How do I handle classroom management?
I am currently a third year college student and I will be student teaching next winter semester. Whenever I work with children, I feel like they see me as a friend and not someone who they should actively listen to during learning. I work with preschoolers, aging from 2 to 5. How do I get my students to listen to me and how do I calm down my classroom when things get too chaotic?
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Maeve’s Answer, CareerVillage.org Team
1) Engagement. When it comes to managing a large group of students, nothing works better than planning fun/creative lessons and delivering them in an engaging style. In my first two years of teaching, I would get really frustrated when students wouldn't follow the rules and I would resort to raising my voice. Then I started to realize that I could be the problem too. Whenever my students started to get fidgety and start breaking classroom rules, I could guarantee that the lesson I was teaching was boring. If I hadn't taken time to make a lesson engaging for my students, I couldn't blame them for not wanting to listen to it. Before getting angry, I would ask myself if this lesson was culturally relevant to my students. If the answer was no, I would stop and think about how I could connect the curriculum to my students. When you connect a lesson to something students like and can relate to, it makes them more engaged, and eliminates a lot of typical classroom management problems.
2) Sweat the small stuff. When you set rules in your classroom, MAKE SURE you follow through with those rules every. single. time. When I first started teaching I always made little exceptions to rules, and then I would get annoyed when the whole class started acting out of control. You may think it is no big deal that one student didn't push in their chair during line up time like you asked, until another student trips over the chair 10 seconds later (trust me, it will happen). You may think it's okay to let it slide when one student calls out during a lesson, but other students pick up on that and suddenly you have a whole class screaming their answers (trust me, it will happen). Little issues in following directions can snowball. I found that in my class, I was part of the problem because I would let little things go. It is important to sweat the small stuff by making sure every rule (big or small) is being followed. If classroom rules are very clear, and you follow-through with those rules every time, it will help you out immensely. It will also help students out because they will feel like they are in a really stable learning environment because they know exactly what is expected of them and exactly what will happen when they don't do it. I think this could really help you with setting boundaries with students. It seems like you are great at building relationships with students and that is why they like you and view you as a friend. But one way to draw a boundary between friend and teacher is creating clear rules and never wavering on them.
I was also a preschool teacher in the summer and the way that I calm my students down when the environment is a bit chaotic is to use a system. For example, "1,2, 3, eyes on me" or use the clapping system where they follow your claps back to get their attention.
It's also important to balance being a friend and being respected in the classroom. Your students need to learn what your boundaries are, so it's important to set them before you begin your class.
From the start, address what is and is not acceptable. You're working with much younger kids so you may need to be even more explicit and more repetitive than me, but constantly showing them where you draw the line will help them understand how they should interact with you. To make it feel less repetitive, have a poster or some icons on the wall that you can point to if a kid is crossing the boundaries and becoming too friendly.
Another tip I learned is openly calling out behaviors you want to see. Example "I see that [name] is settled down and pulling out his notebook. I see that [name] is already writing the date at the top...". This seems minor, but kids love to be the focus of the teacher's good attention. Good luck in your first years! It will be a lot of little tweaks.
When things get too chaotic, I always make sure to have an "attention getter." I use a plug in doorbell and ring it when my students are getting too noisy or off task. This tells students that it's time to pay attention and refocus. Some students may ignore this at first (especially older ones), so I always reward students who follow directions quickly.