Classroom Management For Teachers (page 2)
Classroom management is not something to be considered after the students have arrived. It is not something that one can simply spend a few minutes thinking about when all of the other instructional concerns have been addressed. It is a big topic in and of itself. As Weber (1990) points out, teaching involves two major activities: instruction and management. The former is concerned with the presentation, demonstration, and assessment of a curriculum. It is that part of being a teacher that people tend to think of when considering what it is to be a teacher. The latter, management, involves those activities in which a teacher engages before, during, and after interacting with children to allow instruction to take place.
Classroom management refers to the things a teacher does to organize students, space, and time to prevent or minimize behavior problems that would interfere with instruction. Among the concerns that fall under this heading are behaviors that the teacher will expect of the students, the materials that will be needed for various lessons along with the convenient storage and retrievability of those materials, the consequences for inappropriate behavior, and the means by which those consequences will be meted out. And here are the important distinctions: classroom management differs from discipline, which differs from rules. Understanding the difference between the terms, which unfortunately are often used interchangeably, will greatly facilitate developing a clearer picture of management in the classroom.
Discipline refers to actions a teacher will take after misbehavior has occurred. While classroom management focuses on the prevention of misbehavior, discipline is concerned with addressing misbehavior that has occurred. Clearly, planning for how the class is to run is a different matter from planning for what to do if things run awry. Keeping the distinction between management and discipline in mind will help you plan for each with much greater clarity of purpose.
The efficacy of discipline in a teacher's classroom will be directly related to the rules established for the class, the consequences announced, and the enforcement, or nonenforcement, of the consequences. The pertinent notions to keep in mind about a discipline plan are these:
- Merely posting rules does not constitute planning for discipline.
- Rules are enforced by imposing consequences.
- Whether or not rules are made to be broken, for one reason or another, at one time or another, they will be broken—so be sure the announced consequences are something you can comfortably impose.
The discipline portion of your overall classroom-management plan will revolve around rules, consequences, and enforcement.
Class rules represent the code of behavior that a teacher expects the students to follow (Burden, 2003). As such, they are clearly a part of the greater classroom-management plan. Through the course of your teacher-education program, you will (or did) spend time observing, assisting, and eventually practicing in real classrooms with real students. During those observation opportunities, and even perhaps right now if you have your own classroom, the class rules will be posted somewhere in the room. But what are class rules? Only those "rules" that are enforced are actually the rules of the class.
Of particular importance is that the students should be aware of the rules, that the rules are considered fair and reasonable (and that doesn't mean that everybody has to like them), and that it should be evident that abiding by the rules serves the best interests of everyone. Without doubt you have seen lists of rules that say "Don't do this, don't do that," and so forth. In such a situation the only motivation to abide by the rules is to avoid some sort of punishment. So rather than focusing on "don't" rules, the teacher may emphasize "do" rules. For example, "Don't be late" could be written as "Be on time and ready to begin class." In this way, the teacher can continually emphasize the behavior that is desired rather than emphasizing the behavior that is considered inappropriate.
Consequences are the results that follow from the making of a choice. We have a life lesson for you here: Throughout our lives we make choices, and for every choice there is a consequence. OK, perhaps you already knew that. There's a good chance, however, that your students have not yet come to appreciate that fact. It is a lesson that they need to learn and understand, and believe it or not, the classroom teacher is one of the key players in the teaching of that particular lesson. So let's not keep this lesson a secret or hope the students absorb it on their own. Instead, let's make that an explicit lesson that we intend to teach.
When we talk about rules in the classroom, we want you to appreciate the fact that there should be consequences for not following the rules and for following the rules. In either instance, consistent enforcement will be imperative, and so the consequences that you identify must be made as clear to the students as the rules themselves.
Procedures detail the manner in which particular activities are to be carried out. At first blush it might seem that rules and procedures are the same. They are not! Rules represent a code of appropriate behavior. Procedures represent the method for accomplishing a task. The failure to follow a rule must be met with an aversive consequence. The failure to follow a procedure, however, is not met with punishment because it merely indicates the failure to accomplish something in a particular manner. It is not a disciplinary situation, but rather a learning situation.
Of course, during the school day, there are many different procedures that must be followed. At the elementary levels, there may be procedures relating to different spaces within the room (e.g., individual desks, study centers, group work), throughout the school (e.g., walking in the hall, eating in the cafeteria), whole-class and small-group activities, and miscellaneous procedures. At the secondary level, you might group the procedures as those for beginning class, during class, ending the class, and miscellaneous (Jones & Jones, 2001). Just as some examples, there are procedures for taking attendance, for collecting lunch money, for walking in the hallway as an individual or as a class, for fire drills, and for putting a heading on a paper. This is a short list; certainly you could think of many more examples.
Routines are those procedures that are used to the point of being "automatic" behaviors. For example, a teacher's process of taking attendance may become a routine. For students, the manner in which they are expected to enter the class and begin work (procedure) can become something they can do on their own without the teacher having to instruct them to do so—a routine.
Wong and Wong (2009) assert that rather than discipline being the Number 1 problem in classrooms, it is instead the lack of procedures and routines. The irony is that procedures are a major part of any school day and a major part of any person's life. And yet learning to follow procedures and to develop routines is often left to chance. In your classroom, procedures and routines should be explicit, that is, specifically taught. In fact, the teaching of procedures, which carries with it a clear description of behaviors expected of students, should be part of instruction during the first weeks of school each year (or at the beginning of each semester if your placement is in a school on a semester system). The learning of procedures not only makes classroom tasks easier to accomplish but also minimizes the opportunities for misbehavior.
The Basic Terms
- Classroom management refers to those activities in which a teacher engages before, during, and after instruction to allow instruction and learning to take place.
- Discipline refers to those actions a teacher will take after misbehavior has occurred.
- Rules represent the code of behavior that a teacher expects the students to follow.
- Consequences are the results that follow from the making of a choice, and for every choice there is a consequence.
- Procedures detail the manner in which particular activities are to be carried out.
- Routines are those procedures that are used to the point of being "automatic" behaviors.
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