3 Classroom Management Mistakes Beginning Teachers Make

Welcome back! Are you ready to put everything you learned about classroom management into action? We've talked about establishing your classroom management philosophy and what you need to do to start the year off right. Now a few weeks have gone by, the kids are settling in and things are going well. Then, it happens. A little bump in the road. That's ok. Tomorrow will be better. Later that week you start to feel like things are slowly moving in the wrong direction. Let's fix all that before it even happens!

Sound familiar? Yep... we went over this before, but it definitely needs repeating. MODEL EVERYTHING. Many teachers do a great job modeling routines and procedures at the beginning of the year. But they forget the importance of modeling every day! For example, let's say you have a math game students will play in partners. You sit together on the rug, you explain the game, maybe even write the directions on the board... but when you pair everyone up and send them off, no one knows what to do! Johnny and Susie are playing the game correctly, but Mara and Letesha are not following the rules. Colby and Peter are tossing the dice around, and two other groups are just sitting there not knowing how to get started... what happened?! You need to model! Before you send students off to do pretty much anything - especially at the beginning of the year, or if it's a new game or activity or worksheet - it always helps to model what you want done. Have two students play the game together in front of everyone, showing how to roll the dice, move the pieces, play the game. You'd be surprised how many students will suddenly have an a-ha moment and REALLY understand what to do! The same goes for activity pages and worksheets. Do one part or a couple examples together so students can see where to write the answer, what format, etc. Believe me, this extra time spent modeling can save you so much of a headache and save your kiddos from being frustrated!

I have observed and mentored many new teachers, student teachers, interns etc. This is the number one thing so many beginning teachers have trouble with. I watch teachers begin a very engaging and well-planned lesson. Everyone is paying attention and is on the ball. Then I notice Ryan. He is getting fidgety. He rocks in his chair. He rolls his pencil around. He starts talking to someone near him. Now there's a hum in the room. The teachers reminds everyone to pay attention, but does not stop. Now many students are not being respectful of the speaker. Lots of quiet chatter and movement. Finally, after about 10 minutes when I want to jump in and get things under control, the teacher - who is visibly frustrated - stops the lesson and addresses one of the students who is talking. The point of this story? Pay close attention to the small things WHEN THEY START and deal with them right away - otherwise you risk the activity spiraling out of control. You might have to stop 5 times in 10 minutes. That's ok. If you keep going when no one is paying attention, it's not going to get any better! Do you notice students constantly playing with materials while you explain something? Remember my little tip about being proactive? Next time before the lesson starts, clear the area. I really do think this comes with experience. As you teach more, you will notice students who you need to make eye contact with, call their name, etc. (I love teachers who can just throw a student's name into a sentence: "That's right! We need to regroup because the ones - Lindsey please stop - have more than 9 so we have to make a ten.") Sometimes that's all it takes! But you have to be aware of everything going on in order to make it work.

Yes, that's right. You are now a teacher. Not the fun babysitter, not a camp counselor, not their cousin. YOU ARE THEIR TEACHER. And that means your role has changed. Yes, you can definitely be caring and fun and supportive and funny, but you can't... no matter what anyone tells you, be their friend. I am the first to tell you to get to know your students, make connections, learn about them. That is incredibly important. But always remember that you have other responsibilities now, too. You need to follow through on the rules, make decisions that they may not like (No Mark, you may not partner with Brian. or I'm sorry, we can't play a word game today.) Your students are coming to you to learn. Your job is to teach them how to be a reader and a writer and a good friend and how to work with others, etc. You can be there for them, support them, encourage them and share experiences with them. But do it as their teacher, not as their friend.

Do you see yourself in any of these mistakes? Don't take it personally - EVERY beginning teacher needs support with classroom management. Good classroom management comes with experience. But if you think about these 3 areas, you can improve your classroom management skills now - and enjoy a great year of teaching later!

You can read more about classroom management ideas in my other posts in this series:
Classroom management - it all starts with you!
3 Things to do at the beginning of the year
Ideas for classroom management incentives

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