At this time of year, I often hear from teachers wondering if they should, or even can, start over again.
Either they’ve been inconsistent.
Or they didn’t teach their classroom management plan thoroughly enough the first time.
Or they didn’t have much of a plan to begin with.
Whatever the case, they’re just barely hanging on. They can’t get through lessons without interruptions.
Their students talk incessantly.
They’ve lost control and are now stressed out and ready for the year to end.
Yet, they’re also nervous about making changes.
They fear that if they start over now, if they begin holding students accountable who’ve grown accustomed to the way things are, then their class will be in open rebellion.
But the truth is, as long as you teach your behavior expectations in a way that demonstrates how they’re best for them, these fears are unfounded.
In fact, done right, the opposite will happen. And your students will love you for it.
Here’s how in three steps:
1. Take responsibility.
So many teachers begin the process of starting over by lecturing their class and describing all the ways they (the students) have fallen short.
But this puts them at even deeper divided odds with a class that already doesn’t trust them. It causes resentment, antagonism, and a desire to tune out anything you have to say.
So instead of blaming students for the chaotic learning environment, it’s best and healthiest to take responsibility yourself.
Not only is this incredibly empowering for you, and a critical step all exceptional teachers must take, but it will draw your students into your corner.
It will open their ears and their hearts and begin the healing process between you.
You might say, “I haven’t done a good job of protecting your right to learn and enjoy school. I’m sorry and I feel terrible about it, but I’m going to make it up to you starting today.”
2. Lay it all out.
The next step is to put all your cards out on the table. Explain and model your classroom management plan in full, with boldness and good humor, front to back and start to finish.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve added new rules and consequences or if they’re the same ones you had before. You’re going to stand tall and lay it all out as if for the first time.
Don’t assume anything or leave anything to chance.
Cover it all so there is no doubt, no question, no scintilla of confusion regarding what does and doesn’t constitute breaking your class rules.
Essentially what you’re saying is, “This is what it takes to have a learning experience we can all love and be proud of. There is no other way and thus this is what we’re going to do.”
3. Make a vow.
Your students need to know that you’re committed to holding up your end of the bargain, that you care enough about them to truly safeguard their right to learn and enjoy school.
To that end, make a promise to your class that you will follow the plan exactly how it was laid out and defined for them. You must also promise to enforce consequences respectfully.
You’ll speak the truth, but you won’t scold, lecture, raise your voice, or use any other negative or harmful methods.
What this does very effectively is put students at ease. If frees them to focus on learning. It convinces them that they can finally trust you, that your plan really is about them and creating the best school experience for them.
Which in turn creates a desire to want to follow your rules, to want to please you and revel in being a contributing member of your class.
Making a vow also places soft but ever-present pressure on you to really do it, to really follow through on your promises. It’s one of the secrets to being the same, consistent teacher day after day.
Many teachers have the false notion that rules and consequences are an impediment to a good relationship with students.
The truth, however, is that not only aren’t they an impediment, they’re the very foundation upon which influential trust and rapport are built.
But you don’t have to wait for your students to be climbing the walls before reestablishing—or truly establishing for the first time—your classroom management plan.
If things aren’t going as well as you like, do it now.
Take responsibility for the current state of your classroom. Set in stone the boundaries that guard and protect your students’ academic progress and contentment. Then make the promise, the unwavering vow, they most want to hear.
A weight you never knew existed, a dampened shroud covering your classroom from wall to wall, will lift like a hot-air balloon on a cold day.
The sun will break through the clouds.
And you’ll be on your way to having the class you really want.
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