When you feel like your class is going downhill....

Classroom management, classroom control, out of control classroom
Students are smarter than we think.  They know us.

Better than we think they do.

In the past few weeks, I've had conversations with teachers in my building, who are scratching their heads about why kids aren't following directions the way they'd like.  "You always have such great kids, Marion."

"Yes.  So do you."

Kids don't  always come that way.  Together, we learn how to get there.  We can't fault students for not doing what we need them to do if we don't teach them.  And I'm not just talking about the first or second week of school.  That's a critical time!  But it's not the only time.

Here's what I've noticed about kids....
 Talk to your students.  They know what they need, in order to learn well.  They also know that "knowing it" and "doing it" don' t always go hand-in-hand.  That's where you come in.

I was out of school for three weeks and had a young substitute in for me.  He was right out of school, charming and engaged with the students, good with academics, and apparently, needed stronger classroom management skills.

When I returned to school, teachers kidded me, "Now your kids are behaving more like ours!"  "You've got your work cut out for you!"  

So I had a conversation with the kids.  And they told me exactly what they'd done (that's what I love about teaching 6th graders - they're so honest!)  They knew it wasn't right.  That didn't stop them, because no one held them accountable.

And then, they asked me, "Can you do that thing you do for us?"  They didn't really know what that was, but they liked it better when the adult in the room did "that."  What was it that I did?  Nothing magical; I just held them to clear expectations.
It's tiring to practice behavior!  How many of us were good classroom managers in our first year of teaching?  Not me.  I was terrible!  My jaw was on the floor more times than not, and I didn't know what to do! Up to that point, I had only had my own children as an example, and they never would have talked back or refused to work (or swung from closet doors or slammed glass doors in an attempt to break them) the way those students did.

But I needed to have stuck to my guns way more than I did.  Oh my....that year!  If only I could do it over!

I'm not suggesting that you need to be a military drill sergeant.  But if you expect kids to come into class and take out a particular resource, you need to insist on it.  And if you want students to work around the room without hanging out with their friends, you need to insist on it.  If you want students to talk quietly with a partner, you need to.... you get the idea.  You can't get so caught up in teaching content that you allow behavior to get worse.  Because if it gets a little worse and you do nothing about it, it's only a matter of time before it goes a little farther.

So, if you're not happy with behavior, stop what you're doing and practice it.  Practice it calmly over several days until students are doing what you want them to do.  It doesn't take a ton of practice.  Kids would rather be doing other things.  But they'll know you're serious about that expectation.
Stay firm.  Stay calm!  Firm.  Calm.  Repeat it to yourself over and over again when you're getting angry.  Firm. Calm.

If students see that their behavior is pushing your buttons, guess what they're going to do?  Yup. That's their job!  Your job is to put up safe, calm boundaries around them so that they can achieve success.

No one expects you to work magic.  And some kids take a really, really, really long time to get there.  But, even though they might not admit it, they prefer feeling the structure of a safe, engaged, relatively quiet classroom.

Have a great week!








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