All I Got on Classroom Management

Not enough people write about classroom management in a practical and realistic way. But this does! Helpful tips. https://t.co/oXXwOU6xDK

— Michael Pershan (@mpershan) August 9, 2017

Classroom management is hard, and what’s “practical and realistic” for one person could be entirely impractical and unrealistic for someone else to follow. Take a math lesson taught successfully at a parochial school in a class of 12 students wearing uniforms and bring it into an inner-city public school in a class of 37 students wearing skins in shades of brown, black, and yellow, and you might find that you need to tweak the lesson a bit.

You and I are two different people. You and I are two different teachers. What irks me may not even faze you. You and I can tolerate different ranges of decibels emitting from classroom activities. You like foldables, and I like baguettes.

Your students are different than mine. The humans in our classrooms are fussy and demanding and moody and social and shy and are constantly muttering under their breath I-hate-this-shit. Good luck with that lesson on factoring trinomials.

Therefore, any advice on classroom management is making huge assumptions about who you are, what your students are like, and what your admins had for breakfast. I don’t blame you if after reading a how-to book on classroom management, and you feel stuck at step 4 below.

Unfortunately, the final step of “add small details” is what you must do — like practice, fail, practice, fail, shit, practice, shit, fail again — in the classroom!

No book is gonna help you master this thing. I’m sorry. You don’t become a chef by reading cookbooks. You just gotta go into the kitchen, roll up your sleeves, make a big mess, and voila boeuf bourguignon! Or not.

But before you accuse me of writing a post that is completely useless and unhelpful, please allow me to offer just these three tidbits.

Observe your colleague.

Intentionally schedule a time when you may come in to observe a colleague whom you hold in high regard and whom you may ask a thousand follow-up questions. It’s equally important that this colleague reciprocates the observation and gives you constructive feedback. Most likely you know this colleague better than you know any author of some book, and of course, you two share pretty much the same clientele. For optimal efficiency, and if possible, choose a time when your colleague has the same students who seem to be giving you trouble. Kids act differently for different teachers.

Know what you absolutely value above all things.

For me, it’s respect. Not just respect for me the teacher, but respect for all of us in the room. I don’t always handle this gracefully when disrespect unveils itself in my room because it tops my list of all things that make Ms. Win go ape-shit crazy. But because I know this about myself, and being proactive always yields better results than being reactive, I tell my kids of my zero-tolerance for disrespect from the get-go. I say, “I need you to be respectful. That’s the only way we are going to get along in here. Before we can do any mathematics or have any fun in here, we are going to be respectful to each other.” And may God give me the grace to apologize when I am being disrespectful to my students. I find that doughnuts help them forgive me quicker.

Separate the behavior from the child.

We know this already. But there are adult assholes out there. My hypothesis is that we teachers — and parents and society at large — have allowed the adorable children in our care to morph into assholes without effective intervention. What happened? I don’t know exactly, but I do know that we tend to let misbehaviors slide for fear of hurting the kid’s feeling or that it’s not the best time to deal with it. Well, I always try to immediately find the time and will immediately tell a kid that her actions/words are not okay because while the humans are young, their behaviors are especially removed from their true selves. I’m reprimanding the behavior, but I’m keeping the kid. Being a parent for 22 years and a teacher for 26, I conclude that children are highly manipulative. Not because they think it’s a desirable trait, but because they can’t drive and have no income, being manipulative is their survival mode of choice.

A few years ago I was sitting in the lodge at CMC-North in Asilomar when someone recognized me from my Ignite talk and came over to chit chat. He was lamenting the frequency in which his students were asking to use the restroom pass. I asked some related questions to learn more before I realized that he wasn’t lacking classroom management skills as much as just lacking a good lesson.

So, there’s that, step 0 as I call it — find that great math task.

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