Creating a Well-Managed Classroom

By Jeremy Rinkel on August 8, 2011
  • Grades: 9–12

The impression you make on the first day of school can make or break you when it comes to classroom management and organization. In my district, we have a very short first day, only spending about 15 minutes with each class. In some classes, students just sit around and talk, but I get down to business right away. Students in my class leave the first day with an assignment and a brief understanding of the format of the class.

You might be thinking, “You are overwhelming the freshman students on the first day.” I don’t see it as overwhelming the students. I see it as showing them the importance of beginning the learning process and not wasting any time. With that said, it is very important to build a strong rapport with students and not intimidate them. I believe that there are four things a teacher must do to create a well-managed classroom.


Establish Expectations

When students know what is acceptable and what is not, they will help your classroom run smoothly. It is your job to make sure they have a target or goal. The first two years of teaching I struggled to create a clear target. My third year, when I got it right, was smoother than my first two years combined. I had fewer discipline referrals, and my students knew I wanted an orderly classroom.

To accomplish this, it's vitally important that your expectations are posted around the classroom. The last two years I sent a classroom expectations contract home with students on the first day to be signed by the students and their parents. I also post my expectations at the front of the room and on the first bulletin board of the year. Experience also helps, but setting expectations — clear expectations — is the first and most crucial step to having a well-managed classroom. You can download my classroom expectations contract. Feel free to share it and make it your own.  

Establish Credibility

Students need to know that you care for them. Students also need to see that you are passionate about the subject area you are teaching. If students feel the teacher is not knowledgeable or shows no interest in them, they will shut down. They will begin to question, “What’s the point? Mr. or Mrs. _________ doesn’t care about this, so why should we?" Your passion about a subject should be contagious. Demonstrating that you are credible and able to share your subject area will help you maintain a well-managed classroom. 

Establish Professionalism Expectations2resize

Being professional is another very important element of classroom management. Teaching is a profession, even if sometimes it is not looked upon as one. I often joke with my friends, “What do a lawyer, doctor, astronaut, and mechanic all have in common?” They all have teachers.

Being professional means a number of things. It means being organized and ready to teach every day. It means having a student-focused mentality.  Professionalism means treating students with respect and listening to them. It means creating meaningful activities that allow students to participate inside and outside the classroom. Being professional also means dressing professionally.  You might argue this one, but students sense the amount of authority conveyed by how teachers dress. I usually wear dress pants, shirt, and tie every day until November. The first day I went without a tie last year, my students noticed and asked where it was. In some cases, I can see a change in behavior when I wear jeans and a school T-shirt on Fridays. Taking your profession seriously sets the tone for your well-managed classroom. 

Establish Value

As the teacher, you have the job of showing why school is relevant and necessary in students’ lives. They must see that you are interested in their success. Expressing excitement and passion for your subject area will show students you enjoy what you are teaching. As I stated earlier, activities and materials must be meaningful to your students. If there is no direct link between school and the real world, what and why are we teaching? In his book Teaching Teens & Reaping Results, Alan Sitomer writes, “Having an education opens doors; not having an education closes them.” It is our job as teachers to make sure students understand that education matters and has value.

What are some ways that you have created a well-managed classroom? I look forward to hearing from you.


Why aren't there ever any ideas or lesson plans for teachers of music? We need some assistance since the budgets are currently being slashed.

Also I could use some guidance with students who have Autism and are in a regular classroom with an aid. Any ideas for special needs classroom teachers? Thank you very much for this opppotunity.

Mandy, Thanks so much for the comment. I learned a lot my first year of teaching and believe me it does get better. Posting my classroom expectations gives students a clear target on what I am expecting from them. Best of luck this year and please let me know if you have any other questions.

I teach grades 9-12, so all of the high school kids in my small school have me for four years. I've spent a little time reflecting on ways I can start the year out differently from last year, and how my management skills can improve.

Thanks for the ideas on the rules being posted! This year, I am going to make signs for the classroom rules and I'm going to post them! Hopefully, this will make year #2 better than year #1!

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