First, let me tell you that YOU GOT THIS! Managing a class of students for the first time this year or the first time in your career can be stressful, tricky, and nerve-racking! However, it is completely possible! I’ll tell you how.
Before we get started, you should know that most teachers – seasoned or novice – get butterflies the day before they meet their new students, before their new year starts! Nervousness is nothing new; you’re in good company.
Well, we need to start out strong, so our students know we mean business, we’re there for them and their health, and we want to make it to the end of the year, just like they do. 🙂
Let’s get started:
When students get to your classroom, you need to be at the door to great them. This works for several reasons; greatest of all – it shows manners. Stop what you’re doing and go welcome them with your day’s greeting. Standing at the door also eliminates their fears of the ‘who is my teacher?’ guessing game. Guess what? I also eliminates yours as well. You’ll be able to see who your students are in the hallways, see students expressions, calm them down, or hype them up! Most of the time, your emotion at the door determines the emotion students show in the classroom! So, at least for the first week, make certain you’re a doorman, engaging with and enjoying your students before they enter the work zone!
Go ahead and have a seating chart, as students, especially the first week, are overwhelmed, nervous, and scared – like we are. Seating charts give them some direction. Now, there are ways to do these.
(a) Have name cards on the desks as the students walk in. They locate their assigned seats and all’s well with the world.
(b) You may also hand them their seat number/seating assignment at the door. Stand with your clipboard, ask their names, and tell them where they’ll be sitting.
(c) Now here’s the one for the seasoned teacher who gives the teacher look that means business – DON’T tell them where to sit. It may sound chaotic, but wait…wait…wait.. hear me out! Have students come in and sit wherever they want; they’ll hang with their friends or not, and you can survey the room and see the different personalities, cliques, loners, etc. That’s when you come in and move seats. “No, Johnny, no talking from you this year.” “Yes, Mary, I need you to interact with Jill and Hanna today, so move to that group.” 🙂
After students sit in those seats (some of them, their favorite seats), you won’t need to call attendance anymore. You’ll know exactly where they are. At the end of the day, the message is: KNOW WHO AND WHERE YOUR KIDS ARE.
Yes, I believe students need to be able to sit and listen for a period of time. Yes, I believe that students need to move and interact with each other. Yes, I believe all can be done per lesson – ebb & flow. Do not lecture for extended periods of time. Even though I believe there will be times when students need to have lectures to gain content and get ready for the real world (mostly older students), I believe that asking questions, giving stretch breaks, and giving mini assignments to make sure they were paying attention, etc., are needed in every classroom.
Students cannot sit for extended periods of time to pay attention and retain content; it’s actually said that students have a 10 – 15 minute attention span. With that said, I don’t believe there needs to be a merry-go-round of activities and excessive movement every lesson, but students need to be free to have some agency and cause to move and learn.
So get them involved in your lecture, or break your lectures up with an activity for each part. Also, here’s an additional tip, have students annotate during your lecture. Give them the notes as you over it and have them actively read and listen to your lecture. Mix it up! A little bit of focused listening and movement or active interaction goes a long way!
Why do teachers, ministers, speakers, presenters move around during their speeches, lectures, sermons, lessons and presentations? Proximity Control! Yes, it works! When you move around while teaching, students are forced to follow you because they have no idea where you’ll be next. Peter in the back, Manny in the middle, or Jacey by your desk, all know that their teacher will move around and will end up by their desk soon, so the eating, cellphone, counting change, doodling on the desk, passing notes, sleeping, giggling with the kids 2 desks over have to be curtailed.
I move around and talk, and slightly tap Johnny on the desk or the shoulder to remind him to put things away, pay attention, or not to move on yet, etc. Students are less inclined to act out and misbehave or be distracted when they know they have to move around with their eyes as you move around the room.
Lastly, even after I’ve given the lesson and instruction, I move around as they work. I will sit next to them and ask either random questions about the work or about their lives to let them know that I see them and I’m actively making sure you’re paying attention in this space.
“Call, email, send a letter home, or have parents sign a contract or handbook for your class is key! “
Kindergarten and Elementary school teachers do this so much better than Middle and High school teachers. The younger set of students receive so much communication to take home to parents, it’s CRAZY! But, it’s a good thing!
Call, email, send a letter home, or have parents sign a contract or handbook for your class is key! When parents are kept in the loop, they tend to be quicker to support, as they’ve known you from the beginning. They can be amazing allies!
When you see Johnny not being himself, you can let mom know. When Patty is hanging with a new crowd, you can let dad know. They may give insight to the situation or may not have even known about their kid’s behaviors.
You don’t want to wait until Sadie is acting out to call mom sometimes because then they’ll come at you, saying why didn’t you inform them prior to this situation.
At least once a grading period, send something home or call mom to say “Hey, Sadie is being wonderful again!” 😉
I know! I know! You keep hearing this! Well, it is true. If you promise or say something, follow through! Kids know when you’re bluffing and those first few weeks are your tests. If you cannot follow through on a promise, threat, announcement, it will be hard to regain their trust. This may prove problematic in class, as they won’t want to pay attention or won’t have the same gusto they would, if they believed you are a trustworthy person.
Now, by the same token, know who you want to be! If you make a promise and follow through, know that that will come with its own repercussion. If you are deemed soft and a pushover, it will follow you and your career and you’ll have to work diligently to change that persona. Likewise, if you are deemed mean, strict, and ‘angry,’ that follows you as well. You’ll have to work to change that persona as well.
My students know that I’m really strict at times, but there’s always a stool that they can pull up to talk to me about anything. I have changed that one view of me that they had, but it came with some hard work at smiling more and being available. So know how you want to be perceived and CONSISTENTLY go with it.
This also goes with classroom management and your processes. If you collect papers on your desk or you have a student collect them, or you collect them, then do that at least 80% of the time. You do not want to be the teacher who everyone thinks has no order or control of the classroom. Students will claim they gave you things that you lost; they’ll claim they can’t function in that environment; they’ll claim they couldn’t hear you because Timothy was sharpening his pencil while you were speaking. [I’ve heard these stories from other teachers – consistency is real!] 🙂
These 6 TIPS are for you to go out there and make your teaching shine! Make your kids love coming to your classroom, and to MAKE YOUR LESSONS GREAT!
Which ones work for you? Which ones will you try? Let me know!