What do you think of when you hear the phrase “classroom management”?Often, people connect this phrase with strictness and regulation, backing up their opinion with Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish.” Classroom management is the practice of dealing with discipline problems in the classroom, as well as preventing future discipline problems, in order to maintain a productive classroom environment. The relevance of Foucault’s work is not lost on me, particularly as a dance student who has seen many forms of questionable discipline in the classroom.
Though there is no one universally agreed-upon definition of classroom management, The Handbook of Classroom Management describes it as having two purposes: “It not only seeks to establish and sustain an orderly environment so students can engage in meaningful academic learning, it also aims to enhance student social and moral growth.” Instead of looking at all the ways in which a teacher can mishandle a classroom — discipline and punish — I’d like to look at how a teacher can nurture and assist.
Take a look at this instructional video on How to Handle Misbehaving Students:
Respect is the key to a healthy classroom. A teacher’s job is to teach students and a student’s job is to learn from his teacher, but neither of these can happen if either of them is under too much stress. Cortisol — the stress hormone — is released into a person’s brain whenever he’s feeling a lot of negative pressure. This hormonal imbalance can cause brain functioning to slow, making it almost impossible to present or retain any information. A negative classroom environment can literally prevent teaching and learning from happening.
The burden of maintaining a healthy classroom environment generally falls on the teacher, as the “leader” of the class. If a teacher comes to class every day with a poor attitude, the students will automatically dislike the teacher, the subject, and possibly school in general. Edutopia gives some great tips for classroom management:
- Build community.
- Design a safe, friendly, and well-managed classroom environment.
- Include students in creating rules, norms, routines, and consequences.
- Create a variety of communication channels.
- Always be calm, fair, and consistent.
- Know the students you teach.
- Address conflict quickly and wisely.
- Integrate positive classroom rituals.
- Keep it real.
- Partner with parents and guardians.
For many teachers, classroom management is one of the most challenging aspects of their job. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “classroom management has been cited as one of the most prevalent reasons for job burnout and attrition of first-year teachers.”
One first-year teacher who managed to succeed at managing his classroom is Todd Sentell, author of “Toonamint of Champions — How LaJuanita Mumps Got to Join Augusta National Golf Club Real Easy: A Particularly Allegorical Comedy of Real Bad Manners.” His blog, The Dixie Diarist, chronicles his first year teaching eighth graders at a school in Georgia for students with learning, emotional, and behavioral disorders. In his second post, Class Rools, he describes the tactics he came up with as a “rookie” teacher to keep his class under control. Though Sentell belittles his efforts — what others might call positive reinforcement, he calls bribery — his blog shows that his unconventional methods really resonated with his students.
It takes extra work on the teacher’s part to create an optimal learning atmosphere, but planning out a strategy for classroom management is just as important as planning out a lesson. The first step towards effective teaching and learning is a well-managed classroom.