“Don’t smile until Christmas.” Whether that classic adage appeals to you or not, we have some better advice to offer. Here are some tips for new teachers on how to manage the classroom!
Have Clear Expectations
The biggest single thing you can do to manage your classroom effectively is set clear expectations for both students and parents. If you have a class website of any kind, consider making a page for classroom policies and rules. Your school or grade level team may have some policies in place already to corroborate, and then you can fill in any holes you need to. Writing things out like this will keep others informed, you consistent, and it will also help you think through your stance on various issues (such as late homework, missed tests or consistently incomplete class work) so you don’t have to try to decide how you will respond in the moment.
Everyone feels more comfortable when they know what comes next. Students and teachers alike benefit from having less instructions required, because they already know exactly what to do every time they need to transition from paper work to computer work, or how to turn completed work in. Routines also help minimize the lag time between activities, which creates opportunities for students to come up with their own unfortunate methods of entertaining themselves. If you’re looking for a place to start, try establishing routines for how class begins or ends. When putting a new routine in place, consider:
- Writing instructions for how to complete it on a slide you can display the first few times you go through the routine.
- Pairing a visual or auditory cue with the routine so it’s very clear when that routine is to be carried out.
Minimize and Deal with Distractions/Disruptions
Make your behavioral expectations clear for things like what kind of classroom volume and wiggles are okay in your class. Think about how this will look different between test-taking versus things like group work as well. As much as possible, you’ll obviously want to decide on and discuss these parameters with your students in advance, rather than deciding on a case-by-case basis what is disruptive enough to merit consequences. Students testing where boundaries are (and other students watching to see how you’ll react) can waste a lot of time.
Foster a Sense of Community in the Classroom
Countries are founded on agreed upon sets of restrictions and freedoms. Students should feel like they’re all dwelling together in the peace loving, knowledge-rich land that is their classroom. As in any good realm, they should also feel like their benevolent ruler (you) is subject to their own checks and balances. Let your students know what your commitments to them are, as well as what rewards they might earn for being good citizens.
Build Relationships with Students and their Parents
People try harder for the people who care about them. Let parents know you are just as interested in their child’s well-being and growth as they are. Show students you see the effort they put in today. Strike up conversations with your kids too… who loves grapes, who can’t wait for the next Star Wars movie, who has three dogs?
As a first year teacher, know that you’ll make mistakes. You’ll probably try several different things before you find a classroom management style that works for you.