Classroom Management 101

I went to a PD session this week for instructional coaches.

I'm a new coach-fresh out of the classroom-with not that many teaching experience behind me. It makes me feel vulnerable, uncertain, and anxious, which I'm not used to feeling in my job. This PD helped me feel better, because it took me back to a place of remembering that the way I feel right now is how first year teachers often feel. And if I made it through the anxiety and uncertainty of my first year of teaching, I can certainly conquer coaching. 

When we were discussing how to best support our teachers, the same thread of conversation kept coming up: we put a lot of pressure on our shoulders (as teachers and coaches) to have stellar data. If a teacher is struggling, I want to make sure the instruction is solid. I want to help him or her master the content and instructional routines necessary to help students grow. However, classroom management almost never comes into the conversation when educators or discussing data. And we all know that

even the most beautiful, data-driven, research-based lesson will fall flat on its face if the management of the room isn't solid.

The management of a classroom is so similar to the foundation of a building. It has to be strong, firm, consistent, and very intentionally planned. I can't stress this enough. You can not walk into a classroom on the first day and just assume that the management stuff is going to work itself out throughout the year. There have to be entire lessons about what you want your students to do and how. It takes some real work. But it's so worth it in the end.

I realized that I have been doing the newer teachers in my building a huge disservice by not giving them examples of strong management routines and resources for them. I was reflecting on how I learned management when I was new...I had a lot of mentor support, of which I'm not giving out now that I am in the position to! 

So, I will work to remedy this in my own building, but I also want to put my ideas about classroom management out there for others to utilize. If you are a new teacher, or maybe you're not new but your management style has never been solidified, I hope this advice is helpful. :)

When you're planning out your management routines for the year, there is something you must know: your students know nothing. Sure, they may have been in school before. Maybe they've been in school for several years depending on what grade you teach. But they have never been in your room, with these exact students, with you as the teacher, ever before. Assume nothing. No, they don't know how to line up for lunch. They know how their

last

teacher wanted them to line up for lunch. But within one classroom that could be several different teachers that are represented as 'last year's teacher'. If you go into this year assuming that they will know how to do things because they are in 3rd grade now, or in 7th grade now, you will spend many days frustrated and disappointed with your students.

They can not meet expectations you hold for them in their heads.

You have to be prepared to say them out loud. You also need to be prepared to say them over and over, because, well, they're kids. 

Once you've accepted that everything is going to take direct instruction, you need to start planning out what routines you know you'll need to teach. I make a list. I go through an average day and think out every single thing that I will want the students to do a particular way:

ask for a drink of water, get whiteboards, find a partner for an activity, unpack in the morning, sharpen pencils, store items in their desks, etc.

If you're brand new, you may not even know all of the mundane things you'll run into that you'll need a routine for. (I have a resource for you, friend!) 

Or, your threshold for chaos may be higher than others'. That's totally ok. When I taught routines, I had rules about how loudly the students could talk during certain times, the walking path they needed to take around the room, the things that they could and couldn't keep on top of their desks and in their desks...you don't have to be as crazy as me!

If you are relaxed in the room, and your students can focus and are learning, then it is the right level of management.

Once you have your list, write out the steps that you want the students to follow for that routine. Think about it through a kid's perspective. They need you to tell them that you want them to put their broken pencils in one bucket and take sharp pencils from a different bucket. Putting the buckets out in the room is not enough. They need you to tell them that they aren't allowed to come to your teacher table rowdy and disruptive. They need to know what focused and ready to learn looks like. 

Plug these ideas in your lesson plans for the first few weeks. 

If you're wanting a resource to guide your planning, I have an

Expectation Planning Page

in my TPT Store. There are several routines already listed there to give you a jump start, with blank boxes to add your own.

Also, my

{New} Teacher Toolkit

comes with some expectation posters for reading and math centers, pack up and dismissal, and some labels for things around your room. It's a great way to get your room ready for kids instantly!

Happy teaching, y'all!

Stephanie Sutherland