Classroom Management is a very important item for any teacher, be he/she novice or seasoned professional. There were so many things that I learned from so many people and students regarding how to conduct a participatory class without falling prey to so much stimulation that it got out of hand and lost its focus.
Despite what looks like an easy job, a novice or a person having no idea how hard good teaching can be, could easily find that it is an overwhelming, extremely tiring job. Without proper preparation, it is! I have often wondered how few days a regular Joe from off the street would last, if not even hours or minutes. It might sometimes look like play, but it is anything but!
One major thing is to be organized. If a teacher knows where he/she is going with a lesson plan and stays on task, it is less likely that kids will lose their train of thought. The organization, however, is such that it must be flexible if things go awry, for example. Let’s say there is a fire drill, a strange happening in the hall, or such. Flexibility is very necessary. A good teacher always has a plan for the unexpected. This is especially important when it comes to technology and language labs as you never know what will go wrong and/or not function.
Having the students aware as to the goal of the lesson and how well things are proceeding toward reaching that goal helps immensely. I always used something either on the board (before the advent of good technology in my classroom) or my electronic lesson plan posted on either the overhead projector or on the screen (when I had put my lesson plan into a database). We could check off things as we went toward the finale. I always posted yesterday’s and the current day’s homework as well. Students would find this as well online or by coming into my office. Knowing the rationale for where one is going is a great strategy to aid the educational outcomes.
Avoiding sitting at the teacher’s desk is something I always practiced. When one is out and about in a dynamic lesson, it is less likely that students will pass notes, talk to one another when they shouldn’t and the like. I am not saying I didn’t have moments where I needed to be at my desk, but overall it was something I avoided. Being in the proximity of students, especially those prone to being “off task” is a very good practice. A really naughty child might find me sitting behind him/her for a moment or just running the lesson standing nearby.
Not embarrassing problematic students is a good practice. When at all possible, taking the student aside, preferably later if possible, is a good philosophy. Finding out what is going on in their minds is so important. Perhaps something is bothering them, a family calamity, a personal crisis, whatever. It is always good to communicate; good communication circumvents all sorts of issues.
One thing that earlier in my career I never practiced was (and of course this is dependent on school and/or departmental policies) to allow them to eat and drink in class, especially if it was in the afternoon. A student falling victim to a carbohydrate attack, as I found from my own children at home, may not be pleasant. Students, more often than not, are not eating appropriately. They might skip breakfast, not have the types of good food they should, and will react accordingly. My rule was this, food is fine as long as it is not junk food, not messy and noisy, and I have no clean up. I would always clear my room before leaving; it is not fair for another class and teacher to have to deal with a mess. If students became messy, the food and/or drink was no longer allowed. Case closed. Once this was in play, I never had a problem. Students are intelligent, figured out why I was okay with this, and were always respectful.
Gum chewing is a tough one with languages as it changes the pronunciation of hard to pronounce words. In the beginning of my career, I never allowed it, but I soon realized that the amount of time I was taking to police students just wasn’t worth it. If I found it on the desks, there was a price to pay, but if it was done respectfully, it was allowed.
Participation was always something I graded as communication in the target language (French in my case) was an expectation. I expected them to take risks, make mistakes, speak, I didn’t even mind if they spoke to each other as long as it was in French. A productive classroom has to have a certain amount of noise; otherwise it is nothing more than a showcase, dictatorial class. My idea was to be more of a guide to my students, not a visiting lecturer.
I mentioned this before, but respect for one another is the most important thing and a base for everything that goes on in a classroom. I used to take several days at the beginning of the year to go over all of the expectations and explain classroom operations so that students understood and behaved accordingly.
Talking about all of this makes me think of the time I was in the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris with some sixteen students or so and a colleague. A man came up to me and said, “You couldn’t possibly be with all those students?” My response to him was “Yes, and it is a pleasure and a privilege to be with them.” He was quite surprised at the good comportment they displayed. This was all due to a different version of my classroom management, a version for a trip abroad. I did this for some ten years and was truthfully never disappointed. My students always rose to the occasion and were amazing examples of good, tolerant, kind Americans as they traveled abroad and even lived with French families for two weeks!
I will return to this item in the future and offer more of my thoughts and ideas.