Teacher Education, Classroom Management and the Learning Environment

Classroom Management and the Learning Environment

Educators realize that we are losing precious instruction time to pesky low-level discipline challenges.  An educator can have spent hours developing the best lesson plans but without the ability to control the classroom the best lessons will remain undelivered. 

The lack of classroom management was rated by educators as the number one reason why teachers leave the profession. Classroom Management is generally agreed upon by Educators as the most important variable to building and sustaining a high achieving classroom. 

The one common variable to a classroom under control or out of control is the behavior of the students. For Classroom management to be successful, the teacher needs to believe behavior can be changed.

So what can we do to manage the classroom, reduce teacher stress as well as to increase student achievement?  It is all about having a proactive system in place that empowers the teacher, improves student behavior and holds students accountable for their misbehavior.  Applying the following Classroom Management techniques and strategies provide the means to achieve a positive learning environment. Following are 5 key components of Effective Classroom Management to gain and maintain classroom control.

Classroom Management: Student-Teacher Relationships

Student-Teacher Relationship

Student-teacher Relationships

“Caring is Key”

Building and fostering positive teacher-student relationships is arguably the most important factor contributing to the success of students both behaviorally and academically.  How a teacher relates to their students will determine whether the relationship is positive or negative. Students who experience respect and acceptance from their teacher are more likely to be compliant, respectful and open to learning.  Students who experience a teacher who is disrespectful and negative will in turn exhibit the same and misbehave. Caring is key.

Trying to understand the complexity of human behavior and social interactions between individuals and within groups, however, is another matter. The issues are complex, and attempting to isolate the variables that contribute to positive relationships is not always easy and straightforward.  Common strategies are needed here to be effective. Three very common ingredients that always come into play for the educator in their classrooms are personality, teaching style, and presence. When strategies that focus on these are used, student-teacher relationships will consistently be positive.

Classroom Management: Teaching to rules and procedures

Teaching To Rules and Procedures

Teaching Rules and Procedures

“Teach-To’s”

Learning is often defined as ‘the act, process, or experience of gaining knowledge or skill’.  Psychologists similarly define learning as ‘a change in behavior due to experience’.  From either perspective, learning allows a student to modify their behavior to suit a situation in order to be more successful both academically and behaviorally. Showing the student what the proper behavior is to be successful in the classroom is what teaching -to rules and procedures is all about.  We should not “assume” that students instinctively know how to act appropriately.  Teaching appropriate classroom behavior allows the student to learn the behavior expectations that will lead to their classroom success.

The first month, first week, and first day of school are critical to classroom management. Putting the time in during the first few weeks of school to the careful teaching of rules and routines, will pay big dividends throughout the year.  Our practice of just telling the students the rules and posting them, isn’t enough. These classroom routines need to be practiced by the students just as they would in academics. This sets the foundation of a structured environment all learners need to learn and all teachers need to teach. Teaching to rules and procedures enables critical school and classroom functioning.  These rules and procedures are what govern the crucial student-teacher relationships that are being built.

Having rules and procedures is not about trying to form unthinking automatons devoid of divergent thought. It’s been determined time and time again that the most common routines of setting structure, rules and procedures, guide the student’s mind to divergent and creative discovery and learning. Caring can be orderly and structured.

Educators should be able to expect one hundred and eighty school days of being productive, effective and rewarding.  With effective rules and routines in place, the cornerstone is in place for this expectation.

Self-control Strategies

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional and get ready to respond early”

When it comes to classroom management, the best offense is a good defense.  Preventative maintenance is a key factor in classroom management. Therefore, proactive strategies are used to minimize the teacher encountering problem behavior.

For a teacher to maintain self-control, they need to come to terms with 2 elements. First, that conflict is inevitable. It is a guarantee that in even the most well run classrooms teachers will experience problem student behavior. Second, a proper response to misbehavior must begin early on in the chain of events. There is no dancing around this one, before the emergent misbehavior occurs, the teacher must commit to the process to eliminate them.

When confronted with disrespectful or defiant misbehavior, sustaining self-control is paramount and will require a paradigm shift in many teachers’s thinking.  At the first sign of student misbehavior remain calm and silent while not ignoring the misbehavior.  This provides the teacher with an opportunity to evaluate and then respond correctly.  “Calm is Contagious”, and “Silence is Powerful”. Often, just the act of simply taking a calm time out along with a supportive stance will solve the behavior problem without the teacher even having to speak a word. A teacher under control will be able to act in a professional and mutually respectful way that will still hold the offending students accountable while minimizing disruptions to learning.

