This is a question I ask my new hires during every interview. Yes, it is a loaded question…because on the one hand, you want them to like you and WANT them to come to school, but on the other hand, you cannot be their friend…I learned this the hard way!
My first teaching position was as a 4th grade math and science teacher. I had just graduated from college (with a degree in education) and had a student teaching supervisor that made me believe I could handle anything! He would brag about me in class, point out only good things I was doing, and I began to think, “this teaching thing will be cake…they will LOVE me, trust me, and just come to school because I will have SO many great things to teach them!” Yeah, right….not so much!
My mistake is that I really did believe this…and really didn’t have a mentor or anyone to really help me realize that I was living in a dream world…that is not how it works! No, they came into my portable building on the first day, and I swear, they all had a plan that could totally RUIN the rest of my teaching career! And that first year was horrible! But here is what I learned:
- Kids want structure and rules. They need boundaries and routine. I always develop 3-5 rules that students can understand and live with. I post them on the wall so they are VERY visible and we review them daily. They should live, breathe, and eat those rules!
- Kids need to know you care about them…not necessarily “like” them. They need to know they can trust you. You are in charge of their little lives for many hours of a school year…and they need to feel safe and secure. I would tell my students daily…You may not like this, but this is what is best for you…and they would believe it.
- If a rule is a rule on Monday, it is always a rule on Wednesday, and Friday…consistency is KEY! If you waiver even for one moment, they will see it…and they will run with it! I have seen so many new teachers have difficulty with this mainly because it is not easy to reinforce rules consistently…but when you learn to do it, you will have a GREAT classroom.
- Consequences…boy oh boy! This one is tough…PLEASE…NO MATTER WHAT…do not threaten students with something you cannot follow through on! They will learn how much power you do…or do not…have quickly and they will use it! Pick consequences that match the offense and ones that YOU can reinforce. I tell my teachers…as my principal told me…once they come to the office, your power is done. The administrator gets to choose the consequence then and you may not like it!
- Student engagement! I ask teachers all the time, what is the difference between compliance and engagement? Do you know???? Remember, I can sit a “look” like I am listening (compliant), but I may not be focused on anything but how many minutes are left in class. The more exciting and engaging your classroom is, the more students will want to participate and STAY in class…not get sent out.
These are some simple ideas to get you started. I hope they help! As you continue on your journey with us, we will visit this often…as I truly believe that your management in your classroom is one of the biggest indicators of success!
Sparkle on, my friends!