A Big Reason Teachers Struggle With Classroom Management

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I know this to be true after years of working with thousands of teachers struggling with classroom management:

They don’t know what they want from their students.

Should they allow talking while entering the classroom? Should they allow calling out during discussions? Should they allow whispering when working independently?

These are just a few of the myriad decisions every teacher must make. And if they don’t make them, either because they’re unsure or noncommittal, then misbehavior ensues.

Although I do have recommendations, it’s not which individual decision that makes the greatest difference. It’s making the decision and then supporting it with teaching and accountability that most impacts behavior.

It’s when students don’t know what is expected that problems arise. These are called gray areas. And you must eliminate them.

If there is ever a moment that you’re unsure what your students should be doing and how they should be behaving, then they won’t know either.

In which case, they will make their own—and almost always disruptive—choice.

The first step is knowing what you want. It seems obvious. But the truth is, scores of teachers begin their school day with dozens of unanswered questions.

You must decide. You must know. You must teach and model what is expected during every moment of the school day.

For example, if allowed, what exactly does talking while entering the classroom look like? Is it polite conversation? How long does it last? At what point must your students get silent?

I’m often asked, “But how do I make these decisions?”

You visualize them.

Grab a pencil and notepad and find a comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes and watch in your mind’s eye as your students perform whatever unanswered questions you have in the most optimal way.

In other words, picture the perfect (fill in the blank).

It’s this visualization that will represent what you truly want. So trust what you see and jot down what it looks like. Bullet point it. These are your expectations.

You may only have to visualize transitions, vague routines, or times when things go off the rails. Or you may have to visualize your entire day.

The key is to shore up every area, like cracks in a sailboat.

When and if new gray areas are exposed, through your uncertainty and subsequent misbehavior, then repeat the process. Visualize. Write it down. Then teach and model until there is no doubt what you want.

PS – I was a guest on the Music Ed Insights podcast recently and really enjoyed the conversation. Click here if you’d like to listen.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

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