Classroom Management Suggestions

 

PREVENTIVE CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT

 

I.          Be Prepared.
 
Have all materials ready and organized ahead of time. The quickest way to lose control of a class is to spend five minutes trying to find the markers and to put your notes in the right order, or to spend time talking to your co-teachers discussing or arguing about which order to do things in or which activity to cut when time runs short. Students will perceive this as evidence of your lack of control and authority, and this will open you up for challenge. (Students' regular teachers can afford to do this occasionally because they spend more time with students and can provide structure over the long term that counters any loss of control during these temporary down times.) All decisions and contingency plans should be made ahead of time so that a quick look or comment between you sets alternative plans in motion.

 

II.        Make sure activities and materials are at the appropriate level for your students.
A sure-fire way to lose control of a class is to present materials or activities that are at an inappropriate level for the students. If materials are too difficult, students will become frustrated, and may choose to act‑out rather than face failure at a task that is portrayed as being fun, interesting, and easy. If materials are too easy, students become bored and will begin to spoof on you or make fun of the activities. You should pay careful attention to how students respond to the level of the materials and activities presented. After each session, spend some time discussing students' reactions among yourselves. Talk with the teacher and ask him or her whether the level of the activities seems appropriate, and ask for recommendations on how to create a better fit with the class members' abilities. The lessons in this curriculum should serve as a guideline for you, but you should adapt the activities to fit your class, making them more complex and sophisticated or simpler and more concrete, depending on the needs of your students.

 

III.       Identify ahead of time the activities or topics that might elicit problems.
 
Some of the topics and activities in the Peace by PEACE program can create feelings of discomfort among young adolescents. The silliness and acting out seen during these activities should be recognized as manifestations of this anxiety and discomfort. Be especially attuned to this kind of reaction, and, if it happens, calmly acknowledge that talking about the body and sex makes us all a little nervous (be sure not to say "Makes you nervous," or you may get a defensive reaction). Tell students that this is normal, back off the topic, or make it a little more clinical for a moment to allow students time to re‑group, then move on with the lesson.

 

IV.       Be respectful and treat students as responsible, mature individuals.
This seems a bit cliché, but it really works. Assume that your students will cooperate and treat them according to this assumption. They will pick up on your view of them and will likely behave in accordance with it.

 

V.        Know the class rules and pre-specified consequences.
 
If students are accustomed to following class rules—and facing certain consequences if they do not—make sure you know and enforce these rules in as much the same way as the teacher as possible. If you use a system that has already been developed, you will spend less time defining your own limits and more time interacting with students around course content.

 

VI.       Talk with the classroom teacher.
The students' regular teacher can provide a great deal of information about the class. At the beginning of the semester, establish good communication with her or him. You may not have immediate questions or problems to solve, but if you spend time establishing a good relationship, you will have a valuable resource if and when problems do arise.

 

 

WHAT TO DO IF THINGS START TO DETERIORATE

 

I.          Intervene early, before things get out of hand.
The most important thing to remember in addressing problem behavior in the classroom is to stop it before it really gets stared. Once disturbances get started, they rarely go away on their own, particularly with students of this age and with instructors other than the regular teacher (like it or not, you fall into a category with substitute teachers). Students will test your limits and management skills in an attempt to find out where the boundaries are. Making the limits clear and firm will help students feel more secure in the class while you are teaching, and avoid escalation of problems.

 

II.        Get the students who are initiating the disturbance to help you.
Students who start trouble are often leaders among their peers. While it is often tempting to speak critically of negative behavior and appeal to the class to ignore it, the reality is that the instigator is likely to possess more of the group's loyalty than you are. If you can get this student on your side, or at least engaged in activities that facilitate your work, you will have better luck than if you get in a power struggle with the student. Examples of this include asking her or him to pass out materials, to be the recorder at the board, to be a volunteer for a demonstration, and so on.

 

This strategy works best if you catch things early, before they get out of control. If you wait too long, your strategy will become transparent, and your attempts to engage the instigator will backfire. Another disadvantage of waiting too long is that it will look as if you are rewarding students for acting out, a perception that can coax other students into the game.

 

III.       Proximity control can work to manage some behavior if it is used preventively or early.
The main idea behind this technique is to put a teacher in close proximity to students who are showing signs of getting off task. If you know from prior experience that a particular group of students is likely to disrupt class, standing or sitting close to them while you lead an activity or give directions will quell a fair amount of the unwanted behavior.

 

IV.       Avoid losing your temper.
Students who are trying to get you know they've got you when you lose your temper. It is a sure sign that you have used all of your other resources and that this is a last ditch effort to maintain order. It is a sign to students who are not yet involved in the disturbance that they can now do as they please without the fear of consequences: all classroom order has been suspended. This description is a little extreme, but use yelling more than once and its shock value wears off—chaos will follow. It actually may work better to lower your voice and continue tallying. The students closest to you will hear you and begin to listen. As other students recognize that you are speaking and they are missing something, they will stop what they are doing to try to hear you. Make sure that you are saying something interesting that the rest of the class will want to hear, embellish it to draw it out, repeat points if necessary to inform students who "didn't hear" the first time, and enlist the help of your fellow instructors to deal with the few students who may still be acting out.

 

V.        If things get really out of hand, ask for help.
Although it may feel like you will lose the confidence of students if you ask for help, it may actually have the opposite effect. Even if you are not able to bring an extreme situation under control by yourself, letting students know that you will ask for help from school personnel tells them that you know how to handle the situation. Letting things go to the point at which someone from the school steps in on their own tells the students that you don't know your own limits. This will lower students' confidence in you. After an extreme situation has been resolved, discuss it with students (with school personnel present). Make sure they know that the behavior displayed is not acceptable and that you don't want to see it again. Problem solve with them to find a solution to your positive goal to cover the material and complete the activities without disruption.