Thursday, September 13, 2012

Classroom Management

Classroom Management is such an important topic for teachers, especially new teachers. There are whole semester college courses that deal with only effective classroom management as its topic. As a teacher, you will no doubt have to sit through numerous professional development days and workshops that tell you how to effectively manage a classroom.

Let me simplify things for you. I feel that there are two main types of classroom management in high schools. Whenever someone walks into a high school classroom, they will almost always see one of the two methods being implemented. The two types are:

The Prison: This style of classroom management implements total silence. As a matter of fact, the silence is so deafening, the sound of the teacher’s voice for a couple of minutes is enough to make one go crazy.

Bedlam: This is complete and utter chaos. When I say complete and utter chaos, I mean uncontrollable, anarchy type chaos that is being seen in Libya right now. This is Extreme Crazy stuff! You fear for your life while in this type of classroom.

Obviously, these are the two extremes and most classrooms fall somewhere in the middle. As for me, I have no problem getting students to be quiet. I usually keep a fairly quiet classroom while I am lecturing or there are videos, etc. being presented. I’ve got a system that works pretty well and keeps them on-task and quiet. Sure, there is the occasional student who wants attention or tries to be funny, but there are minimal disruptions in my class.

The problem with this is that when it’s completely silent and they’re working…everything in the classroom that I do is amplified. If my shoe squeaks while I walk, everyone hears it. My stomach growls (believe me, this happens more often than I like) - the whole class knows I am hungry. I am typing up a test on the computer- Each and every keystroke sounds like a hammer being driven into a nail. If this is driving me crazy, I am sure it is driving my students crazy as well.

Don’t get me wrong – There are times that we have fun and joke around. It is easy to do when teaching a foreign language. I also can “captivate” many of them by telling of my many humorous and strange travel stories. They love those and it usually is followed by many questions. So my classroom is not totally silent all of the time. Actually, I think you have to have some fun in the classroom or the students tune out and end up not enjoying the class. Therefore, I try and keep it light when I can and then we get down to business when it is time. Fortunately, I have little problem with students switching from one mode to the other.

So you want to know my secret to discipline? It really is simple. I am sure that many teachers do this, so it isn’t an earth-breaking new system or anything. I will say that it is simple and effective. I use a 3-tier system:
1. Individual Warning
2. Fill out Discipline Slip
3. Detention

I like to have fun in the classroom and I joke around as well. The key is that the students need to learn when it is time to get serious and when it is time to have fun. The first three weeks or so of a semester is usually enough time to get the students to realize when it is time for each. I rarely have to go to step #2 after the first few weeks of classes. They get the point.

In conclusion, I guess I am trying to say that it is important to incorporate some sort of fun in the classroom. This will keep the students interested and probably keep you, the teacher, from going insane. I think the key is that whatever you do to make the class fun, it needs to be something relevant and interesting to the students. Videos, games, interaction, quotes, anything. If we can make education a little more fun and entertaining, maybe more students will want to be in school and look forward to classes.

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