There are teachers who have been searching for answers to their classroom management problems for years without success. They try one new idea after the other in the hopes of finding the magic combination of techniques and strategies that will work for them.
They test drive interactive bulletin boards, ever-new sets of rules and consequences, echoing chants, bells, and other attention-getting devices, and time-consuming community circles. Soon, they discover that these methods aren’t making the impact they hoped for.
They become frustrated and fall back on lecturing, raising their voice, and sending students to the office.
The fact is, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these ideas. They’re just missing an important ingredient, something so important that nothing will work well without it. You’ve no doubt heard of this not-so-secret ingredient, probably hundreds of times. But only a small number of teachers are actually using it.
99% of teachers have rules or standards of behavior for their classroom, and most of these teachers have consequences in case these rules are broken. This is good. But here is the problem: only a small percentage of teachers actually follow their rules and consequences to the letter.
Your success in creating an optimal learning environment for your students hinges on your willingness to follow your rules and consequences precisely and every single time.
The central reason why so many teachers struggle with classroom management is because they don’t really follow their plan. Most only kinda-sorta do. The beautiful bulletin boards and creative sound makers can be fun and enhance your room environment, but they’re not going to make much difference unless your management plan is etched in stone.
Once a rule is in place and has been clearly defined for your students, never waver. This is a critical factor in effective classroom management, one that goes unnoticed by a majority of teachers.
Every time you let something go, ignore a broken rule, or fail to enforce a rule with a consequence, you are letting your students know that you don’t really mean what you say, that you can’t be counted on or trusted.
It’s important to note that there are ways of creating leverage with your students that will make your classroom management plan much more powerful and effective, and we will discuss these in future posts. But if you aren’t following your plan exactly, not much is going to work well for you.
Try this experiment. Tomorrow, or the next time you meet with your students, decide that you’re going to follow your plan exactly how it was presented to them. For example, if you don’t allow calling out in your classroom, then follow your hierarchy of consequences whenever anyone speaks out without permission. Regardless of how minor the offense is, deliver your consequence every single time.
If you find that you’ve given out more than the usual amount of warnings and time-outs, then you know that you can be a more effective teacher. If you’ve given a lot more, then this too is good news. You’ve found the reason why your classroom management plan hasn’t been working as well as you would like.
Your students may react poorly to your insistence on following your plan so exactly. If they complain and act shocked that you would have the audacity to follow the agreed upon plan, then it’s probably a good idea to start over from the beginning.
Go over your plan from start to finish with your students. Role-play the most common scenarios (i.e., calling out, side conversations, not following directions the first time they’re given, etc.). Model exactly what will happen if they break a classroom rule. Double-check their understanding and explain that the reason rules are so important is that they protect each student’s right to learn and enjoy school without interruption.
In the beginning of the school year or if you’re starting over, it’s a good idea to review your plan daily for the first four to six weeks. Once per week thereafter is usually sufficient, but occasionally you may have to revisit your plan more often. It’s that important. Over the course of a school year, you will save vast amounts of learning time previously wasted on interruptions and inattentiveness.
And then do it. Follow your plan. Don’t give in and don’t let anything go. You’ll gain better classroom control, professional confidence, and the all-important trust of your students. And here is the best part: it’s not personal. Because you’re following your plan and delivering on the promise you gave your students, there will be no more need for less effective and potentially hurtful methods like lecturing, arguing, or raising your voice.
If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving articles like this one in your email box every week.