It is that time of year, school is starting, kids and teachers alike are returning to the daily grind. The new school year brings challenges for all, including a new classroom, new teacher, and new classmates. As a former high school and middle school teacher, here is a compiled list of the top ten tips for classroom management and discipline.
Tip #1 Establish rules from day one
Kids need rules. They actually thrive when presented with rules and structure. The best thing a teacher can do is establish rules on the first day of school. Let the children know what is and is not acceptable from day one.
Tip #2 Create a democracy
Let the children help decide on the punishment for disobeying classroom rules. They will be more accepting of the reprimand if they decided on it. With this said, the teacher is still ultimately in control, but letting the students be a part of the discipline helps them understand it.
Tip #3 Stay consistent
Consistency is the key to discipline and classroom management. Children must know what to expect from their behavior. Never as a teacher, make exceptions for certain students. Treat all children the same as far as the consequences for their behavior.
Tip #4 Start out strict
Be the strictest with all students during the first few weeks of school. If after that you have a class that is well behaved, you can lighten up a bit. However, remember that you can never, and I repeat never go stricter once you have been lenient. It is always better to be the disciplinarian in the beginning and ease up after you know your students.
Tip #5 Establish a routine
Just as children thrive on rules and consistency, they also flourish under a routine. Create a classroom routine, when you come in you sit down and begin this, then we will do this, and in conclusion, this will happen. Let the students know how the class period will run and do not deviate from the routine except for special circumstances.
Tip #6 Create a seating chart
This is the quintessential rule every college of education will tell you. Yet, what they do not tell you is, create the seating chart on your terms, not based on alphabetical order. Get to know your students before making the permanent seating chart. This way you will know who complements each other and who contrasts one another. It may take a few weeks in the beginning of the year or semester, but will be well worth the time in the long-term.
Tip #7 A place for everything and everything in its place
This tip goes along with expectation and classroom rules, but is a little more specific. From the first day of class, be certain the students know where classroom materials belong and to return them to their home. If they do not, let the students know they will be penalized dependent upon the preexisting consequences. This will be different for every grade level. At the high school level, it may be a reduction in privileges, such as lunch off campus. A middle school child might lose the right of creating the bulletin board this month. The punishment should always fit the crime.
Tip #8 Post the school schedule
Think about the last time you started a new job. Did you want to know when lunch and breaks were? Of course, you did and so do children. At the beginning of the year, quarter, or semester, whichever is the case; always post the school schedule. This lets students know when they have recess, lunch, study hall, or just when the class period is over. Everyone, no matter who you are, likes to know what is coming next. The simple act of posting a schedule that is visible for all will prevent chaos in your classroom.
Tip #9 Always cover school rules
There is nothing like not taking ownership for a rule that is already in place. Just as you cannot blame the police officer for giving you a ticket for not wearing your seatbelt, when you know it is the law, a student cannot blame the teacher for disobeying an established, pre-existing school rule. Going over school policies and procedures at the beginning of the year can save you much trouble throughout the school year. Students and parents are reluctant to question rules stated in the school handbook. Therefore, as a teacher, always read aloud with your students the school’s standard policies and procedures.
Tip #10 Give students jobs
Kids like to feel important and a part of something bigger, it is a trait inherent in all of us. Once you have classroom rules and expectations established, create jobs for the students. For example, rotate the attendance taker, each week have a different group responsible for the bulletin board, and even let students from different classes grade papers. Jobs such as these give children not only a sense of responsibility, but also of belonging and importance. This in turn generates a mutual respect between the student and teacher.
Tip #11 Conclusion
Always have a conclusion to your class. This ending should wrap up everything the children learned throughout the period. You, as a teacher, are in it together with your students. They have a need to learn and you have a need to teach. You complete each other, whether or not the children recognize that. Remember, we are discussing children; from 5 years old to 18 years of age, they are still children. As adults, you must recognize that and treat them so. If you do it correctly, you will find the students crave that.