This is a tall order, but it can be achieved through the use of reactive strategies.

Classroom Management: Successfully Responding to Challenges

Successfully Responding to Challenges

Successfully Responding to Challenges

“Timing is everything.”

Timing is everything. To successfully respond when authority is challenged, early intervention is critical. The longer the misbehavior goes without a teacher response, the more likely future misbehavior will occur. However, how the teacher responds is as important as when in the chain of events a teacher responds.

 To successfully deal with the behavior problems first, the nature or threat of the behavior to student learning must be quickly evaluated. To do this the teacher will remain calm and silent while evaluating whether or not the misbehavior is a hindrance to learning. In these moments teachers must ask themselves three questions:

  1. “Am I able to teach?”
  2. “Are the other students able to learn?”
  3. “Is the student in question able to learn?”

If the answer is ‘yes’ to all 3 questions then the behavior is ignored and teaching continues.  This planned ignoring is applied only to minor, emergent (low level) behavior incidents where a student is not in danger of hurting themselves. If a teacher cannot answer ‘yes’ to all three questions, then the teacher needs to respond with a reactive strategy to the misbehavior.

In choosing a response or reactive strategy, understanding the emotional state of the student is important. Success depends on the teacher’s ability to empathize with the emotional state of the student. In the teacher’s evaluation for determining a proper response, keep in mind, first, while conflict is inevitable, combat is optional so ‘Choose your battles wisely and, second, consistency in responses will prevent misbehavior from escalating.

One simple method to incorporate is signal interference. The steps are as follows:

  1. The student is given a pre-arranged prompt/signal
  2. The student is then allowed to self-correct
  3. Finally, the teacher asks the student to identify the interfering behavior

All while never leaving the academic environment.

A final word regarding successful responses. To be effective, students should have been pre-taught, through the use of Teach-to’s, the expectations for the environment to which they are moving through and the educator needs to be present through adequate supervision.

If you would like to hear more about my strategies, please email me at cyndeekawalek@gmail.com

Classroom Management: Ecolog and Arrangement

Classroom Ecology and Arrangement

Classroom Ecology and Arrangement

“The Classroom Environment”

Educators are in agreement that the classroom environment has a profound impact, good or bad, on student learning and achievement.  The design, layout, seating arrangement, décor, and even lighting set the tone, feel, and atmosphere of a classroom. As much as depends on the teacher, it makes sense to put time into creating and establishing a physical design that contributes to a positive learning environment in the classroom. 

The phrase ‘as much as depends on the teacher’ is a key admission because the environment teachers often have to work in varied and sometimes difficult environments spanning from room size to availability of resources. Experienced educators are all too aware of such limitations, and other such situations and events that are beyond immediate control. It’s important the educator focuses on utilizing what can be used and applying what can be applied.  What works for one teacher may not for another, and even in the same classroom, what is optimal for one learning context may not be for another.

Regardless of the situation, in determining the physical design of the classroom at least two constant factors must be taken into account:  the learning and the behavioral consequences. It is natural for teachers to focus on the former at the expense of the latter, but in fact, both are essential and interrelated. 

Often seating arrangements that are optimal for learning can actually invite misbehavior. This will happen when the classroom ‘chemistry’ and emotional maturity of the students invite it.  Seating arrangement is critical to decreasing misbehavior and increasing learning. Therefore, following the first rule of Classroom Management,’ Prevention is a key ingredient’ , a teacher needs to consider how the physical design of their classroom supports positive learning and appropriate student behavior.

The learning environment is all about Classroom Management.  The classroom management approach is not a program but rather a philosophy on how to treat students with dignity and receive the same back. Say good-bye to classroom management techniques that make more work for you. Implementing the strategies of Student-Teacher Relationships; Self-Control; Teaching Rules and Procedures; Successfully Responding to Challenges; and Classroom Ecology and Arrangement will lead to a classroom where respect is earned; arguments, multiple warnings and repeated requests are eliminated; and positive student behavior is established.

 

I encourage my readers to leave their thoughts and encouragement ’below’ or you can email me at cyndeekawalek@gmail.com.