Your Sanity- 4 Procedures to Protect It

classroom procedures for teachers


Nobody wants to become THAT teacher. The teacher that has given up on teaching, treating his or her classroom as a holding cell from 8 AM to 3PM, and a place for hungry and haggard inmates—teachers and students—to escape from at the first ring of the end-of-day bell.

Nobody wants to become THAT teacher. The teacher that photocopies his PowerPoints and throws these packages at students with the instructions: “Silent reading, then summarize.”

Nobody wants to become THAT teacher. The teacher that never smiles, except on days where she can “see the light at the end of the tunnel” such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and summer vacation. On these days, THAT teacher wears a grin, animated for the first time in months.

Nobody wants to become THAT teacher. But some of us will become THAT teacher.

I believe we don’t have to be bad people to become THAT teacher.

We just have to be tired, angry, and bitter people to become THAT teacher.

And if we can’t control our students’ behaviour or reach them academically, it’s awfully easy to become tired, angry, and biter. After years of fighting shout-outs, rudeness, cell phones, and poor behaviour in your class, wouldn’t you be tempted to give it all up to preserve the last vestiges of your sanity?

Yes, you would. Congratulations! In a few short years, you have become THAT teacher!


To preserve my sanity, and fight against that-teacher syndrome, I have developed four procedures which I teach my class in detail at the start of the year and follow through.

Thanks to these procedures, I have a much smoother year than many other teachers. After sharing these procedures with my colleagues, many say they have had much easier school years.

  1. To get class attention– “MAY I GET YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE?”

On the first day of school, I teach my students how I will get their attention, and I explain that I will never speak over them; I must have every single student’s total attention before I begin to speak. I explain how important it is that I be uninterrupted during my lessons because every single student has the sacred right to a good education.

To get student attention, I raise my right hand in the air, and I say (never yell or scream), “May I get your attention, please?” I instruct my students to do the following when they hear me say “May I get your attention, please?”
– Turn your face to look at me.

  • Stop talking.
  • Put one of your hands up.

When every single student is quietly looking at me with his or her hand up and eyes on me, and only then, will I speak. At the start of the year, I wait as long as it takes for every single student to be paying attention. If even one is not looking at me, the class will not continue. Soon enough, students recognize I mean what I say: I won’t begin speaking until it’s entirely quiet.

I also explain to students that the hands up help students hard of hearing to realize that I require their attention. This is a great procedure to prevent yelling over the class, and it promotes the importance of what you say.

  1. To fight the cell phones & clutter— ENTER THE CLASS READY TO LEARN

At the start of the year I tell my class that the purpose of the class is to better them as people, both academically and spiritually. In order to better ourselves, I explain, we need to treat the classroom as a place of learning, quite different from the hallways or the lunchroom.

I then explain that to get in the mindset of learning, we need to enter the class ready to learn. I then explain and model for them the procedure for getting ready for learning:

  • Enter quietly without pushing, shoving, or yelling.
  • Walk to your seat.
  • Take your binder, book, and writing utensil out of your backpack and put them on your desk.
  • Hide your backpack under your desk and out of the way.
  • Put your cell phone into your backpack. Your cell phone must be out of sight as it is a big distraction to your learning.
  • Look at the board and start doing the “do now” warm up.
  • As you work, do not talk. Focus on your task.

At the start of the year, I notice students who are doing this well and point out what they are doing. Students who enter the classroom unprepared to learn are instructed to exit the class and try again until they get it perfect. Every student is assigned a seat, so there is no guesswork involved as to where he or she sits.

  1. To get students ready to learn quickly—THE 1 MINUTE 30 SECOND CHALLENGE

In Dave Stuart Jr.’s excellent book, Never Finished, which I will review soon, he explains the importance of not wasting class time. Three minutes of wasted time setting up for learning at the start of the lesson may not seem like a big deal, but compounded over time, those three minutes a day add up to whole days of learning that just didn’t happen.

I therefore explain the importance of time and efficiency to my students on the first day of school, and I pose to them a challenge. I tell them that if every student in the class is ready to learn within 1 minute and 30 seconds of the bell, 90% of the time for the first semester, we will do something as a class that is fun and educational (e.g. a field trip, a half class outside, an educational film, etc.).

Every day, I set a big timer on my Smartboard to 1:30 and begin the countdown as soon as the bell indicates our class has begun. If every student is ready to learn (according to the success criteria in procedure # 2), then I count that day as a success.

I am happy to say students love the challenge; it builds community; they cheer each other on to behave well; and most importantly, my students have been successful at reaching our 1:30 goal 90% of the time!

  1. To avoid end-of-class mayhem—EVERYBODY STAYS SEATED

Have you ever had a student make a runner at the end of class? I have.  And what about students ganging up near the exit door like a pack of hoodlums? Yes, check.

Because I hate both runners and loud packs of people, the rule in my classroom is clear and immovable: everybody stays seated until the bell.

When the bells go, and only then, may my students stand up, tuck in their chairs and leave. Students who stand ahead of time are asked to stay behind. After a few “mini-detentions,” students remain seated and the atmosphere in my classroom is much calmer.

Should you implement these procedures in your classroom, I promise you: you will enjoy this year. It’s never too late to take the reins of your classroom.

To your teaching success,

Patricia Sacawa