Saturday, November 16, 2013

New Teachers: 5 Insights of Successful Classroom Management

Classroom management. One of the toughest areas to get your head around as a new teacher. However, it is vital for success in the classroom.

There are so many educational experts out there, with different views and philosophies on how classroom culture should be created. However, in my experience, I believe that it's important for new teachers to stick to the basics.

The most important outcome of any classroom should be student achievement. Students must be able to produce quality work. So, it is up to individual teachers on how best to navigate that and make it happen in their classrooms.

Now, I'm not claiming to have all the answers to a complex problem. However, as a new teacher, the following helped me to be successful in the area of classroom management.

So, if you are a new teacher and currently struggling with classroom management, I offer the following insights.

1. Never Think You Are Above The Wisdom of Harry Wong: The book, The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher offers tried and true techniques for new teachers. I was never asked to buy this book by a professor or principal. I bought it, because I thought Wong offered clear cut techniques that I could apply to the classroom immediately. Those first few days in the classroom scared me to death! I was teaching in a classroom with many at risk kids who weren't that nice. I had to be ready to face that. The techniques in Wong's book gave me confidence, and they worked.

2. Stick To The Fundamentals: New teachers need to stick to the basics. Although innovative classrooms are great, many new teachers get confused between just having fun and structured learning in innovative ways. Ron Clark, the founder of The Ron Clark Academy states that new teachers often make this mistake. In his book, The Excellent 11, Clark tells of one young teacher who dressed in costume almost daily, creating fun in a variety of ways. However, this new teacher was confused by the fact that her students were not performing well on her exams. Clark states although he loves to jump on tables, and add fun to his classroom, he always makes sure that learning is the main objective. It is important to ask, "How will this lesson make an impact on student achievement?"

3. SLANT is Effective: I love Rafe Esquith, the author of Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire and Real Talk for Real Teachers. He offers great wisdom for all educators. However, I do believe he can send a confusing message to new teachers. He often makes fun of using techniques such as SLANT. SLANT is a command that a teacher gives at the beginning of class meaning sit up, lean forward, answer questions when asked, nod for understanding, and track speaker. Esquith laughs at this technique as being silly, and that it is not applicable to the real world. However, I believe his argument sends a message to the inexperienced teacher that relaxed behaviors are acceptable. For Esquith, who has been teaching for decades, it may be silly. However, for new teachers, who are just hanging on for dear life, it works.

The following is a link to a talk Esquith gave to principals. He discusses the issue of SLANT around the ninth minute of the video. Now, again, I agree with most of Esquith's beliefs, but for the new teacher, SLANT is effective.

The following is a link from Teaching Channel. The teacher discusses her use of SLANT in the classroom.

4. Don't Reinvent the Wheel: I love the books, The First Days of School by Harry Wong and Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov. I believe these two books are must reads for new teachers. They saved me from a what could have been a horrible first year of teaching. I believe that by using their techniques, and not flying by the seat of my pants, I created a safe learning environment for my students. As a result, I am now able to include lessons that are interactive. I'm able to grow from it and truly understand what it means to be an effective, innovative teacher.

5. Don't Get A Chip On Your Shoulder: Teaching can be difficult, and very personal. It's hard to accept criticisms. But, new teachers must put their personal hurts aside, and make the changes needed for success if they want to be successful in the classroom. The fundamental question for all new teachers is, "How bad do you want it?"

Hopefully, this post has been helpful. Although, I feel pretty confident in the area of classroom management, I often go back and reread The First Days of School and Teach Like A Champion. They feel like old friends who helped me through the most difficult of days in the classroom.

Wishing all new teachers success in the days to come. Know that if you are struggling now, it doesn't have to stay that way. You have the power to make a difference. Relax and implement the changes that will make you a success in the classroom in the days ahead.

“The single greatest effect on student achievement is not race, it is not poverty — it is the effectiveness of the teacher.” ~~ Harry K. Wong

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