Sunday, June 17, 2007

Classroom Management: 101

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Define Class Rules (a.k.a. Classroom Procedures)

The discipline committee must decide what sort of rules will be enforced school wide. Try to limit these rules to about four or five. I think that it’s easy to enforce a handful of rules that everyone knows and can even spout off the top of their heads; but when you get so many rules, that no one can remember without looking at the paper then you will have too many rules for everyone to enforce. My own school developed these rules. All rules should be stated in their positive format and not in negatives, i.e., instead of don’t hit people, we found a way to say this by our second rule:

  1. Be in your assigned seat ready to work when the tardy bell finishes its ring.

  2. Keep hands, feet, books, and objects to yourself.

  3. Speak courteously to your teacher and fellow students.

  4. Follow the teacher's directions.

  5. Bring only those items which are essential to the educational process.

The class rules should be posted in every classroom and referred to often.

These are fine classroom rules.  However, just posting them on the wall does not insure they will be followed.  I have students that are learning disabled in reading.  They could care less about a "stinking" poster on the wall.  So, as part of our school's discipline policy, we spend class time teaching what these rules. Instead of calling them rules, I prefer the word procedures.  Also, in our school, we do not have warning bells and tardy bells, but we may add them this coming year.  I personally have to program our school's bells and when the power blinks, our bells shut down and they have to be reprogrammed.  So, before we go to tardy bells, someone is going to have to purchase one of those continuous power supply or backup batteries. [note to self: remember that.]

The hardest part of classroom procedures is for the teacher to get the students to buy into the system.  They have to see that you mean business and you are not going to let them slide if they do not follow the procedure.  If I let them get by with it one day, and then send them to the principal the next day, then chaos rules.  For me, instead of just posting the list, I use a flip chart and conduct a brainstorming session and just ask my students what the class procedures should be, if we are going to be in this classroom all year together and end up with all level threes and fours on our EOG tests and everyone passing to the next grade.  I teach middle school, grades 6, 7, and 8.  I have my list of procedures already formulated on paper so when students come up with something like- "bring paper", then one says "bring ya pencil", and one might say "bring your notebook", I list all these. After brainstorming, I ask them to look at the list and give them 2.5 minutes to discuss the list with the student next to them and see if any of the items on the list have anything in common.  The items listed above all fit nicely under procedure 5. Bring only those items which are essential to the educational process.

Here is the next big important step I have found that works for me: Thumbs up, thumbs down, and I am not sure.  After the class has found commonality and formulated our list which is usually very close to the one above, we vote.  Thumbs up if you can live with all the procedures, thumbs down if you can not, and thumbs sideways if you are still not sure.  Polling the students helps them see that everyone else knows they know the procedures.  If a student is trying to be cute, and gives a thumbs down, or really does not want to follow the procedure, then the discussion of why we are in school, what are your career goals, what would your mama say will not help.  I simply ask the student to spend some time with me after the class so we can talk.  If I have a student that is authoritative defiant, they just want to pick a argument, I have to remove them from the group.  I have experienced students that want to try to win every point of the discussion and I have a prearranged signal with my school counselor.  I have a phone in my classroom and I hit the three keys to his extension and just say, "could you please give me some time".  This means our code for come to my room and look for a student about to snap.  You might ask well how does he know it is your room?  Our phone system has a sort of caller id. 

So, what is the purpose of writing a blog post about classroom rules/procedures?  I am not doing it for my readers, this is for me to reflect and share.  If you read this and think this is nothing neither fresh nor blending-edge, congratulations.  If you have a new middle science teacher and you want to help them but do not have the time, email them a link to my blog.  If you have constructive points you want to add, leave a comment.  If you think my little classroom management reflection is worthless, keep your comments to yourself and have a nice summer. 

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