvantages that students might incur. What I’m talking about is the new practice of having elementary students change classes—or departmentalize—as middle and high school students have always done. Continue reading “Changing Classes in Elementary School”