Megan Toujouse took her classroom management plan to her first interview and was hired immediately. Toujouse had developed the plan, step by step, piece by piece, in a course taught by Elecia Lathon at Louisiana State University. Lathon instructed Toujouse and her classmates to develop a plan that they could take to job interviews, share with colleagues, and use for years to avoid becoming a stressed-out disciplinarian.
Amanda Brooks, a fifth-grade teacher in Dyersburg, Tennessee, began her first day of teaching with a PowerPoint presentation that explained her classroom plan to students. She says that first day went like clockwork and was practically flawless.
At the end of her first year of teaching, Brooks wrote, “I am so thankful for that first day, when I had my students practice our classroom procedures. I never had to waste time repeating what they should be doing or reprimanding them for bad behavior. I simply taught and enjoyed my students.”
At the end of Brooks’s fourth year, the district hired her to teach incoming teachers how to manage their classrooms. To do this, Brooks used her “Go-To Management Guide” to instruct them how to get it right on the first day and then enjoy the rest of the year.
Classroom Management Is About Organization
When it comes to giving directions, it’s always best to start at the beginning. If a stranger stops and asks you how to get from point A to point B, you don’t begin by telling the person what the destination will look like. You start by reminding the stranger where he is. Then you offer step-by-step instructions on how to reach his destination.
So it is with teachers when they develop an effective classroom management plan and have it in place before the school year begins. The plan outlines classroom procedures and ensures the class runs smoothly.
Classroom management is not about discipline. It is about organization and consistency. Store managers manage a store; they do not discipline the customers. Team managers manage a team; they do not discipline the players. Likewise, effective teachers have a classroom management plan consisting of a series of practices and procedures that are used to maintain an environment in which instruction and learning can take place. It’s an operational manual for the classroom. It’s a step-by-step guide on how to run a classroom.
Teachers who incorrectly define classroom management as discipline create a self-fulfilling prophecy for themselves and their students. They find that disciplinary actions become the focus of their daily routine, starting on the first day of school. Teachers who try to control their classrooms by emphasizing discipline are likely to join the ranks of the thousands who quit the education profession after their first few years on the job.
Effective teachers prevent problems with a plan that keeps their students focused and on task from the moment the opening bell sounds until the end of each day. This is done with procedures, which simplify the tasks students must accomplish to increase learning and achieving. Once taught, procedures become the responsibility of the students to carry out at the appropriate times. A well-managed classroom is safe, predictable, nurturing, and focus-driven. The classroom management plan ensures learning takes place efficiently, with minimal stress. When you have an organized classroom, you avoid the pitfalls of becoming a disciplinarian.
Children Crave Structure
It is extremely important to realize that many students come from disorganized, unstructured home environments, where chaos abounds. Neglected children crave structure and guidance. Give them a well-managed, organized classroom with clear daily practices and routine procedures, and they will respond positively.
Teachers who develop a classroom management plan and implement it on the first days of school are more likely to enjoy long careers in education. It is important to acknowledge that successful teachers are career-oriented professionals. They did not enter teaching to become disciplinarians. When creating a classroom management plan, we advise new teachers to ask themselves two simple questions:
• What do I expect to accomplish this year?
• What plan do I have to achieve my goals?
With these vital components in place, learning can begin. With learning comes achievement — and where achievement occurs, success is sure to follow.
Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong are coauthors of the bestselling book The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher and the recently published THE Classroom Management Book.
Image: Illustration by Noah Woods