Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Strengthening Classroom Management

Remembering the 'cane' - via Wikipedia
Building better routines with classroom management

I remember the applying of classroom management by teachers on my fellow students and I quite well when I was in Secondary school. Stern looks; subtle walks by the desks of those who disrupted; office visits; standing in hallways; one-on-one confrontations; and in general, a lot of shouting. Each had its level of effectiveness, depending on the student and situation. Nevertheless, as a whole, Canadian high schools were relatively well behaved, not really employing any form of 'journals' or record books for teachers to record poor behaviour for their parents to discover and act on once they read the reports.

Teaching in the UK, specifically London, is a different sort of challenge, especially for Canadian teachers who might not be used to more difficult classroom behaviour. It's no secret that some days the students can be a handful. Again, it depends where you are teaching. You could be in a school that has impeccable student behaviour, where students tremble at the very notion of having anything being written in their journals. On the other hand, there are schools where there are students who run rampant in the classroom on a regular basis. Hall monitors exist in every corridor and there is a procedure for student discipline where the offenders are swiftly extracted from the learning environment the minute they disturb the teacher and class. That's the reality and challenge.

This challenge can come in several forms. As a day-to-day cover teacher, classroom management can be hit or miss really. Some days you could be covering a Year 8 Geography class where all the students are intimidated or simply too shy too act up during the lesson. They might even be so enamored by our not-so-British accents that they'll hang on your every word. Then again, you could also encounter the ever present opportunists, jumping at the chance to take advantage of a cover teacher who they know is not there permanently.

As a long-term cover or permanent teacher, classroom management can be infinitely better as you develop a rapport and respect with students while you get to know them over the course of a year or longer. The only obvious downside is that if you do get stuck with a small collection of difficult students, you naturally have them in your class(es) for an entire year. In this case, you have to find ways to adapt and approach them every single day. Just remember, don't take student misbehaviour or comments personally. They are still kids at the end of the day.

The important thing is to have a plan and strategy, ready to be implemented whenever you feel like your classroom discipline could be struggling.

Over the years, I have found that many different methods work while others do not. It is ever changing and a good degree of instinct is vital. Resources and great tips exist in so many different places in books and on the internet. I've discovered some great blogs and sites that have spectacular information on classroom management and free for all those who seek. I recently came across a very helpful post the other day about building classroom routine on 'The Goldfish Bowl' edublog by Mark Miller. It's a very good and young blog that centers around reflections on teaching and learning.

In this particular post, the author outlines how good routines are vital in creating calm classrooms and establishing a good environment for learning. What I like about this piece is that Mark analyzed one of his classes carefully by filming himself teaching. That way he was able to see if he followed his usual particular strategies or routines with a specific class that he felt he was not making enough progress with. By determining that his habits weren't exactly consistent, he was then able to develop these areas of his practice afterwards.

Mark then goes on to break down the exact routines that he feels teachers should build on regarding classroom management:

Meet and greet at the door
Active Listening
Handing out books
Acting on feedback
Teach group work

Of course, he goes into more detail with each routine and I find it incredibly helpful and useful reading about each one of them. As Mark concludes, however, "routines won't make students learn anything but they will make it much easier for them to do so." Check out the link to this post below.

Remember, for all the teachers coming to London from Canada around this time in May, this period is a great opportunity to get a good grasp of the way students can behave in the classroom. It's essentially close to the end of the school year and you have an excellent chance to learn as much as you can about classroom management in the UK, first hand, in many schools while covering daily. This experience can really set you up for the following September as you will feel much more comfortable and at ease when you hopefully start a long-term cover position, filled with confidence and a good base of knowledge.

There are so many ways we can always improve as teachers, and I truly believe that collaborative effort through a variety of helpful and insightful teaching blogs, websites and further resources really aid in this process.

More classroom management tips to come!

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Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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