You’ve probably heard it said before, “Teaching isn’t a career; it’s a calling.” Many teachers have lifelong dreams, beginning in their formative years, of standing in front of a classroom and molding the young minds of tomorrow. Then they grow up, the degree and certification are obtained, and they’re ready for their first year of school. They come into the classroom with high expectations, hopes and ambitions. Unfortunately, they are often left in bewilderment as they are locked in the classroom for numerous hours per day with thirty plus students; all with different academic and behavioral needs. What happened to the excitement of molding the young minds of tomorrow? Has it been a breakdown of the relationship between teacher to student? Is the classroom size having a dire effect upon the teacher student relationship? Have the mores and ethos of society drastically changed, or have we faltered from our calling?
A teacher’s dedication to providing excellent classroom management through developing relationships and mutual respect with his/her students is the key to the success of both the students and the teacher in the classroom. It is a collaboration of professionals, parents, teachers, and the students themselves that enhance the learning environment.
When students enter a safely structured environment, when they know what is expected of them, and when they feel the freedom to explore within boundaries and make mistakes, they will blossom personally and academically. Unacceptable classroom behaviors will be minimized and quickly rectified because of the trusting relationship and environment the teacher has fostered in the classroom. As a result, the teacher will feel more fulfilled and effective as a guiding leader in the classroom. Building a relationship of trust between teacher and student is key. For after all, the teacher is the surrogate parent during the academic life of each student.
BUILDING AND ESTABLISHING EFFECTIVE RELATIONSHIPS
“Contrary to what many people believe, the number-one problem in the classroom is not discipline—it is the lack of procedures and routines. Classroom management has nothing to do with discipline. You manage a store; you do not discipline a store. You manage a classroom; you do not discipline a classroom.” (Wong, 2012, Online)
Building and establishing effective relationships occurs when students trust the teacher enough to let them explore within boundaries and make mistakes – both academically and behaviorally. As a society, we have a skewed concept of mistakes; rather than seeing mistakes as an opportunity of potential growth and room for improvement, we see them as a barrier blocking our potential for life, happiness, and success.
Many students come into the classroom as blank slates who need to be taught how to proceed as a member of the academic environment. Teachers can begin to establish effective relationships when they model appropriate behavior for their students. Teachers who acknowledge their successes and failures, weaknesses and strengths, prove a tremendous asset to the life of a student, because the reality is, we will succeed and fail, as well as, have weaknesses and strengths. If the teacher is modeling the acceptance of their own successes and failures, weaknesses and strengths, then the student learns how to properly manage emotional responses to negative and positive circumstances. Moreover, it is crucially important that teachers, students, parents, and guardians recognize within themselves that we are neither our successes or failures, weaknesses and strengths, for these are achievements of our lives, not definitions of our persona. Teachers must recognize that they are surrogate parents in the life of each child.
Not unlike many parents in the nucleus home, many teachers become frustrated when students act out in the classroom. The teacher must be mindful of whether or not he/she has effectively communicated his/her expectations before the behavior has occurred. Inevitably, the teacher and student end up in a cycle of action and reaction resulting in personal frustration and confusion.
The following are possible recommendations for improving the classroom environment:
- Greet each student by name as they walk in the door of the classroom. When students feel that they are genuinely seen and that their teacher is happy to see them, they are more likely to care about what the teacher has to say throughout the class period.
- Articulate and teach classroom procedures and routines beginning the very first day of school. How are students to enter the classroom? How are they expected to conduct themselves when working in groups, individually, and beyond the classroom environment? Don’t just tell-physically communicate the expectations within the classroom. Practice the routines and procedures with the students.
- Develop a handbook with the students in mind. Sometimes offering the students an opportunity to incorporate their own behavioral policies, provides the students with a sense of ownership and autonomy. Focus on a policy of: “When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequence,” and be specific about both positive and negative consequences for positive and negative behaviors.
- Be consistent, follow through with the consequence, both positive and negative. Remind the students that they are free to make their own choices when it comes to behavior in the classroom.
- Never engage in an argument with a student in front of the rest of the class. If the student continues to exhibit inappropriate behavior, calmly ask the student to leave the room, then conference with the student outside the classroom. Remember to speak respectfully, calmly, and in a controlled manner when addressing issues with a student. You are less likely to ignite a hostile confrontation fueled by emotions.
- Praise the small successes- especially when they come from students who normally have trouble adhering to classroom procedures. Praise the positive choices students make in the classroom. Praise a child for trying and putting for effort, even if, they do not make the mark.
