Walmart’s back-to-school pencil ads and our janitor waxing our classroom floors can only signal one thing: the start of another school year. Along with the right-of-passage teacher nightmares of missing photocopies and the classroom troublemaker, leaving us sweaty and vigilant in our beds, the new year that rises to meet us teachers offers a handshake—a truce, an agreement to do this year right.
Will you do this year right?
Looming large in most teachers’ minds is classroom management. Last year, the spit balls were too wet, the gum under desks too sticky, and the noise level in their classrooms too loud.
Ragged and resentful, these teachers decide: something must be done.
But what can be done?
Many teachers who struggle with classroom management talk to colleagues with solid classroom management to ask questions. Tentatively, they ask: How do you manage it? How do students focus in your class and not in mine? How do you get so much done?
If that doesn’t satisfy their curiosity, teachers turn to the net. Not surprisingly, between the months of June and August, the traffic for my article Please, Please, Please, for the Love of God– Dare to Be a Strict Teacher skyrockets. My statistics on the back end show that some teachers return over and over again to read this blog post—to date, the second most popular article on my blog. At the same time, the sale of my Teachers Pay Teachers classroom procedures and rules resource jumps. The evidence is overwhelming: across the country, teachers are hungry for classroom calm.
But all the research these teachers do and all the procedures they download are helpful, but they are not enough.
As a former weak classroom manager, I know…
All the PD, advice, and tricks will NOT work till you change your mind and your practice.
Before school starts, to master classroom management, you must get your head right.
Up until now, you have had poor classroom management skills and self-identity as a poor classroom manager. Maybe you don’t admit it to yourself, but you think these thoughts:
“What’s the point? Next year will be just like last year…”
“I’m just not as naturally authoritative as Teacher X…”
“If I wasn’t a woman, classroom management would be easy…”
“I’m too young to get control over my classroom. Maybe in a decade…”
“Last year’s students didn’t respect me. I’m going to teach them again. There’s no point…”
“It’s just not my personality to control behaviour….I’m an introvert/hippie/socialist.”
“I’m just not a good teacher…No wonder students don’t listen to me…”
“Well, I may have an out-of-control classroom, but at least the kids like me…”
Can you relate?
With these thoughts swimming about like pariahs in your brain, you nevertheless go through the motions of printing a syllabus with strong verb rules you downloaded from the net. You make a class rules poster and tape it up. You have a set of consequences that you can’t wait to dish out. You say to yourself, “This year I can do it.”
And then, in the first two weeks, your classroom management plan dies a painful death, crucified by cell phones and shout outs.
But are you surprised?
Your classroom management plan was doomed to fail, for it was built on a weak personal identity.
There is another way.
Begin with your mind.
Get your head right.
Develop a classroom management mantra.
A mantra is a belief-changing system. It targets your self-identity as a poor classroom manager and flips it on its head. It gives the identity of a good classroom manager from which your classroom management actions will arise organically.
Using a mantra, I changed my approach to classroom management entirely. Here is the mantra I used and still use before the school year. Each morning, I read the mantra to myself and visualize a calm classroom in which learning takes precedence:
Classroom Management Mantra
I am a great teacher. When my students enter my classroom, they know they are there to learn.
My students enter quietly and calmly, get their things out, and begin to work. During my lessons, they do not talk amongst themselves. When I speak, my students look at me and pay attention. I can quickly get the focus of the entire class. I see them learn and enjoy learning. Their knowledge grows exponentially in my class and their improvement is huge. I am so proud of my excellent teaching. I am so proud, and so respectful of myself and my own nerves, that I enforce consequences for misbehavior dispassionately and consistently.
When there is a breach of the class rules, I simply enforce consequences. I am the hand of justice. Justice is important. Students must know I will be fair. They must feel safe and secure in my room. I also feel calm and in control. Whether or not they like me is unimportant. Praise and blame are all the same. What matters is the learning.
I am here to teach and they are here to learn and so in my classroom I will teach and they will learn.
Read this mantra or a mantra of your own with passion and emotion, for at least a few weeks before school, visualizing yourself implementing your classroom management plan, and I promise you: this year will be different.
Change your identity—change your teaching—you can change your life.
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Wishing you a better, calmer school year,