Guest post: First days of teaching -- Practicing and preparing for classroom management

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A third-year teacher of secondary English in Baltimore City Public Schools describes her views on classroom management and how it could be incorporated into teacher prep programs. 

I remember teaching my first lesson. It was supposed to be a critical synthesis of informational texts using a bundle of annotations, rigorous and differentiated articles, think-alouds, and group work. What resulted, however, was a messy scene of papers, markers and off-task students.

What went wrong? It wasn't the lesson per se, but rather the absence of specific routines, directions, and procedures for the students to follow. In other words, it was a lack of classroom management.

One of the key skills city principals look for when selecting teachers is how well they can manage the classroom. Student learning cannot take place unless teachers help their students create a positive, orderly environment.

If one of the key complaints about (and from) novice teachers is that they need to be more skillful when it comes to classroom management, what then can teacher prep programs do in response? For starters, they should integrate hands-on practice in classroom management even before student teaching. And during student teaching, aspiring teachers should have access to intensive clinics and regular, structured, onsite coaching in order to get the most out of their real world practice.

One model I think teacher prep programs could learn from is the clinical teaching residency model cropping up in many urban districts, where teacher residents hone skills such as classroom management under close observation. Through periodic and onsite coaching, residents build a powerful toolkit in structuring management routines and procedures that prove vital for maintaining an effective classroom.

Teaching is both an art and a process requiring foundational skills that, through actual practice, aspiring teachers can acquire before entering the profession. Management of course should not be the only focus of teacher prep, but it is certainly a prerequisite for being an effective teacher and hence should be an area of focus for every teacher preparation program.