I want teachers to love what they do, because if teachers love what they do, children will love to learn. When I talk to teachers and ask what takes away their joy in the classroom, one of the most common responses is classroom management. So here are three classroom management mistakes I’m going to show you how to avoid.
Classroom management: it’s not for the faint of heart!
Classroom management can rip the joy right from the heart of even someone who loves children and loves teaching. This is one topic we can always learn more about. Children, the lifestyle of their families, and rapport for education is constantly changing. We have to be ready for whatever they throw at us.
I’m going to share three common mistakes teachers make in classroom management. I know these mistakes on a first-name basis, because I’ve had to learn about them the hard way in my own teaching. These mistakes can make you dread your job because you know every day is going to be so hard.
Now for the good news! I believe that I have a well-managed classroom, which means I found ways to overcome these classroom management mistakes. If I can do that, you certainly can, too. Come on, let me show you how.
Classroom Management Mistake #1: Inconsistent Classroom Routines
Let me put it as an equation: routines = happiness. Happiness for you, happiness for your students, happiness for everyone. Why? Humans have an innate need to feel safe, know what’s coming next, and know what’s expected of us. Routines are a beautiful way to accomplish that.
If you aren’t sure what classroom routines are, it’s a time block of your day that stays very consistent. Each block of time should have actions you and your students take that are consistent day by day. I outline routines for my students, I model them, and then we practice them so that students know what to do and when.
Classroom routines mean your students know your expectations. Consistent routines help eliminate many of your behavior problems. When students are on a schedule with routines embedded, they don’t really have time to act out.
Let me give you an example. Have you ever been getting ready for work and can’t find your keys, phone, or shoes? You can’t finish your routine of leaving the house, getting in your car, and going to work. Remember that frantic, frenzied feeling? Maybe you look right over your keys lying on the counter because you are so worried and can’t focus. That’s exactly the mindset we want to avoid in the classroom.
When students have routines, they know what’s next. They don’t have to experience that anxious, frantic feeling of the unknown. Do your students know exactly what to do next at any point in the day? Maybe you can create some routines. If you’d like to see my framework for routines, you can find a post about them HERE. I share five easy steps to creating and implementing a routine.
Classroom Management Mistake #2: Too Much Fun
Hold on, I promise I haven’t turned into Ebenezer Scrooge! I don’t hate the joy found in classroom fun. When I say “too much fun” I’m talking about elaborate activities, projects, and parties that we don’t strategically plan in our classroom.
I’ve had the opportunity to help many new teachers in my district. A common theme is they feel every new activity has to be elaborate and fun.
Brace yourself for this one. Learning is naturally fun.
If you’re presenting content in a way that allows your students to be successful, it will feel fun. Anything you’re good at feels fun to you.
Ditch some of the elaborate activities and focus on students learning in a well-controlled environment. When students are off routine, it changes their emotions, and students deal with that in different ways.
So my advice is NOT don’t ever have fun. My advice is have fun in a controlled way.
Consider each activity that you do a potential management disruption. Without management, students can’t learn a thing. Weigh the importance of each activity and reduce how many you do. Think about saving them for a certain time of the week or month. I suggest Fridays only, so you have the weekend to recover from the bad behaviors your students will show when something is off schedule.
You can embed fun in different ways in your teaching. I like to do it during our routines by using learning materials that are fun and engaging. I also find materials that are routine based so that they don’t change in structure; they only get harder in content.
When students have success, they have fun. Structure learning with scaffolding or in a way they can succeed, and learning is fun.
Classroom Management Mistake #3: Too Much Focus on Bad Behaviors
Trust me, I know it can be really upsetting when students show bad behaviors and disrupt our teaching. What we need to do is stop letting bad behavior control our joy. When I stopped taking bad behavior personally, I became happier as a teacher.
Do you feel like a student showing bad behavior is targeting you? Doing things you said not to do on purpose just for the fun of annoying you? I used feel that way, but with compassionate curiosity for my students, I’ve overcome that. I wonder what their life is like that makes them need my attention or the attention of those around them.
Finding compassion for our students can be empowering. It helps us take control of ourselves and our emotions. I dealt with this myself, and I had to find strategies to overcome it, so if it feels like I’m stepping on your toes, trust me when I say I’m not trying to. My toes were right where yours are, and that’s how I learned what to do to to get through situations like this.
Focus on the Positive
Choose to focus on positive behaviors. Catch students doing something good. Commend students who are doing what you expect. Compliment them when they are taking actions that will lead them to success. Lift those students’ spirits. Find a positive behavior management system that works for you and handle behavior that way.
When bad behaviors arise, find compassion and curiosity and figure out what the underlying problem is. Work to build a relationship with that student and dig deeper. Remember though that we’re teachers and not psychologists. Find extra help for the students who need it and utilize the resources available to you and your students.
Sometimes it’s hard to admit that there’s a problem bigger than us. One we can’t solve. We’re supposed to be our students’ superheroes, right? 😉 But when we do, we open up new opportunities for students who need it. You may be the only person who recognizes a problem a student has who knows what to do, and sometimes that means finding the right help.
Try to look at students in a positive light. Commend them when they do what will bring them success in your classroom, and almost all of the negative behavior will disappear. Those students will work harder to gain attention from you, and if it’s positive attention you give, when they seek your attention, they’ll be taking positive actions.
Cultivate your classroom’s joy!
Teacher friend, one of the most valuable parts of you is the passion you have for children. Don’t let that be stolen by these classroom management mistakes. Your passion will keep you motivated through the hard times (and we have plenty right now) and let you fully embrace the good times (those still exist too).
I hope that one or more of these strategies resonated with you today. Some of them take time, practice, and maybe a little trial and error to iron out those stubborn wrinkles, but they’re so worth it.
Want some more support on your journey to a well-managed classroom? There’s a great group of people just like you over on the Primary Teacher Friends Facebook group HERE. Come join us!
Keep on making a difference, teacher friend!