Smile, be consistent and add some fun - teacher and blogger Michael Linsin explains his behaviour management basics [Link ⇒ www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/oct/08/classroom-management-tips-new-teachers]
As a new teacher facing their first classroom experience, you will have no doubt been bombarded with information.
It's hard to know what's important and what can go to the bottom of your priority list. Well here's the straight scoop: everything takes a back seat to classroom management because if you can't effectively control your classroom, nothing will work as it should. You must master this one area first otherwise teaching can be especially unforgiving.
While there are hundreds of possible strategies at your disposal, a few are absolutely critical. Stick with the following cornerstone principles from the first day of school to the last and you'll have a successful year of teaching.
The oft-repeated recommendation that you should never smile in the first two months of the school year is hogwash. A smile sends a subtle but powerful message to your class that kindness and politeness are expected. It also calms nervous energy and builds instant rapport and likability. This is critically important because when your students like you and are comfortable around you, they'll want to please you, listen to you and behave for you. As you meet your class, look them in the eye, say hello and smile.
Have clear rules:
Classroom rules protect every student's right to learn and enjoy school - and your right to teach. They must cover every possible disruption, interruption and misbehaviour - and there should be no misunderstanding regarding what constitutes breaking them.
Define each rule explicitly during the first few days at a school. Modelling is key here; show your students examples of the precise behaviours that transgress your rules. For example, if you were teaching children to raise their hand before speaking, sit in a student's seat and demonstrate what following the rule does and doesn't look like.
Have clear consequences:
Consequences hold students to account without having to lecture or berate them. Maintaining a positive relationship is crucial in reaching and inspiring your students to mature socially and academically.
Walk your class through the steps of misbehaving, from initial warning to parent contact. Model the exact words and body language you'll use when you give a warning, send a student for time out, or inform them that you must call home. This way, there are no surprises, no arguments and no anger when it goes wrong. This prompts the offending student to reflect on their misbehaviour, take responsibility for it and vow to never do it again.
Inconsistency is the fastest way to lose control of your class. When you let misbehaviour go, yell and admonish instead of calmly enforcing consequences, you essentially tell your students that you can't be trusted - this causes disappointment, resentment and ultimately more misbehaviour. The key to consistency is to continually remind yourself that your very success depends on it. The moment they learn that you're not a person of your word, the floodgates will open. When you witness a transgression of your rules, your response should be automatic, even robot-like. Simply approach the misbehaving student, tell them what rule was broken and the consequence, and then turn and walk away.
Teach detailed routines:
Routines are the lifeblood of a well-run classroom. They save time, keep students focused on learning and reduce misbehaviour. Anything and everything you do repeatedly - such as lining up for lunch, turning in work or circling into groups - should be made into a routine.
The key is to teach children in a detailed way. Pretend you're a student and guide them through the steps you want them to take. For example, if you're teaching how to enter the classroom in the morning, throw on a backpack, start outside your classroom door and create a memory map for your students to follow. After checking for understanding, choose a student as a model then practise as a class until perfected.
Add a dose of fun:
It's easy to get so caught up in teaching your objectives that you forget the importance of making school fun for students. If there is a secret to classroom management, this is it. When your students are happy, engaged and look forward to your class, you have powerful leverage to curb misbehaviour because your consequences mean something to them. It is this combination of fun and accountability that will transform even the most difficult students. This doesn't mean you always have to have an interactive game at the ready or spend extra time planning, just be open to sharing a laugh with your students. Be yourself and never be afraid to show your personality. Tell hard-luck stories of your youth, take attendance in a funny accent, answer a question as an opera singer. Enjoy your job. Your students will love you for it.
Tried and true:
Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad advice bouncing around the halls and staff lounges of schools. Some of the most commonly recommended strategies are dishonest and manipulative. Some may work in the moment, but cause more problems down the line. And some are just plain harmful to students.
You'll do well to filter everything you hear through the six tried-and-true tips above. If it doesn't build influential relationships, if it doesn't entail honesty, consistency and doing what's best for students, if it doesn't help create a learning environment your students enjoy being part of, then let it go in one ear and out the other.
Michael Linsin is the bestselling author of three books about classroom management. His ideas can also be found on his blog, Smart Classroom Management.