Classroom Management requires a level of consistency and tenacity that is unmatched by any other area that we impact throughout the year. It is actually more important than the content you teach. Without proper management, you’ll not ever be able to reach the academic heights you could have.
When I taught in a school where the students came in accepting my authority–no questions asked–I didn’t really think as much about management. I took it for granted that I didn’t have to earn that respect myself. It was a cultural norm. When I transferred to my current position, I learned quickly that respect in a classroom sometimes has to be earned with structured approaches and consistency.
I really rebelled against the management first principle that seemed to be the instinctual approach of my colleagues. I just came from a school where I taught content and procedures at the same time. I used to be able to tell students once or twice what I expected and it was the accepted practice. There was some push back, of course, but…not anything like what I have experienced this year. Once chairs and school supplies start flying across a classroom, you figure out quickly that you need to change your approach. Let me tell you what I did to curb those behaviors and set myself up for success.
I started by building a classroom culture.
I used to be one of those teachers who never understood how teachers could say things like ‘don’t smile until Christmas’. Like…who doesn’t smile? Smiling’s my favorite! Here’s the thing, smiling takes away the gravitas of the moment. It doesn’t mean you are unhappy. It doesn’t mean that you are mean and unkind. It means you are serious. THAT is what I fundamentally misunderstood about the structure of discipline in difficult constructs. Smiling indicates, I’ll probably let you get your way with enough foolish behavior. A serous look combined with the right measured tone says, ‘Don’t play with me.’ You know when I DO smile? First thing in the morning when I am asking about their day…and right at the end of the day when I am telling them that I love them and to get home safe. The rest of the day, it’s about my game face.
But let me tell you friends, a game face is not enough, you also need a structured approach to discipline. At our school, part of the culture is built on creating standard operating procedures for classroom expectations. The key to this is two fold. First, doing it WITH the kids so that they have buy in, and secondly, holding them accountable when they don’t live up to the expectations that they set for themselves. It’s a brilliant concept and one that you need to embrace STAT if you are struggling with management.
SOP’s as we call them can be on just about anything!
Think about a basic classroom problem that you might have, then ask the kids what they think the rules should be to help them do what’s right in that situation. Lining up is an important part of what the kids do. Transitions can be super tough for at risk kids and often times, their behavior gets ‘squirly’ during unstructured times leading into specials, recess and lunch. Lining up correctly and taking the time to teach them how to self-monitor their own behavior helps to make part of the transition go more smoothly. For this SOP, I came up with the first rule, they offered the rest during our discussion. The students also came up with consequences for not doing the procedures. The first one is a class warning. The second is a ‘think sticker’…which is a warning that carries a 5 minute penalty from recess.
The third consequence is loss of recess! THEY came up with that! Can you believe it? Just for not following procedures? YUP. Because they are harder on themselves than you or I could ever be. Once we come up with our SOP’s, their consequences and rewards, then, we post them in our classroom so that we can reflect on them. At first, I had the boys recite these rules. Now I can just say, Rule number 2 and whoever doesn’t have their hands at parade rest does it immediately. SERIOUSLY. It took a few weeks…I had to be persistent and tenacious. I spent about 10 minutes lining up every time we did it for about a week. Now, I can have the ‘teacher helper’ check my line FOR me…and they are TOUGHER than I am! LOL! 🙂 It’s super cute!
Here are a few other SOP’s from my lovely third grade teammates to give you some more ideas on what this could look like for you. One of my favorite’s is from my buddy Beth! She has one for the LOO! 🙂
Looking for some ideas on where to start? In this freebie, I’ve included 20 different SOP’s for your consideration. Just click on the picture to see the file. If you’re looking to re-start your school year after the break, consider the structure of creating SOP’s for the basics in your classroom and then stick with it and be consistent. Good luck!