Last week, I talked to you about how to create structure and routine to properly manage your classroom. This week, I want to look at being consistent and fair.
Now being consistent is obviously easier said than done. But it's so important. It means that you have to work hard and be organized ahead of time to ensure that you can be ready and deliver.
Consistency will win you the race in the long run.
If you're implementing a system where students can simply go to the washroom during work time as long as they write their name on the board, but then Johnny simply goes whenever he wants and you're not consistently making sure he's doing it right, then others will start following Johnny's example because it's easier.
If you want students to walk in the hallways quietly and you've practice this but there's that one time that you're late for an assembly and you simply allow them to walk while talking to the gym, then students will think it's not that important to you and start talking a lot more in the hallways. You're back at square one and gotta start all over again.
If you always check students homework in the morning and expect them to have their homework out and ready for you by 9am, but you're always late doing it, then you can't expect students to actually have their homework out for you. They've learned they don't need to!
You're not consistent, and that brings you right back to square one. And we don't want to go back to square one! You've spent a lot of time practicing these routines with your students, so make sure you keep on being consistent throughout the year. Use an alarm system if you need to (seriously, I used alarms on my phone ALL the time for stuff like this! It worked beautifully!)
And be fair. Fair doesn't mean equal, but remember, to students eyes, it's all about perception. If Nick feels like you're always getting mad at him for not having his homework out at 9am but yet, Alex does it and you don't even bat an eye, you're going to have issues on your hands with Nick.
Last week, I talked about how important it is to build relationships with your students for proper classroom management. You can read more about it here.
This week, I want to talk about implementing structure and routine in your day.
Think about it for a second. Imagine your students walking into your classroom. Johnny walks over to Alex, Nicky and Ron and starts chit chatting about their hockey game last night. Jennifer, Jill and Joanne start moaning about the latest TV show. Roxy starts reading her book. You want to begin your day, but you must first wait for them to be quietly in their seats. So you make a noise to get their attention. Joanne notices but she's too enthralled into what Jill is saying to shush the rest of her group. You make another noise and Joanne starts going back to her seat, but all while she's still talking. Johnny's group starts to dissipate as well but they're having issues stopping their conversation right at that point. Roxy is still blissfully reading. Finally, you get them at their seats and quiet but now you have to get Roxy's attention, since she had been in the zone and not paying attention to anything. By the time you get to start your lesson, 3 minutes has gone by (and that's quick!)
3 minutes x 3 times a day x 5 days a week = 30 minutes a week wasted on waiting for students.
Not only is this precious classtime wasted, but it's also showing students that they can continue chatting and/or reading for those 3 minutes before they really have to listen to you. Not a good combination.
So how can we change this?
By doing the same thing all the time. This is the power of structure and routine.
Now picture this : The bell rings and Johnny walks in your classroom. He says hi to Alex and might make a comment about the hockey game last night but walks over to his desk and immediately starts working. Roxy never even opens her book and Joanne, Jill and Jennifer talk in the hallway and when they enter your classroom, they promise to keep the conversation going at recess. Within a minute, everyone is at work. Because they know what to do and they know what's expected of them.
Now this isn't as easy as simply giving them work to do and then thinking they'll do it. Nope, sorry, not that easy.
That first month of school, you will be continuously practicing. Practicing how to enter your classroom and getting to work. Showing them what needs to be done. Showing them how NOT to do it (students always love this) and then practicing again and again and again.
I always scheduled my class the same way :
First thing when they walked in, they worked on their Weekly Paragraph. Every. Single. Day. They simply knew what we were going to do and they did it.
After morning recess, we worked on our Number of the Day. Again, same thing, every day. After lunch, we did silent reading & literature circles and after last recess, I read to the students.
Every time my students walked in my classroom, they simply knew what we were going to do and that routine simply made things work smoothly.
There's so much more I can write on this subject, so I promise more blog posts are coming! But for now, think of all those transition times and how you can make them smoother for your students by doing the same thing over and over again. You'll be amazed at the results!
Last week, I talked about why I got rid of my behaviour chart and why I'm begging you to do the same! You can read more about that here.
For the next 3 weeks, I'm going to bring you my 3 no-fail tips to have the absolute best classroom management. It takes work, but trust me, the benefits are very worth it! When you have a classroom that still behaves and has fun the week before Christmas, or the week before the end of the school year, you will know that all your hard work paid off!
My first tip is probably my most important. Because without it, none of the other tips will work. They'll help, but they won't really achieve what's important in your classroom.
Because in your classroom, you don't want students to simply sit and listen and maybe learn. You wan them to be engaged, you want them to take charge of their learning and you want them to be curious little souls.
My first tip? Foster and nurture relationships with them.
That means showing them that you love them for exactly who they are. Because every student is perfect just the way they are. They might have behaviours that aren't ap. preciated, but they need to know that you, the teacher, cares truly about them.
How can you show them this?
It all depends on the students, but one of the easiest ways is to be present. When students are coming into your classroom in the morning, be there, at the door or in the hallway. Greet them, talk to them about their night or their morning. Be interested in what they're interested in by asking questions and letting them talk. Smile.
At lunch time, take 5 minutes to sit down with a couple of students and chat with them. At the end of the day, wish each and every one of them a wonderful evening.
Take 2 minutes out of your day to talk to that student that gives you a headache each day. But truly talk to them. Ask them what they enjoy doing, or their favourite TV show or sport to play. Whatever. Just don't talk shop. Don't start talking to them about their behaviour or what they can do to improve. Don't talk to them about their potential or how you know that today can be a better day than yesterday.
Be genuine, be real, be affectionate (in a proper teacher-relationship way) and really build those relationships.
Because when students love you, they'll do anything for you.
Stay tuned for my next tip : Implementing Structure & Routine
My 4th year of teaching, I found an amazing chart. One that I thought was going to change the way I taught forever!
You guessed it, it was a Coloured Behaviour Chart. I made it myself, with 7 coloured squares. Everyone started on the middle green square and could either move up or down throughout the day depending on the choices they made.
Sounds good in theory. Students are responsible for their own actions, they were made accountable for those actions by their placement on this chart. To make it more enticing, every square represented a point (1 through 8) and at the end of the day, you added your number to a class list. When you reached a certain amount of points, you received a reward. There were also class-wide rewards for when everyone reached a certain amount of points. It was awesome. Or so I thought. Imagine having a behaviour chart in the staff lounge, where your boss could move you up or down depending on various circumstances. Would you like to see your pin moved down? How would you feel as a teacher? Would you hold your head up high and feel proud and happy? Every child is perfect the way they are, and it's not by moving them up or down that we change their behaviour (if we so desire). That chart simply acts as a tracking tool, but it doesn't foster nurturing relationships that students crave. It doesn't allow students to grow in your classroom. It airs out their dirty laundry and that's just not right. So please, do yourself a favour and throw that behaviour chart out! Just throw it away! Don't give it to another teacher (like I did! Oops! I majorly regret that one) but throw it out. You don't need it and your students certainly don't need it.