After my students left for the day I decided there had to be a change. It was only November, and we had a long way to go in the year together. I knew it was up to me to make this change.
So I put in the hours. I stayed late that night and cleaned the room from top to bottom. Then I rearranged the furniture into a completely new pattern. My goal was for it to be as if my students were walking into a completely new classroom the next day.
While all the physical changes helped to set the scene for my students, what mattered the most was my mind shift when it came to classroom management. The whole time I had been changing the room I had been thinking about how to change the strategies which were lacking and replace them with strategies that would put the responsibility squarely on my students’ shoulders because I knew they would rise to the occasion because here’s the thing, this group of students was a great group which is precisely how I let them take me down this rabbit hole.
The previous year my class was a really tough group. They had a reputation rising through the grade levels, and by the time they reached me in fourth they knew how to get away with proverbial murder, but I didn’t let them. Knowing their reputation I put measures in place to ensure we had a great year, and we did.
This new group was such a breath of fresh air and I allowed them a lot of breathing room. Too much. They took the inch I gave them, and they ran with it. Sprinted actually. By the time I wisened up it was going to take a drastic shift to change the course of our year, so that was exactly what I did.
You might be reading along and nodding your head because you have been there. You might also be laughing at me because you know where I went wrong and would never, ever fall into that pitfall yourself. Either way, we can all use a little reminder of what NOT to do.
Don’t Get Complacent
Conquer the Attention Seeker
Make Student-Teacher Relationships a Priority
Build Students Up
Be an Example
Follow a Routine
Take Care of Their Needs
While we would like for our students to come to school ready to learn, it isn’t a reality for all students.
If your school serves breakfast, ask students if they ate on the way in. I always kept a box of generic cereal or crackers in my cabinet for those who either missed breakfast or weren’t able to eat it for some reason.
Allow students to drink water throughout the day. We were fortunate enough to have a water fountain in our classroom, but I also had students bring in water bottles. Hydration is highly underrated, and can really affect the ability to learn.
Ask your students about their sleeping patterns and their home lives. This isn’t to be nosy, but instead to get a complete picture of their life and what struggles may overlap into the classroom. One year I had a student whose mom worked the late shift and didn’t get home until past midnight, but he wasn’t able to fall asleep until he heard her open the front door. This meant he was often exhausted in class, and sometimes unable to function. We worked together, with the school nurse, and determined when he felt it was necessary it was better to give up half an hour for him to take a short nap than try and push through the day.
Our students all come to school with their lives spinning in their heads. While the classroom may be a safe place, it doesn’t mean they get to forget about what is going on outside.
Give Students Responsibility
Respect is a two-way street is a cliche for a reason.
I do not personally believe someone has to show you respect in order to receive it from you, and I certainly believe each and every one of our students deserves our respect from day one. There should not have to be a time in which they earn your respect. Privileges yes, but respect no.
The classroom is THE best place for us to model this for our students. Show them respect and require they respect their classmates as well. I like to tell my students about how teachers are all colleagues, and in turn so are students. Everyone in the class is on a level playing field, deserves respect, and has something to offer the group.
When you start from a place of respect, it is easier to build relationships and a true community.
Plan for Engagement
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