As I look over my journals of my last 8 years of teaching, classroom management is my least favorite thing to think about, but apparently the most important issue facing the success of my students.
From one page I wrote:
"Not understanding well the nature of the 9-year-old mind, I have too long assumed that
high expectations and engaging lessons would solve behavior problems-besides, many
"professors" told me I was "exactly right." Professors, of course, have forgotten the
nature of the 9-year-old mind and focus on theory, research, and the systematic
complicating of the teaching profession. Hence, I was more than reluctant to accept the
realistic amount of time I'd have to spend re-teaching and rehearsing students in how to:
quietly open their books, how to sharpen pencils, how to return to their seats, how to
raise their hand and wait to be called on before speaking, how to put away coats and
backpacks, how to line up quietly, how to listen to and participate in lessons, how to
work with a partner quietly, how to react to fire drill bells, how to prepare for dismissal,
how to read quietly, how to take a test, how to stay on task, how to sit quietly and
patiently when finished with an assignment, how to ask to be excused, etc. I realize that
it was indeed my ego that couldn't waste a day doing the mundane. My ego was about
my personal genius! My creativity! My knack for simplifying and demystifying math
and science and social studies for 9 year olds... I realize now that it was my reluctance
to waste time on such mundane rehearsals that made me lose my temper so many times in
the past. "Why should I have to waste everyone's time teaching proper behaviors?" I'd
rationalize. "I want a class that's busy thinking and working-not sitting like robots."
that just make the class orderly but not smarter," I'd continue. "Do I want to bore them
and lull them into submission with droning repetition of procedures?" My answer today
is yes. Why? It works so well that I am now more able to get them thinking and working
without resorting to dramatics, punishing the class as a whole, or any of the other
fruitless waste of time and energy. I now am a complete fan of Wong's book, for the
most part, and look forward for a shorter version with less sales pitch to slog through and
more method to steal. (I've literally pored over the entire book in an overzealous fervor
for several weeks)
I have finally accepted my role as a calm, unruffled repeater of phrases like:
"Perhaps you didn't understand the directions, I asked you to open your book quietly to
page 148 and read quietly for 15 minutes. Would you please show me you understand?"
I certainly hadn't been willing to do it near enough times to have an effect. When I do it
right, the room quiets down and 8 other off-task students snap to it. I thought I had done
this before, and having seen no immediate or sudden effects (the way Wong likes to use
the words "suddenly," and "what you do on the first day makes all the difference," I'm
sure I expected unrealistically that the first week would establish the routine.
Unfortunately, the rehearsal must be maintained; the repeated requests for exactness in
compliance must be relentless. On top of that, I have been skeptical that any class can sit
like robots all day while a teacher reiterates procedures and expectations at the expense of
interesting activities or educational content. I'm pretty sure the robot students are not
learning much. So, in such a hurry to keep my class from being boring I often rushed into
activities and assignments unconfident that any student would sit quietly and actually
listen to my tediously detailed explanations of procedures and protocols. I had a few set
routines and procedures, though most of them were rather unsuccessful in my opinion.
For the life of me, I can't understand why students continually forget the few procedures
that I must remind them about everyday. Now Harry Wong and my mother in law have
convinced me that I need to spend even more time on rehearsing, demonstrating,
reinforcing and maintaining the procedures.
This year I was reprimanded for putting a tally mark next to the name of a student, being cited for causing "unnecessary embarrassment!" The fact that he shouted over by teaching continually, and had 43 checks during the day meant little.
I basically urged the other students to tell their parents about the tally marks if they wanted something to change. The parents must have responded, and the offending student was removed to another class. I know this because the administration threatened my job because of "parent complaints." (What their report doesn't show was that parent complaints supported me, and threatened them for not doing something about the student earlier. They tried to write it all off as my fault, saying that I failed to notify them and fill out proper paperwork... even though there was plenty of paperwork to support my position.) Since that time, our class has been productive, bully-free, and scoring higher than ALL the other classes on ALL the county benchmark tests. However, I was not rehired at this school because the administration chose to threaten my job rather than back me up with support--even though the student had been in detention most of the year, and has a record from other schools as being a big problem--constant disruption...
Ideas and concerns about classroom management in any setting would be greatly appreciated.
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