Guest post by Linda Kardamis at Teach 4 the Heart
My first year teaching was not very pretty. I thought I knew how to manage a class, but I made some critical errors that left me in the situation every teacher dreads – standing in front of an out-of-control classroom.
While I certainly don’t want to go back and repeat that first year, I’m very thankful for the lessons I learned. And once I learned from my mistakes and corrected them, the next year went much more smoothly.
Effective classroom management can be challenging, but the key is to keep learning and growing. So whether you’re a first-year-teacher or a veteran who’s facing challenges, here are some common mistakes that you definitely want to avoid:
5 Common Classroom Management Mistakes
1. Not having clear expectations and procedures. A well-managed classroom starts with clear expectations and procedures. So before you try to teach the kids how to behave, you need to know exactly what you’re going to expect. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to err on the side of higher expectations than lower – you can always loosen up later on, but raising your expectations in the middle of the year is very challenging. If you need any help in this area, The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong is the go-to book on this topic.
2. Waiting to deal with problems until they’re big. My first year teaching I let a lot of little things go because I didn’t think they were a big deal and I didn’t want to whack kids on the head for small things. But the problem is that if you don’t deal with problems while they’re small, they’re just going to escalate. I finally learned that I don’t have to give out a punishment for small issues, but I do need to address them. Every time.
3. Not requiring individual responsibility. Just telling the entire class to be quiet is not very effective. And it isn’t much better to offer group rewards or threaten group punishments. Yes, these can be a part of your classroom management plan, but individual responsibility is extremely important. Find a way to give individual warnings to students without interrupting your flow of teaching. (I share the method that made the biggest difference for me in my post “How to Calm a Disruptive Class”) And, of course, give individual praise as well.
4. Choosing between being kind and being firm. Too many teachers think this is an either-or situation, but the truth is that you need to be both kind and firm. Students need to know that you care, and kindness goes a long way towards earning their respect. At the same time, being kind and caring does not mean that you just let everything go. We need to care enough to be firm and to have high expectations of our students.
5. Lacking confidence. Nothing will kill your classroom management faster than a lack of confidence. The students can sense it and will quickly start to take advantage. The problem is that you can’t just snap your fingers and – bam! – you have more confidence. Confidence must be built, but you don’t have any time to waste. What you need to do is develop a plan for how you will deal with a variety of situations that you commonly face (or may face). Then, practice your responses in front of a mirror until you’re confident you’ll be able to deal with them effectively.
What other mistakes have you made and how did you correct them?
Linda Kardamis is a former teacher and writer who is passionate about helping teachers impact the next generation. You can find her at Teach 4 the Heart or on Pinterest.