Teacher prep and the gift of a good night's sleep

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Yesterday, a teacher posted a blog on PDQ about her classroom management skills (or lack thereof) in her first days on the job. Her story's far from unique. I remember staying up all night in my first year, anxiously running through disaster scenarios that were, at bottom, all about managing the classroom. How should I react when I hear the loudspeaker announce an emergency fire drill? Why did getting the warm-up activity started today take ten whole minutes? I can't refer Michael to the principal every day for keeping his head on his desk, so what should I do?

It wasn't until my third year that I felt comfortable running the classroom. My principal gave me the practical tips I needed. She coached me to set up routines for simple tasks like passing back papers. She modeled using proximity to keep students on task, preempting a lot of the minor disruptions I faced.

Looking back on it now, I know there's got to be a better way: before taking the reins of a classroom, every teacher should have already learned the tips my principal gave me.

That's why we created the Classroom Management Standard for the Teacher Prep Review. We want to find out which programs are doing a good job at ensuring teachers know how to establish the conditions for learning in the classroom. This goes beyond addressing misbehavior, to strategies for preventing misbehavior in the first place, and implementing procedures and norms to build a positive, productive class environment.

We're finding that a lot of teacher prep programs could do more to guide candidates in how to address serious instances of misbehavior. Maybe that's why we hear over and over from teachers in high-need schools (where student behavior is generally more of a challenge) that they weren't prepared well enough for the specific sorts of issues they face.

The Review (out June 18th) will go into much greater detail on our findings on classroom management preparation, and it will include stories and resources from the programs across the country that are doing a standout job on this--programs that make me hopeful that tomorrow's new teachers (and their students) won't have to sink-or-swim through their first years like I did.