Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Classroom Management

This lady nails it.  In my credentialing program one of the few classes with which I was genuinely pleased was the course on classroom management, but I have no doubt that most such courses are drivel:
My teacher-education program had sporadically and ineffectively preached what I called the mommy/best friend philosophy of classroom management. The idea was to coddle and entertain students into engagement, creating a bordering-on-party atmosphere to get kids actively learning.

Traditional methods of conveying authority in the classroom -- such as arranging desks in rows with assigned seating instead of in peer pods or giant circles -- were frowned upon. A classroom was not a teacher’s to run, we were told; it was ideally a collective of learners wherein everyone had equal standing.
Are there any other fields wherein common sense is so easily dismissed?  The article continues:
The only solid piece of “advice” on the topic of classroom management I can recall from my teacher-training program was to ignore the old high-school teacher rule-of-thumb to never smile until Christmas. Not exactly a wealth of effective techniques, but the prevailing attitude was that trial and error in the trenches was simply how classroom management was learned.

According to a new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), an analysis of 122 teacher-prep programs found that while effective research-based classroom management strategies exist, most programs don’t draw on or share this research with prospective teachers.
A consultant was brought in to teach us classroom management techniques.  Not only did her practices and advice make sense, she brought in video of her using them in classrooms she was paid to come into and get under control--we got to see what the "practice" looked like for real.    Prior to taking her class I had always thought I did a pretty good job of keeping a lid on the volcano; after her instruction I implemented several of her suggestions and no longer had a volcano to worry about.
Is it any surprise, then, that so many teachers flame out after their first, harrowing, year? They’re sent in to tackle what is a tough job, even under the best of circumstances, with few tools for managing the most fundamental prerequisite for student engagement and learning.

Part of the reason is the deeply ingrained belief that teaching is an art, a craft and, above all, a calling that can’t be reduced to agreed-upon techniques and strategies. It is a passion that is supposed to separate good teachers from bad.
What other profession can you think of that, effectively, tells its graduates that they can “live on love”?
What other profession relies so heavily on theory and fad and not on common sense and data?
“Regrettably, while we found some programs which did quite well on certain aspects of classroom management, we did not find any one program that did well across the board: teaching the … most proven strategies and creating opportunities for practicing them with plenty of strong feedback,” said Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ. “The field’s leadership continues to send strong signals that teachers who can deliver a sufficiently engaging lesson will never have a behavior problem they have to solve. Any teacher can tell you that just isn’t the case.”
Any administrator who says that is, at the very minimum, lazy.  I'll leave it at that.


pseudotsuga said...

So, Darren, what classroom techniques do you find work for you?

allen (in Michigan) said...

Be interesting to know what teacher certification would look like in a free market. Probably an uneven split between classroom management techniques and content knowledge I'm guessing but who knows? The demands of the free market result in sometimes unexpected requirements to which the competent adapt and the brilliant anticipate.

maxutils said...

allen .. in the free market, talent would be recognized. Going through the college system to get my credential, sucked. I learned virtually nothing. Classroom management is entirely about one's personality. Some teachers are more strict, some aren't (me). The one thing you can't do is try to be someone you aren't ... the kids will sense it and a buse it.

neko said...

I'd like to hear more about the consultant's lessons you mentioned.

At some of the schools I work at, the kids are pretty much allowed to run the school. They see no need to listen to just about any adult, teacher or otherwise...

Darren said...

It would take forever to type it all, but here are a few of the tidbits:
1) Use concrete, kinesthetic language, simultaneously telling students what you want them to do and what you want them *not* to do.
2) The word "without" is very powerful.
"Please take out your books without talking" encompasses the above two suggestions. "Take out your books" and "be quiet" do not.
3) Momentum is key. Don't let kids get you off your stride. Breaks in momentum give students an opportunity to misbehave.
4) Focus on the behavior you want, not bad behavior; e.g. if someone calls out an answer, without even missing a beat you look to the other side of the room and say "I appreciate that everyone over here (absolutely do *not* identify one particular child in this instance) is raising their hands without calling out" and then keep on going with what you're doing.
5) The 2-minute gift. Perhaps I'll do an entire post on the 2-minute gift some time. It worked extremely well when I taught jr. high school.

maxutils said...

I SO agree with number 4 ... letting the kid who takes a little bit longer to answer a question, while acknowledging the one who knew the answer immediately ... great technique. The smarter, quicker kid gets kudos while the slower one who might never get his/her hand up again gets the prize. Winners all around, and you make the classroom a safe place. I always try to call on the kid who has never raised the hand, until now ...

PeggyU said...

Thanks for elucidating, Darren.