- Always act as a detective, try to see past the student’s behavior to the possible causation of the problem. Does the student feel discouraged in the activity he/she is doing? Does the student need more of a challenge? What problems did the student bring into the classroom with them that day? What are the possible environmental factors that could be affecting this student’s life? Young people, like us (the adult person), want to feel cared about, they want to feel appreciated, they want to feel accepted.
“Teachers who adopt a relationship-building approach to classroom management by focusing on developing the whole person are more likely to help students develop positive, socially appropriate behaviors.” (Beaty-O’Ferrall, Green, & Hanna, 2010, Online)
CRISIS MANAGEMENT IN THE CLASSROOM
When teachers feel that they have lost behavioral control of the classroom, they begin to feel helpless and desperate. “Classroom management has been cited as one of the most prevalent reasons for job burnout and attrition of first-year teachers.” (Kratochwill, 2012, Online)
It is easy to slip into a pattern of exasperation and sarcasm with students who have challenging classroom behaviors. Many teachers find themselves without any positive remedies or solutions to curtailing negative behaviors. Moreover, they begin to rely upon negative consequences that only feed into the negative behaviors. Sadly, teachers make choices, not unlike a frustrated parent, that are against their own moral compass. Teachers may respond with choices of yelling or name-calling as a response to a student’s behavior. Not unlike any relationship, every child will react to the environment with which they are placed. An environment of hostility will only foster a hostile reaction. Teachers need to develop a toolbox of positive remedies, solutions, and choices to help them avoid explosive environments.
TIPS FOR MAINTAINING COMPOSURE AND CONTROL
- Take a break. When the feelings of desperation start creeping up and the tension is building, step outside the door for one minute. Chances are the classroom was chaotic to begin with, thus the desperation, so removing yourself from the situation for a minute to breathe won’t spell certain destruction for the classroom. Try to relax. Learning how to meditate and breathe deeply is an effect skill for both the teacher, as well as, the students.
- Evaluate whether or not expectations have been made clear and whether or not consequences have been given consistently. If not, take a day to re-teach classroom expectations and begin implementing consequences consistently.
- Ask other teachers what are effective policies and procedures for maintaining composure and control in the classroom environment. Getting support from other teachers can often lighten the load and help eliminate feelings of isolation.
- Know when to say enough is enough. Personal time-outs are okay. Remember to teach even older students that it is okay to ask or request personal time-outs.
- Journal your desires, expectations, and ambitions as a teacher. Reflect upon them often, adding and subtracting what may or may not have been achieved.
- Model appropriate behaviors in the classroom.
- Accept your limitations and failures, seeing them as mere challenges for potential growth, rather than barriers that are unattainable.
- Keep in mind that students are children and that as a surrogate parent you are not alone.
Remember at the end of the day, homework will fade, teachers will retire, but a minute of acceptance can inspire.
Authors: Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C. and Ashly Cochran, MHR
Beaty-O’Ferrall, M. E., Green, A. & Hanna, F. (2010) Classroom management strategies for difficult students: Promoting change through relationships. Middle School Journal, 41(4), 4-11 http://www.amle.org/Publications/MiddleSchoolJournal/Articles/March2010/Article4/tabid/2149/Default.aspx
Johnson, D. W. & Johnson, R. T. (2012) Peace education in the classroom: Creating effective peace education programs. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://www.co-operation.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Peace-Ed-Salomon-09.pdf
Kratochwill, T. (2012) Classroom management, Teachers modules. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://www.apa.org/education/k12/classroom-mgmt.aspx
Wong, H. K. (2012) The well-managed classroom. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://go.hrw.com/resources/go_sc/gen/HSTPR034.PDF
Chancellor, H. (2012) Teaching children self-control. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://www.ecusd7.org/psychologists/newsletters/0910/Self_Control.pdf
Greenberg, P. (2012) Staying in control of your classroom. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/staying-control-your-classroom
Marzano, R. J. (2007) Chapter 8. What will I do to establish and maintain effective relationships with students. Retrieved July 20, 2012, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/107001/chapters/What-will-I-do-to-establish-and-maintain-effective-relationships-with-students¢.aspx
Marzano, R. J. & Marzano, J. S. (2003) The key classroom management. Building Classroom Relationships 61(1), 6-13
Scherer, M. (2003) Relationships, Relationships, Relationships, Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept03/vol61/num01/Relationships,-Relationships,-Relationships.aspx
Yale University (2012) Classroom management suggestions, Preventive classroom management. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://www.yale.edu/peace/management.htm
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA