Thursday, August 30, 2012

Classroom Management Part 2: Offense

This is the part of classroom management is the part that I feel I've gained with experience.  I have learned how to better relate to and interact with kids and it has worked wonders on my classroom management.  These suggestions are more like offensive strategies.  They are not so much reacting to bad behaviors, but how to prevent them.  In my opinion, having a good relationship with my kids is the absolute best way to avoid bad behaviors.   If they respect and understand me then they are less likely to misbehave for me.  These are my suggestions on how to develop the kind of relationships that will help to avoid problems.

Make sure that you listen to kids

Be very careful and aware of the way that you talk to kids.  I try not to talk down to them, but instead talk with them just like I would talk with an adult or peer of mine.  If a kid closes his notebook in the middle of the lesson and puts his head down I could walk over and tell him to take his notebook back out and pay attention.  I don't do this.  If I'm in the middle of teaching, I'll ignore it until I get a break.  Then I'll go over and instead of starting by bossing him around, I sit down and ask what's going on and if everything is ok.  Sometimes they'll tell me that they don't feel well or have a headache or something.  Sometimes this is true, but sometimes it's code for either "I don't undertand" or "I'm bored." (knowing the difference comes from knowing the kid)  If this is the case then I'll tell them that what we're doing is really important because I want to make sure they understand what's going on and I'll ask if I can help them.  I'll suggest that we work on the next part together.  The key here is just to not automatically start attacking kids because they will just shut down and you'll get nothing.

Listening to kids also means when they do something wrong.  Let's say two kids start arguing with each other and you give them both detention.  One kid starts saying they didn't do anything and it was the other one's fault and you say, "I don't want to hear it.  I saw what happened."  Kids HATE this kind of attitude.  I've heard kids say so many times that they got in trouble and the teacher didn't even listen to them.  It makes things so much worse because this is exactly when they start to fight back.  They want to tell their side of their story.  You don't necessarily need to believe everything they say but I really believe you at least need to hear them out because they deserve it.  

I prefer to do this after class.  I tell them that I will absolutely hear what they have to say, but ask if we could do it at the end of class.  I will try to really listen to the kid and say something like, "I understand that it made you really mad when she said that, but you need to understand that when you yell back then you just end up getting in trouble too.  Next time, maybe just wait and tell me what she said.  That way she'll get in trouble and you won't." And then I'll have a similar conversation with the other kid.  They both end up feeling like they were listend to and feel like I'm on their side which is what they want.  They just want to feel like they matter and aren't going to be brushed off.  

Get to know the "difficult" kids best
Most kids misbehave for a reason.  If you can figure out why, then you will be golden.  You will find that if you can do this, the kids that are terrible for everyone else will be good for you.  When other teachers talk about how terrible that kid is, it will seem like they're talking about a completely different person than you know.  To do this, I just ask simple questions about their life.  You'd be amazed how much you'll learn if you just ask the right questions.  As soon as a kid feels like you're interested in their life, boy do they like to talk allllll about it.  And from that moment on, you're no longer just the teacher that stands up in the front of the room you're someone that they have a more personal relationship with. When you ask them to do something, it's not just a teacher asking it's someone that cares about them and there's a huge difference.

I had a girl this past year that was off the wall.  Nothing worked with her so one day I asked her to come have lunch with me.  Not as a punishment, just to talk.  She was thrilled for the attention.  I asked about her family and who she lived with and her siblings and all that type of stuff.  That girl became my best friend after that.  She still misbehaved in her other classes, but she was much better in mine because she started to feel like I cared about her.  What's awesome about this is that eventually it can start to carry over to other classes as well.  After I developed that relationship with her I started to ask her to behave in her other classes, and asked her to do it for me. It worked because she didn't want to let me down.

Same thing with a kid in my summer class.  From day one he was trying to figure out what he could get away with.  Gave me attitude and all that stuff so I knew immediately I needed to focus my attention on that kid.  I moved seats and put him right up front.  I'd make small talk with him about random things and in no time he behaved better in my class than in anyone else's.  And not only did he behave, he became incredibly helpful and one of the hardest workers in the class.

It may not be as easy with all kids, but this is one suggestion that I feel really strongly about.  A lot of times the worst kid in your class is the one that needs someone to care about them most.  They act up because they're used to everyone writing them off, and if you are the one person to not do that they will love you for it.

Be understanding and let kids feel like they "won"
I let kids win small battles all the time.  It makes them feel like they have a say in things and usually it makes them get their work done.  I can explain this better using some examples.
  • A girl that would sometimes ask if she could do her work in the hallway.  She'd take a clipboard and go lay outside in the hallway on days where she didn't feel like being in the room.
  • A boy that would sometimes put his head down during class but then he'd come during study hall and make up whatever he didn't get done in class.
  • I have a purple butterfly chair in my room that I'll let kids sit in if they ask.
  • A few kids that preferred to leave their books in my room instead of going to their lockers so I made them their own area on my shelf.
  • A boy that for some reason always wanted to use my pen/pencil/highlighter instead of his own.
  • A girl that would occasionally want to sit on the floor to do her work.
  • A boy that would sometimes opt out of group work when we were doing stations or something and always had the option to work alone and not move if he decided.
These are all small things that honestly make no difference to me.  I could say no just to show that I'm in charge, but really what's the point?  As long as they end up getting their work done and not distracting other people I'm pretty much ok with anything.  My general policy is just that they need to ask me.  And if I say no, I'll give a quick explanation why not.  Always respect them enough not to pull the, "because I said so."  I find that my kids know me well enough to know that I only say no if there's a good reason and since I explain why they very rarely fight the no.

Now with all of this stuff going on, my classroom is rarely the "model" classroom that you'd imagine.  I think I'd call in a state of "controlled chaos" and I like it that way.  I don't take things too seriously because I want to enjoy my kids.  It makes my job so much more fun to not have to be a dictator in my room.


  1. It's crazy to me that everyone is not already doing these things....I am only a third year teacher but they seem like such no-brainers to me!

  2. Whoof. "I could say no just to show them I'm in charge, but what's the point?"
    That's a constant battle for me. I'm going to try letting students win small battles this week. Thanks for the pep talk.

  3. You are so right about the worst kid. I always seem to cling on to that one, and it seems to work. My worst kid last year ( his 2 best buddies were in jail) would drop by to see me each morning, just to say hello, or to tell me to have a nice day. My mouth fell open the first time he did that, because we had not had the best relationship but he must have gotten the idea that I really wanted him to be successful. I think I was the only one who believed in him. I am hoping he will show up this year and not have joined his friends in jail.

  4. LOVE your blog and plan to use numerous ideas this coming year - thank you!

    Many of your examples of kids "winning" are similar to my teaching experience. Sometimes, though, other students will see that one kid who is, in their opinion, now getting away with something or getting special treatment and want to do the same. For example, girl in the hall quietly working and now several others start asking to do the same. How do you handle this?


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