Teachers who struggle with classroom management do too much hoping.
They hope they have a well-behaved class this year. They hope their students won’t be too talkative or disrespectful. They hope they don’t have to deal with yet another disruption.
They try to set limits in their classrooms, to be sure, but setting limits doesn’t work like they hoped. If this is you, then you’re settling for far less than what is possible.
The most effective teachers have a mindset that is decidedly different from those who struggle with classroom management. They don’t hope their students will behave, they know they will.
Your Ideal Class
Think of all the student behaviors that get in the way of really loving your job. What really bugs you or causes you stress? What interferes with you becoming the best teacher you can be? Is it calling out? Is it disrespect? Do your students ignore your directions?
Now take out a sheet of paper and a pen—red is best—and sit down at your desk. You can do this exercise mentally if you wish, but participating will be more powerful.
Draw a large square/rectangle on your paper, leaving about two inches to the edge. Write down those unwanted behaviors outside of the red square. Go ahead and fill up the page. Include everything you can think of.
Now take a look.
Inside the square represents your ideal class. It represents the freedom to be the teacher you want to be. It represents teaching without stress, disruption, and drama. It’s what you’ve longed for ever since you decided to become a teacher.
To have effective classroom management, the kind where you know your students will behave, you must protect and defend your red square at all costs (ethically and respectfully, of course). This must be your number one priority.
Building A Wall
Picture yourself standing outside of Jaffa Gate, the main entrance into the old city of Jerusalem. To the right and left of the gate, the giant wall that once protected its inhabitants snakes off into the distance, eventually encircling the entire city.
Just inside the gate, to the left, is a set of stairs. Go ahead and take those to the top. Now you’re standing atop the massive wall that surrounds old Jeruselum.
Looking out over the city, you can see the wall in its entirety. 10 feet thick and nearly 50 feet high, it once stood as an impenetrable barrier to the outside world. It provided a physical as well as visual reminder that nothing was getting through.
If you want to love your job, if you want to be an extraordinarily effective teacher, if you want to give your students a memorable learning experience, then you must construct your own impenetrable wall.
The most effective teachers know their students will behave as expected because they construct a metaphorical wall around the sanctuary that is their classroom, and they let nothing inside.
It’s sacred to them.
They know that if there is a breach of their wall, if they allow any amount of unwanted behavior inside without an assertive response, they’ll lose their ideal classroom and all the wonderful benefits that come with it.
The Essential Mindset
Take a look again at the behaviors you wrote down outside of your square. Do the rules you’re currently using cover each of these behaviors? In other words, does each behavior trigger at least one rule? If not, then you need rules that do.
You can check out the rules I recommend, or you can construct your own. But they must protect your classroom from all unwanted behavior.
Adopt the essential classroom management mindset of the most effective teachers. Instead of hoping to have well-behaved students, make your limits (i.e., your red square) an impenetrable wall you’re committed to defend.
Do that and you, too, will know your students will behave as expected.
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