In a previous post, I shared the two qualities that teachers should embody if they want to minimize misbehavior and maximize learning. First and foremost, teachers need confidence. What they believe about themselves will play a large part in the reality they find. Those that have confidence in their ability to thrive often find that they do. On the other hand, self-defeating talk has a tendency to become true. Confidence isn’t mastery, it’s determination. Things might not be running smoothly, but teachers on the right path believe they will be soon.
In addition, the second letter of the CHARGE acronym describes the most powerful component of all, their humanity. Before kids will behave and long before they even think of learning, students need to feel connected. As social beings, they crave being a part of a community. The teacher is at the nexus of this web of relationships and can facilitate closeness and camaraderie. One important aspect of this is being present. Teachers should fully come into the classroom, not holding back any part of themselves but committing themselves to their work and their students. It’s this passion and dedication that serve as the base for quality relationships that minimize misbehavior.
But what can teachers specifically do to increase their classroom management proficiency? If it relied simply on being confident and human, then there would be no need for blog posts like this. While those two components describe the qualities that successful teachers should embody, there are four major actions that teachers must cultivate to avoid catastrophic behavior. Again returning to the acronym CHARGE, the first two actions are the middle two letters – Anticipate and Reflect. (Top)
Too often teachers are surprised in the classroom. Whether it be poor behavior or a lesson that bombs, unexpected events can have teachers scrambling and off their game in an instant. Control, however, isn’t the solution. Instead, prevention can go a long way toward improving classroom performance. Before beginning each day, take a moment and visualize your lessons. Think about what you’re planning on doing and look for potential land mines. Consider the students, the group interactions you’ll most likely see, and how you can mitigate any potential conflicts. Think about possible resistance you might face and pre-plan a response. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a few extra responses available in case your first option at redirection doesn’t work.
Our brains are pattern detectors. They crave familiarity and seek to make order from chaos. When things are known and predictable, they benefit everyone. Think about the use of traffic lights all across the country. This simple device, understood by all drivers, helps turn dangerous intersections into safe crossings. Many teachers have used our love of patterns to aid in classroom management by teaching procedures. Having patterns of acceptable behavior for basic tasks establish a classroom culture of order and safety.
Though most teachers have tried teaching procedures at one time or another, many doubt their effectiveness because they make one of two mistakes. The first principle for teaching procedures is repetition. Once they are taught, teach them again. Think about the procedure for what to do during an emergency on an airplane. Before every flight, you’ll hear the same procedure repeated because it’s that important. The other mistake we make is ignoring the fact that almost 80% of our learning comes from our eyes. Students need to not only hear procedures but also see them. How many times have teachers asked teachers to put their desks back in rows before being dismissed? Instead of simply asking them, why not show them what you expect? (Top)
American philosopher, reformer, and educator John Dewey once said,
We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.
In more common parlance, then president George W. Bush famously butchered a similar sentiment when he tried to say,
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Either way you look at it, reflection is powerful. Taking charge of your classroom is a journey, not a destination. Nothing will ever go as planned. There will be days where it seems the train derailed at 8:04 a.m. and never got back on track. A certain amount of chaos is inherent in teaching. There are too many variables to know for certain what will happen and when. Making a mistake isn’t problem but not learning from it certainly is.
Think about the one student or class that continually befuddles you. What have you tried to improve behavior? When that didn’t work, what did you try next? And then after that? Following that failure, how did your next attempt go? Part of confidence, the first attribute in the take CHARGE acronym, is determination and resilience. At the end of the day (or week or year), you know that you will create a calm and orderly learning environment. The outcome is not in doubt, merely the timeline.
At the end of each day, take five minutes before you pack up and leave for home. Sit at your desk with a piece of paper or sticky note and recall an interaction that didn’t go the way you hoped. Write down where you think you went wrong and try to come up with at least one alternate action that might have helped. Leave this on your desk so it is waiting for you when you arrive the next day. On the following day, as you anticipate the lessons and visualize where things might go wrong, incorporate this suggestion. It might not completely fix the problem immediately, but repeated reflection will lead to eventual success. Remember that self-efficacy and having a growth mindset lead to positive results. (Top)
To read about the final two steps in taking CHARGE of your classroom, Grow and Engage, click here.
Burke, K. (2008). What to do with the kid who-: Developing cooperation, self-discipline, and responsibility in the classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Politzer, T. (2018, July 26). Vision Is Our Dominant Sense. Retrieved February 22, 2019, from https://www.brainline.org/article/vision-our-dominant-sense
Smith, R., Dearborn, G., & Lambert, M. (2011). Picture this!: Visuals and rubrics to teach procedures, save your voice, and love your students. Fairfax, CA: Conscious Teaching.