Classroom Management Plan (page 2)
The Management Structure
The management structure for your plan will consist of the rules, consequences, procedures, and routines.
To begin, teachers could go about establishing class rules with the assistance of the class. When doing so, it is important to keep in mind that the task at hand is not to take on the legislative load of Congress. We don't need 113 rules governing every contingency that may arise in a classroom. Rather, the teacher and students simply need a brief list of, say, perhaps five rules to govern the class. It is generally suggested that when you make rules for a classroom you stay with about five rules, and no more than seven. There should never be more rules than can be readily remembered. If your students cannot effortlessly recite the rules, then they aren't rules.
Make the rules positive, make them descriptive of the behavior you require, make them observable, and make them enforceable. Something like "Think happy thoughts" sounds nice, but it is not something you can observe nor can it be enforced. A rule such as "Treat others as you wish to be treated" is also a nice rule but subject to individual interpretations as to how one may want to be treated. You may find it helpful to discuss, role-play, and display behaviors which follow or which violate the rules (Jones & Jones, 2001). It can be beneficial to have the rules drafted by the students themselves because this ensures that they are understandable by those who are expected to abide by them. In keeping with this, the rules should be simple. If extensive discussion is required to clarify a rule, the rule is too cumbersome. Break it into two rules or decide what is to be expressed and then rephrase the rule more succinctly. Emphasize the appropriate behaviors that are expected rather than focusing on examples of inappropriate behavior. You don't want them to practice bad behavior just so you, the teacher, can say, "And then I would tell you to stop doing that." And finally, academic issues should not be a part of the rules as prescriptions for behavior, and certainly not as consequences for misbehavior. Keep the two separate.
Communicating expectations to the students, involving them in establishing the rules that will guide their behavior, and using rules that foster positive classroom participation are the themes that drive an effective management program. Relinquishing some of one's own sense of control, or "power," is necessary for empowering others. This is as true in the teacher-student relationship as it is in the administrator-teacher relationship. Interesting how that happens, isn't it?
Involving the Students in Making the Rules
- Communicate your expectations to the students.
- Involve them in establishing the rules that will guide their behavior.
- Use rules that foster positive classroom participation.
- Keep the list of rules to about five so that they are easily remembered.
Consider some of the following rules. These are examples that we have seen or heard from teachers. Which of them match up with your own expectations? Which lend themselves to multiple interpretations?
- Act in a respectful manner at all times.
- Academic honesty is required.
- Keep feet, arms, legs, and objects to yourself.
- Be on time.
- Enter the classroom quietly and begin working promptly.
- Raise your hand when you have something to say, and wait patiently for permission to say it.
- Follow all directions from the teacher immediately.
A few of these rules may be better classified as something that will be discussed in another section of this unit: procedures. For instance, when driving a car the rule (law) is that you obey the speed limit signs. Failure to do so may result in a ticket that carries a number of penalties. Being a courteous driver, however, is not a rule (there's no fine for being discourteous unless you do damage to someone else's property—and you will be fined for something other than being discourteous), but it is a good procedure to follow. Consider carefully whether the items you classify as rules represent codes of behavior. And, being very practical about this, be certain that the rules actually reflect behaviors that if violated can be punished. For example, suppose you have a rule such as "Have two pencils sharpened and on your desk before class begins." You might find that sending a child with only one sharpened pencil to the principal's office might land you in more trouble than the student.
As was the case with the rules, the consequences must be fair and reasonable even though they will necessarily be unpleasant from the students' perspective. But the teacher's perspective is important here as well. If a teacher announces a consequence and is uncomfortable administering it (or perhaps one that could lead to problems—such as sending too many children to the office), then those consequences need to be reconsidered. We cannot overemphasize that if rules and consequences are part of the classroom-management plan, they must be consistently enforced. The teacher who believes the rest of the class will not notice when failing to enforce the class rules makes a serious mistake. Innocent though they may appear, students of all ages always test the limits. Within a week they will know whether or not the teacher means what he or she says.
According to Borich (1996),
Consistency is a key reason why some rules are effective while others are not. Rules that are not enforced or that are not applied evenly and consistently over time result in a loss of prestige and respect for the person who has created the rules and has the responsibility for carrying them out. (p. 364)
Note that Borich doesn't mention in this passage that instructional time is lost or that students fail to learn necessary lessons. Rather, he makes it clear that the teacher loses prestige and respect in the eyes of the students. This, in itself, is an important lesson for any prospective teacher to learn very early on. Classroom management is not only a matter of what the student may lose (in terms of educational opportunities), but also very much a matter of what the teacher stands to lose.
Consequences for Appropriate Behavior
For rules to be effective in managing behavior and fostering prosocial behavior, the following of rules must be acknowledged by the teacher. This can be done in a positive way. In the early weeks of the school year, a teacher can bring rule-following behavior to the students' attention daily. As time goes by, acknowledgment of appropriate behavior may come less often, but nonetheless it must be made evident to the students if the teacher wishes to see that behavior continue.
Consequences for Inappropriate Behavior
Inevitably, some student will violate the established rules of your classroom. It will happen for a wide variety of reasons, but the teacher must keep a particular perspective in mind. Part of that perspective is to remember that (a) the focus should be on the behavior, not the person, and (b) discipline and academics are two different entities. With any discipline problem at least one person will be operating from an unreasonable position. Whenever possible, that person should not be the teacher. Keep a clear head and clear focus, and address the behavior.
Responding to Student Misbehavior
Students will be very much attuned to a teacher's enforcement or nonenforcement of the class rules. If the students were involved in establishing those rules, they will be even more aware of whether or not violations occur and whether or not the teacher responds as promised. In your own classes in college there are/were students (certainly not you) who would test the limits, and children are no different. A teacher's response to violations of the rules tells the students whether or not the teacher is serious. If the word is out that he or she doesn't follow through, then one can expect that many more transgressions will start occurring. The teacher will ultimately decide that it's a "bad" class, but in actuality it is that teacher's behavior that led to the situation.
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