Classroom management is one of challenges that many first year teachers face. As a result of teaching kindergarteners during training this summer, I came into my school knowing that 1. every child can behave, 2. consistency is vital, and 3. classroom management takes time. So with those three beliefs as my foundation, I created a classroom management plan that is concise. However, any classroom management plan can look good hung up on a poster in one’s classroom, but without proper implementation that plan will not deliver positive results. For the past week and a half, I’ve been working on remaining consistent, firm, and optimistic. One thing I remember from this summer is that it took my students almost a month before I saw a change in their behavior. I’m hoping that time frame is applicable to my third and fourth graders as well.
After receiving a warning card, the next step in my classroom management plan is to write a reflective essay. Depending on which rule that a student broke, I can choose from a list of 1 to 3 essay topics. All of my essay topics are phrased positively, and instead of having the student simply state what he or she had done wrong, and how he or she is going to work on it in the future, my essay choices are untraditional. In one essay question it reads, “Explain why you are a college-bound, success-bound, and career-bound student, and why you will not allow others to distract you from your future success.” I’ve had to give out about 8 essays so far, and some have been to the same student.
I often worry if I am being too hard on my students, but then I think to the future and keep reminding myself that after a good month of this my students will know that 1. I care about them, 2. learning time is learning time, and 3. rules are put in place to help them achieve. Tonight, I read one essay from a young lady in my class who is extremely opinionated, which is only a problem when she tries to question my authority. She also feels as though it’s her responsibility to sarcastically inform me of school policy that I may not know of since I am new. Too often, I’ve had to give her warnings about talking and rolling her eyes. After trying to figure her out for the past week and half, I read her essay and what she opens up to me about reminds me that my hard work truly is paying off. The following is an excerpt from her essay:
“Ms. Bunting is nice. But when you push her buttons that’s when she flips your card. But I really love Ms. Bunting as a teacher. And she will always do what she has to do.
For now on I’m staying on sunny. It is not for the teacher’s sake. It is for my sake. I will be a girl to my word and follow directions. I will behave for both our sake.”
This student, who I thought must think I am the meanest teacher in the world, said that she loved me as a teacher. Kids rarely say “I love you” to each other, so that really meant a lot to me. For the past week and a half, I’ve struggled to build a positive learning relationship with this child or so I thought.
My students fourth grade teacher quit on them last year. And on the first day of school, one of my students asked me if I was going to quit. Classroom management is just one way that I am showing my students that I care about them so much that I will not allow them to fail because they are wasting their learning time. Sure I may have to have them walk back up to the classroom a couple times because they were talking in the hallway. Sure I may have them sit with me for homework hall because they did not finish it the night before. Neverthless, in doing so, I am displaying to my students how serious I am about their future academic success. If I were to allow them to talk and do whatever they wanted in class because I wanted to be their “friend” and not their teacher, then I would not be truly caring for them. However, because I believe they all can behave, consistency is vital, and learning takes time then my teacher actions are influencing their student actions to behave in a positive way not for me, but as my student said in her essay, but for their sake.
I want to end by also stressing the importance of positive reinforcement. Last week, I struggled a bit with positive reinforcement and did not hand out as many tickets as I would have liked. This week, my goal was to really focus on positive reinforcement, and it is truly making a difference in my classroom. There are 3 types of students: those who behave because they want to behave, those on the fence who can be swayed either way, and those students who need a little bit of extra help. Through positive reinforcement, I am ensuring that those middle children are persuaded to maintain good behavior through a raffle ticket system. Whereas last week, many of my middle students who were being influenced by those special challenges, had an incentive to display positive behavior this week because I was reinforcing positive behavior.
Lastly, to any of my first year teachers who are struggling with classroom management, I want you to remember that maintaining an orderly classroom does not happen overnight so do not look for immediate results. Continue to be consistent, know that it takes time, and lastly, wholeheartedly believe that just like all children can achieve, all children can behave. Remember those simple truths and it will all pay off in the long run.