Conquering Classroom Management
by Elizabeth Supan, Monthly Columnist
I’ve always thought of teaching as a multi-career. I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. I’m a teacher, a mother, a nurse, a therapist, a counselor, a referee, a coach, and more. How do we possibly get to the “teaching” part of our jobs with all of the other jobs that we do as teachers? The answer to that is not simple, but one that boils down to one thing: classroom management. It’s the hardest part of the job in a lot of cases. However, it is the part of the job that needs to be tackled first and maintained all year long.
At the beginning of each year, I send a letter home to parents listing my expectations for classroom behavior. In my “Back to School” letter I also include information about policies and procedures for the year. I used to send this letter home on the first day of school, but I’ve realized as a parent myself that too much information is not necessarily a good thing. On the first day, so many papers come home that this very important letter sometimes gets lost in the pile. Therefore, I now send the letter home a week later.
In the letter I explain the system I use to track student behavior. I use a system of numbers. Each day my students can receive a score of 20 if all rules were followed. I used to print out a sheet with a chart that specified specific behaviors. For each of the five categories, students would earn a total of four points. This, in turn, would add up to 20 points for the day. Now, I simply write the 20 in the student’s daily agenda. This is simple and easy and takes very little time at the end of the day. By the end of the week, all of the twenties should total a 100. Each time a rule is broken, a notation is made on a behavior chart that I keep in my possession. With each notation on the chart, five points are deducted from the day’s total.
I still chart specific behaviors, or offenses, and will write notes in the agenda as I see it is necessary. Since time is of the essence every afternoon, I’ve also begun writing just a code for the offense. For example, when a child is missing a homework assignment, I simply write “HW”. I put a sticky label of all of the codes I use in the front of each student’s agenda. Parents can refer to this code list to see which rule was broken. This method is simple, easy and to the point.
This system has worked for me for years. I really think that the reason it works is that it is simple and informative. Parents know to look for the 20 at the end of each day. Students like seeing what their total is at the end of the week. Even though we don’t grade behavior and conduct grades aren’t given, parents and students still relate to an average. If the weekly average is equivalent to an “A”, then I allow my students to get a treat from our treat box or a homework pass.
Classroom management is by far the hardest part of the job. Finding a system that works for you isn’t always easy. Even though I’ve essentially used the same system for years, I’ve had to tweak it each year to meet the needs of my students. The most important thing to remember is that keeping an organized system in place will allow you to focus on teaching, rather than behavior, as the year progresses.
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