Hi! I’m Tajuana, and I’m so excited to be a guest blogger for Minds in Bloom. Today, I will be sharing a classroom management strategy that I’ve used throughout my teaching career. It has impacted my classroom in so many positive ways. I believe it will do the same for you.
All Eyes Are on You
One of the most challenging aspects about being a teacher is learning how to effectively manage your classroom. From day one, it seems as though everyone is watching to see how well you’ve mastered this skill. When anyone enters your classroom, they quickly make judgments about you based on how wonderful or terrible your students are behaving.
If you’re a teacher who has excellent classroom management, chances are you’ll feel a sense of pride knowing that others are watching you. You probably welcome staff into your classroom because you’re confident that everything will run smoothly.
If you’re a teacher who is still learning how to navigate classroom management, visitors probably make you feel extremely anxious. You are keenly aware that staff, parents, and others are judging your capabilities as a teacher anytime they see students who are off-task or misbehaving.
The Secret of Classroom Management
Is it possible that some teachers are just naturally gifted with great classroom management and others aren’t?
While it may seem as though some teachers have a knack for getting students to listen to them, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for other teachers to achieve the same results. Every teacher has the potential to have excellent classroom management; it isn’t specific to just an elite group of teachers.
Teachers who have mastered classroom management have learned to consistently implement strategies that work. They aren’t winging it, and they certainly aren’t relying on luck.
There are many strategies that can help you to have positive classroom management. However, there’s one that I’ve found to be the most helpful, which is building connections with your students.
Never underestimate the power that building connections with your students can have on your classroom environment. Building strong connections with your students is an essential component to having positive classroom management.
There is often a huge emphasis on this at the beginning of the school year, but over time, it fizzles out as teachers become more focused on the curriculum. What many fail to realize is that you will never be able to successfully teach your curriculum if students are off-task and misbehaving. Having excellent classroom management actually helps to facilitate successful teaching.
Building Connections with Students Works
This is especially true when trying to connect with challenging students. Students who misbehave and disrupt your lessons are often doing it for a reason. What typically breaks the cycle or diminishes the misbehaviors is when they realize that they have a teacher who isn’t just concerned about their education, but also values them as a person.
Throughout my teaching career, I’ve experienced some of the most challenging students (I don’t make that statement lightly). Some of my students have had a plethora of referrals and some were even expelled from school in the years prior to me teaching them.
While I could have easily labeled them based off of their past behaviors and assumed that they would never change, I chose to do the opposite. I treated them as though I didn’t know their history at all. I spent time talking to them and building strong teacher/student relationships. I asked them about their weekends and let them talk to me about their hobbies. I often allowed them to be my classroom helpers.
I’ve come to realize that students who misbehave often have a wall up and aren’t very trusting of authority figures. They come to your class believing that you’re already aware of all their past mistakes, and they’re determined to live up to that reputation. They don’t want to have a positive connection with you because it’s easier to misbehave for a teacher who you don’t like. When there’s no connection, there’s no level of guilt for misbehaving.
The opposite is also true. If they like you as their teacher and enjoy being in your class, it makes them reflect on their misbehaviors more. They gradually start wanting to live up to the positive expectations that you have for them.
It’s Not as Easy As It Sounds
I don’t want to paint a picture that making connections with challenging students will make them instantly change. The change will usually happen over time.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, then this strategy isn’t for you. It takes a lot of time and patience for changes to occur. You have to be dedicated to what you’re doing and fully invested in wanting your students to become better people. Sometimes you won’t see changes until weeks or even months, but there will be changes.
From personal experience, I can tell you that I’ve had students whose behaviors changed so drastically that their former teachers and other staff members no longer recognized them. They wondered what happened to them. Why were they behaving better now and not getting into trouble like before?
I remember a former principal came to me one time and shared something that surprised me. She said that she and the assistant principal had talked to one of my students. They told him that they noticed that he was doing very well that year and wasn’t getting into trouble like he had been in all the previous years. They were happy to see this, but they wondered what had changed. His response to them was, “I finally got the right teacher.”
You’d be surprised the difference that showing students you care will make in their lives. Every student deserves a clean slate and a fresh start each year. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be aware of a student’s behavior history. Having knowledge about what triggers their misbehaviors is definitely to your advantage. However, you shouldn’t let that knowledge cause you to place limits on their capabilities.
Building Connections is Not a Cookie Cutter Process
Making connections with your students is a lot of hard work, and it isn’t a one size fits all process. Each student has different needs. Some students only want to be seen. They want you to acknowledge that they got a new hair cut or they’re wearing a nice, new outfit. Others may want to tell you about their weekends every Monday morning. Some may have special interests like fishing, art, rabbits, or something else. It’s important that you get to know your students and find ways to connect with them.
Connecting with your students won’t always be convenient. You won’t always have the time to listen to every story. Often, I’d squeeze in time where I could and when I couldn’t, I didn’t. I’d talk to students when they arrived in the mornings or at the end of the day. Sometimes, I would have a quick chat with someone in the lunchroom, at recess, etc. You definitely don’t have to sacrifice teaching your curriculum to connect with your students, but you do want to be diligent about trying.
It's Worth Trying!
There’s so much more I could share about my experiences on this topic of building connections, and there’s definitely many other strategies that can be used as well to improve your classroom management. I hope that this at least whets your appetite for the endless possibilities that can come from connecting with your students. Give it a try, and you’ll see that your efforts aren’t in vain.
Tajuana Brown has taught for thirteen years in public schools. She enjoys sharing her knowledge with other teachers, and helping them become more confident in their roles as teachers. Her course, Teaching with Excellence helps new teachers navigate through their first year of teaching and their teaching careers. In her spare time, Tajuana enjoys reading, shopping, and spending time with her family and friends.