Some years ago, I entered my first middle school classroom sure I was ready to teach. I had mastered my curriculum - so I believed - and was well versed in lesson planning and instruction. Nervous with anticipation, I opened the door and dove in.
I was not prepared for the chaos that ensued. What happened to the Norman Rockwell classroom? Why were my students disorderly, unorganized and generally acting like teenagers? My undergraduate education program had provided me neither the tools nor the strategies for coping with 30 youngsters with raging hormones.
After having a good cry in the teachers' lounge bathroom, I took a deep breath, called it a day, and scheduled an appointment to get advice from my university mentor.
Where had I gone wrong? Why didn't my students like me? How was I supposed to get them to come to class on time and be ready to learn? My mentor asked me about how I set the expectations for how students should act in class. I had no response.
Thus began the journey of real teacher prep and classroom management!
Sadly, many novice teachers and even veteran teachers struggle with classroom management, much like I did during my first few weeks on the job. Without good classroom management skills, no matter how well teachers plan or how knowledgeable we are, the lesson suffers.
Today's teacher prep programs must take the time to focus on classroom management instruction. Classroom management techniques should be taught not only through traditional lectures and assigned readings in proven classroom management techniques and strategies, but also via modeling, observation and of course, technical practice PRIOR to any educator stepping foot into a classroom. Preservice teachers must be provided numerous and varied opportunities to practice, receive feedback, and observe classroom instruction in order to develop a management style that works for them.
"No textbook alone can teach how to manage time effectively," indicated a preservice teacher in my school. "I learned many techniques for classroom management on the job through observing master teachers and incorporating their best practices into my daily routine. I used what worked for me pulling from sound educational research as well as practical experience. Once I had clearly established norms and routines, the delivery of instruction began to flow." She went on to tell me that, "What is important is how my classroom is managed once the bell rings and the door closes."
I became an expert classroom manager because my students deserve rigorous teaching and learning. Good classroom management is the key to a successful school year. My superpower is teaching, what is yours?
Sheryl is a member of the NCTQ Teacher Advisory Group