How To Start Over In Three Steps

Smart Classroom Management: How To Start Over In Three StepsAt 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.

Why Wait?

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.

If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

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24 Responses to How To Start Over In Three Steps

  1. Donna Wigmore December 9, 2017 at 9:08 am #

    I haven’t followed my CM plan thoroughly and I do have lots of inattentiveness and interruptions. The worst thing that was happening was how I was reacting to all of this. So that has changed and the atmosphere is improved. I am wondering if I should do this full revamp now or wait until after the holidays, when I usually need to
    review cm anyway?

    • Zack December 9, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

      I just did a reset of my expectations and consequences on Friday the 9th. My class was pretty bad and by the end of the hour I had already seen enough improvement to recoup the time spent on it between now and brake. It was completely worth it, even if I have to go over it again after we return.

    • Michael Linsin December 10, 2017 at 8:23 am #

      It’s really up to you, Donna. If you feel more comfortable waiting, that’s perfectly okay. 🙂

  2. SUZANNE kirby December 9, 2017 at 9:54 am #


    I have been receiving your classroom management articles since the fall. They have allowed me to get a good start in the classroom but here’s the thing, I am an art specialist teaching 11 different classes and only see my kids once a week for 40 minutes maximum. Their classroom teachers use varying classroom management plans. Each class of course is different. Can I make a difference using your management plans as i have so little time with these children? I would like to think so.



    • Michael Linsin December 10, 2017 at 8:21 am #

      Hi Suzanne,

      Yes, definitely. Be sure you get a copy of Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers, which is specific to specialists like yourself.

  3. Pamela December 9, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    I am always grateful for your classroom insight. I am in the process of a do over and most of my class is responding quite well when one particular student is out. He is ADHD and is all over the place. I tell the other students to ignore him, but It usually doesn’t happen. A few will join in the rebellion and then things just fall apart from there. I have some really great learners but I feel like they are being robbed of a fun learning environment. We have to constantly wait for this student to fall in line with what we’re trying to do. Any suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin December 10, 2017 at 8:19 am #

      Hi Pamela,

      This is a topic on the list of future e-guides. Stay tuned.

      • whitney December 10, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

        I would also like some help in this area. I have a student with some severe emotional problems which cause him to act out even though I follow the CM plan with him. It is hard to keep the rest of the class focused when he is constantly distracting. It is also difficult to balance teaching the whole class and addressing his specific needs.

        • Michael Linsin December 10, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

          Hi Whitney,

          When you get a chance, please read through the Difficult Student category of the archive. We have dozens of articles on this topic.

  4. Marti N. December 9, 2017 at 10:03 am #

    Last year was so hard…between special needs students who were being mainstreamed and a class of boundary-pushers and high-energy personalities…I was exhausted and needed help…badly! I found this site and read the posts and thought it certainly wasn’t going to hurt to try it. I sent a note home to parents explaining the reason for the classroom behavioral management plan, the rules, the consequences, and the reasons for the rules. I did the same with the students, and I followed every step to the best of my abilities. It wasn’t an overnight change, but within several weeks we were back on track…mostly. We weren’t the drama class and we still had hurdles, obstacles, and some days were really tough…but overall, it was a huge success…we finished on a good note rather than pushing for that last-day finish line! I appreciate the advice and suggestions—they helped a lot—and we didn’t start using it until after Christmas vacation.

    • Michael Linsin December 10, 2017 at 8:18 am #

      Way to go, Marti!

  5. Marti N. December 9, 2017 at 10:04 am #

    *dream class…not drama class….auto-correct-sigh.

  6. Catherine December 9, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    This doesn’t have a lot to do with today’s message…however, I have used many of your techniques since discovering your website. I have found that slowing down, being calm, having fun has been so empowering.

    When kids fall “out of step” I talk to them respectfully and let them know what and why they need to follow rules. Thank you so much.

    • Michael Linsin December 10, 2017 at 8:18 am #

      You’re welcome, Catherine.

  7. Rick December 9, 2017 at 10:45 pm #

    Honestly, I don’t buy it. I teach two 80 minute periods of high school math every single day to very difficult freshman. I like your articles and the mindset is helpful, but I don’t think there is a possible set of rules that are going to address the students I have, without spending enormous amounts of time on behavior and little to no time on learning for weeks on end, sending multiple kids out every day.

    • Michael Linsin December 10, 2017 at 8:17 am #

      Hi Rick,

      Be sure and get the high school plan (bottom right sidebar) along with The Happy Teacher Habits. It will fill in the gaps you’re missing and show you what you need to do to make your plan work as it should.

  8. Katie December 10, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

    I am so grateful for all of your insights on this website. I am currently a first year 5th & 6th grade ESL teacher, and found the need after Thanksgiving break to do a reset. I read through dozens of your articles before doing so, and your advice was invaluable. Thank you for supporting from afar!

    • Michael Linsin December 10, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

      It’s my pleasure, Katie!

  9. Kay December 10, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

    Your articles have been very helpful. I, too, have some very disruptive, difficult students. One problem I am hoping you will address is when parents sabotage the teacher’s efforts, thereby rendering the teacher powerless to deal with one or two children. This looks inconsistent to the other children, so the effect dominoes.

  10. Mary December 14, 2017 at 9:42 am #

    Hi Michael,

    I find my biggest problem for classroom management is that I have 33 students in my class. The large class size as well as a handful of incessant talkers makes the class really difficult to manage. Do you have any specific advice for managing a large class size?

  11. Caroline December 18, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

    I am a new teacher in an accelerated certification program. I thought I was doing well with developing relationships, but my students now think I’m the “easy” teacher. I hope your methods will help me become more consistent so hey can feel more challenged in my classroom.


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