No matter what your role is at the school, developing expectations for students is similar. How does a teacher get to the point where classroom management, whether virtual or physically in the school, is under control and time can be spent delivering course content and making positive connections with students? How does a bus driver ensure safety on the bus?
1. Set clear, high expectations
From day one, it is important that school rules are posted, consistent throughout your school community, and buy-in from the students. A class discussion of expectations to explain the relevance is helpful. Additionally, creating “house rules” with students helps with buy-in. House rules bring a sense of unity to the classroom because we create them together, and the students hold each other accountable for following them.
2. Hold students accountable for their behavior
If the expectations are clear, and the students know the rules are created in their best interest, students begin to hold themselves and each other accountable for their behavior. Students work together to keep each other on task; the teacher can deliver a lesson that the students value, and meaningful discussions can occur.
3. Make yourself a presence in their lives
Getting to know your students personally helps to create a positive relationship between you and your students. The saying, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” is a very valid, proven point. Most students want to share about their lives outside of school.
4. Model respect and create an environment of mutual respect
A teacher’s job is to deliver instruction in his/her content area and make the lesson engaging and meaningful, but the students also need to feel valued and worthy. This is one of the easiest ways to promote a healthy relationship with your students. One can have the most disgruntled student at the beginning of class, but it is almost a small miracle to watch the difference a “thank you” can make. It may seem obvious to state, but the students respond positively and similarly when they feel respected.
5. Handle discipline issues and allow for reflection
If a situation escalates and too much time is being taken away from student learning, it may become necessary to remove the student from the room. This is a time for the student to reflect on the situation. He or she identifies the problem, selects the desired outcome, and brainstorms options for achieving that selected outcome. Our ultimate goal is to keep students on task and in a positive learning environment. What factors went into the situation? How can we reach a mutually desired outcome? Once both parties have had time for reflection, it is important to get back together, find common ground of resolution, and move forward.
6. Be aware of student “baggage” and make your (virtual) classroom your students’ safe zone
It is important to understand that while we may be interacting with our students five times a week, they are under multiple influences for the duration of their entire 24 hour day. As teachers, our job is to pay attention to the tiniest of details and keep our ears open for signs that our students may be silently calling out for help. Knowing that students may be struggling outside of the classroom also dictates that we maintain our high expectations and now act with additional empathy that tells our students we are there for them.
7. Design engaging lessons
When students are engaged, they are less likely to act out or be disruptive. It can be a lot of work to mix things up and keep students on task, interested in learning, and influenced to have a desire to continue to learn – especially if you’re teaching virtually this school year. This starts with students being aware of the mastery objective of their learning. Students must know the agenda to get them to the final goal. Students who are engaged have teachers who question and encourage, facilitate discussions that are meaningful and relevant, provide feedback, group their students purposefully, and provide multiple instruction delivery methods. A busy, active learner does not have time for mischief – he/she is too engaged in the task at hand, and behavior issues become minimal.
8. Wrap it all up
Remaining firm, fair, and consistent encourages a room full of engaged learners. Successful classroom management is a series of building relationships, trying different strategies and tactics, and exhibiting the willingness to work with your students to maintain a productive relationship. The most important aspect to remember is that teaching is one of the most rewarding professions at the end of the day. You may not feel the impact immediately in the classroom, but there is nothing more gratifying than hearing from a former student that YOU made all the difference in his or her education. That is why we do what we do, right?