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Maintaining a Positive Classroom Environment

One of the biggest challenges for a new teacher is classroom management. How do you create a positive learning environment when there are so many different personalities in one classroom?

Rules and Procedures

Every classroom needs rules and procedures. A rule is a hard and fast truth that must be followed. For example, a rule for your classroom might be: "Arrive on time with all materials." A procedure is a method for accomplishing a specific task. For example, your procedure for taking tests might be that students move their backpacks to the cubbies in the back of the room and have only two pencils and a calculator on their desks. Rules and procedures need to be taught multiple times at the beginning of the school year until they become second nature to the students. They should also be accompanied by consequences or penalties for not following them.

Student Involvement

Keeping students involved is the biggest step toward a positive classroom environment.  Teacher supervision is key. Don't give an assignment and then sit at your desk and read your email. Circulate around the room, giving help and providing cues for your students so they know what to do next. Make sure everyone has the materials they need to complete the work - some students will goof off simply because they don't have a sheet of notebook paper! 

Another way to increase their involvement is to make them curious about the subject matter. Tie their previous knowledge to the concept you are about to teach. Whenever you can, relate your subject to things that they'll need to be able to do in the real world.  Give them frequent feedback on their progress - both positive and constructive.

Problem Prevention

Problems can be prevented with a little thing we in the education world call "withitness."  (Yes, that's with-it-ness.) Withitness means being aware of everything going on in your classroom. Don't let things slide. Make sure students know you see and hear everything they are doing and they are less likely to try to cause problems.

Having set procedures for all classroom activities and teaching these procedures regularly at the start of the school year will also help maintain a positive classroom environment and reduce the amount of problems that you will have with discipline. When students know what to do and how to do it, they will generally work to accomplish the task at hand.

Dealing with Discipline Problems

No matter how great your classroom management system is, you are going to run into discipline problems. Even master teachers have the occasional discipline issue. Some things you can do to diffuse a discipline situation are:

  1. Making eye contact with the student - Let them know you see them.
  2. Using a non-verbal cue - Point at the work the student should be completing.
  3. Move toward the student - Proximity is a great deterrent.
  4. Give a verbal hint - During a lecture when a student is goofing off, ask that student a question.
  5. Remind your students about the rules - Direct this to the whole class.
  6. Be clear when asking the student to stop a certain behavior.
  7. Always give the student a choice - "Work on your essay or go to the office."

Discipline Log

Keep a detailed discipline log where you mark down notes about individual students. If you need to call a parent, jot down notes about your conversation. This way, if a pattern of disruption occurs, you can take your log to your administrator and move to the next step in the process.

Penalties

Every classroom management system should have a list of penalties for poor behavior choices. Don't discuss these while you and the student are still angry. Wait until the situation cools off before imposing penalties, and do so privately. Remember to let the student know that you are upset with his behavior, not him as a person. Once the incident is over, treat the student exactly as you treat your other students. If they see you are not holding a grudge against them, they are more likely to behave better in the future.

You Can Do It!

Managing a classroom might seem like a daunting task, but it is achievable. If you have problems, seek out teachers who are good classroom managers. Take some time to talk to them or observe their classes and then borrow their techniques to use in your classroom. Your colleagues will be glad to help you and your students will thank you for having a well-managed room where they can learn.


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