The most envied teacher at any school isn’t the smartest teacher, the most politically connected teacher or the longest tenured or the most attractive teacher. The teacher most envied was the teacher was the teacher with the best classroom management. I know this because years ago, not to toot my own horn, but I was envied by my colleagues for this very reason.
It wasn’t that my students at the time did everything that I said. But my students believed me if I shared something with them; whether a lesson or a word of encouragement. They didn’t hang on my every word, but my words carried some weight to them.
I wish there was a formula I could give to help teachers be great classroom managers (I’d probably get rich if there was). But the key to managing any classroom is relationship. You must build relationships with students and thus a reputation of being a builder within the school community. That’s what classroom management is all about.
It’s not about keeping kids tracking with your movements or having them completely still or quiet when you speak or while they work. That makes me think they possibly fear you. A level of apprehension is healthy… but not the top level. If you have a relationship with your students, you can manage the classrooms they occupy with you as well as the hallways where they walk.
How do you build strong relationships with kids? Show up and be visible. Here are some ways how you can build (strong) relationships with kids by doing that, in and out of your classroom, to help solidify your classroom management:
- Greet students when they arrive to school and depart. Something as simple as saying good morning and have a great rest of the day to students to start and end the day can elicit a positive attitude from them towards you in other interactions throughout the school day, whether you teach them or not.
- Stand in the hallways during switching periods (middle and high) / arrival and dismissal of students (elementary). This is different from the morning and afternoon greetings. Standing in the hallways does two things: (1) puts another pair of eyes in the hallway to monitor what’s going in, and (2) invites conversation with students. Those conversations put a human face to the student-teacher relationship and you (and the student) gains some intel. Use that intel to build relationship with student and do the same with other students who come to speak to you—whether you teach them or not.
- Take 5 minutes during any free periods to walk around the cafeteria during lunch periods. I know… lunch duty is the pits so willingly enter a chaotic cafeteria when you don’t have to doesn’t make sense, but then it does. It allows you to be free to speak to kids, check in on them and add another human moment to your interactions
- Attend a school game or schoolwide event. This is the easiest way to build relationship. Cheer for the students and encourage them. Come to every game and/or event. Incorporate those games and/or events into your content and relate to students through your lessons. Do life with them.
- Participate in life moments (world news, community events, personal accomplishments). Again, do life with your students. None of us live in a vacuum. Things happen to all of us, both positive and negative. When the positive things happen, celebrate with them. When negative things happen, show them your love and support. In turn, they’ll do the same for you. Doing so will establish something more than a relationship. It’ll establish community.
- *Honorable Mention* Have fruit in your classroom for them to eat. Kids love to eat. They’re always hungry (and thirsty). Have some healthy snacks and water in your room for them. You’d be surprised cooperative they’ll be knowing they’ll get fed in your class.
These are just a few things that can help. It is not a guarantee, but it can offer some support of classroom management practice. At the end of the day, it’ll take for teachers to have the right attitude necessary to do the work of building relationships with students; meeting kids where they are. If you don’t approach kids with the right attitude, none of this will work. In order to love the labor, you must labor in love.
Let’s continue to push towards the mark!