If you want to keep your job as a teacher, you have to control your class.
Excellent test scores, a library of degrees on the wall and perfectly-planned lessons stand second…although college never stresses that. They should. If your class suffers from constant misbehavior and trips to the office, you’ll probably be out of a job within a year. If you want to hold onto your job, hold onto your class.
Of course, easier said than done.
If you follow my advice, I will not make you a popular teacher. Frankly, anyone that enters teaching to be liked or loved is entering for the wrong reasons. Those are the men and women that end up in headlines for the wrong reasons. I rarely received Christmas presents or heartfelt thanks at the end of the year. It doesn’t bother me.
I subscribe to a simple teaching goal: I want kids to learn. I wanted them to remember my class two decades in the future and say “Yeah, THAT guy actually taught me something.” I do not want to be remembered as the cool guy that was a lot of fun, but didn’t teach much.
The most important strategy for classroom management is rhythm.
A well-run class has a rhythm. When kids know the pattern, they know when to shut up. That doesn’t mean a Puritanically-silent class. A class that’s too quiet is like visiting a morgue on Monday. Students should feel comfortable enough to ask and answer questions; otherwise, you are talking to a wall.
For a fifty minute class, MY rhythm goes…
- Five minutes, announcements/attendance. Housekeeping from the previous day. Homework collection if any
- Ten minutes of an anticipatory set (or whatever they call them today). I call these questions of the day, a journaling or opinion-based question. It was a great time to tell whatever story I wanted, as long as I could make it relevant
- Five minutes of grammar review. Usually a sentence to be corrected on the overhead. Grammar puts kids to sleep, and five minutes a day is much better than a month-long lesson
- Ten to fifteen minutes, reading or discussion
- Five minutes, visual example
- Ten minutes, reading or discussion
The last few minutes are for reminders, presenting a homework assignment or a preview of the next day. Don’t leave more than a few empty minutes at the end of a class. That doesn’t look good and those minutes last forever. Go bell-to-bell whenever possible!
Kids can’t pay attention? Neither can most adults.
If you expect students to do one thing for forty-eight minutes during a class, you will be disappointed. Even as little as pausing for a minute to show a picture or video clip retains their attention. They can’t focus for more than ten or fifteen minutes at once. Guess what, when you were that age, you couldn’t either. You probably still can’t.