To improve their classroom-management skills, teachers are often advised to seek help from talented peers. To that end, we recently sent out emails and tweets to teachers asking: “What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received regarding classroom management?”
Over 40 teachers replied with tips on everything from timed activities to relationship building. Here’s a selection of their responses:
1st grade teacher in Los Angeles
“The best piece of advice I have ever received regarding classroom management is that there is not one ‘right’ way to manage a classroom. Just as each child is different, so is each teacher and style. What may work for one teacher in their classroom does not mean it is right for you. Some teachers need quiet, where others, like me, work better in an environment where there is more interaction throughout the day, so my noise level is a little higher than some other teachers. The important thing is that the classroom environment is one that is safe and respectful in which everyone takes responsibility for learning.”
3rd grade teacher in Washington, D.C.
“Be confident, even if you’re scared. Kids need to trust you, know that you are a leader, feel they are safe, and that you will take care of them.”
“Be kind, even if you’re mad. Kids need empathy and patience, and to know that it’s OK to take risks and mess up in their learning and in their life.
“Be consistent in your response to negative (and positive) behavior.
“Above all, be honest. Don’t lie to kids. That’s lame.”
6th and 8th grade math teacher in Boston
“The best piece of advice that I ever received was to have a series of timed activities for my middle school students to complete immediately upon entering my classroom each day. They turn in and record their homework. They do a self-assessment of their preparedness for class that day and set up their notebooks for the day’s lesson. They complete a warm-up problem and, if finished with everything, they have extra targeted skills worksheets to work on from their class folders. This all takes place in eight minutes at the start of class. I project the remaining time on my overhead with a timer. My 6th graders are motivated by the countdown and are so busy completing these tasks that they don’t realize when the clock has finished that they have quietly seated themselves and completely prepared themselves for the day’s work!”
8th grade English teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y. and blogger of On the Shoulders of Giants
“Madeleine Ray, my mentor at Bank Street College, always encouraged me to build in some time with the whole class to talk about how the class is going—whether things are going well or poorly, little things or big things. We never know what they are thinking until we ask. Just open up the discussion with: What’s working? What’s not?
“The chance for students to voice their perspectives and concerns goes far with them and provides invaluable information to me. Don’t take the opportunity to lecture students, but also don’t give the impression that your goal is to satisfy all of their “wants.” Listen, ask questions, and look for opportunities to negotiate small changes that might better serve the needs of students and create a more democratic classroom. Whether the conversation lasts three or 30 minutes, it will build your credibility as a group leader and help support everything else you are trying to accomplish with your students.”
7th grade Humanities teacher in Boston and blogger of Teaching Traveling
“The classroom-management system that ends up working for you is likely very different from the management system that works for every other teacher in your building. I made the mistake my first two years of trying to emulate a teacher who screamed all the time. That tactic worked wonders for her, and kids loved her, but what ended up working for me was a more positive, loving tone, and having a concrete system of behavior grades that students could see and check. Experiment and try everything until you hone in on what works for you.
“Aim to make more than half of what you say positive and enjoyable to listen to. If everything you say is consistently harsh, punitive, or nasty, humans of all ages are far less likely to listen when you call for their attention.”
Vice president of regional affairs and training & support at Teach For China
“The best piece of advice for classroom management is the same I’ve received for adult management: Set clear expectations, give rationale, check for understanding, and give positive or constructive feedback. (Human behavior apparently doesn’t change much between the ages of 5 and 100.) Less intuitive to me was the checking for understanding part—it took me months (and by months I mean my whole first year) to realize that just me saying the instructions or rules wasn’t enough; you need to ask questions or have a student share back what we are going to do. Of course, any behavior management trick or strategy only works if you love your students (and adult staff members)—it doesn’t matter how much you check for understanding if it doesn’t come from a place of love and care. That part doesn’t change, ever.”
Transformational leadership coach in Oakland, Calif.
“The best piece of advice I ever got about classroom management was that I should get to know my kids and spend time with them outside of school. I started with my students who appeared to be most challenging. By spending only a few hours outside of school (at a museum, at a park, or having lunch [with them]), I developed a connection with them and affection for them that helped mediate many classroom-management issues. What I learned about them also helped me have deep empathy for them, which helped me manage my emotional responses to their behavior.”
Education writer and consultant
“Your success with classroom management is always determined by your investment in good relationships with students. No management ‘tips and tricks’ will work unless students develop trust in the teacher as a straight shooter who cares about them. What this means is that all aspects of your work in the classroom with them—the instructional strategies you choose, your early assessments of their work, the questions you ask, the way you talk to your students—become part of the classroom-management package. Invest, early on, in listening to what the students tell you about who they are.”
And From our Twitter followers:
Share the best advice you have received on classroom management in the comments or on Twitter #CMAdvice.