Guiding Principles in Classroom Management

A common problem, sometimes the most. ‘common, that beginning teachers face is poor classroom management. As the quotation beneath the title of this Chapter states, classroom management is not yet teaching, yet it is a pre-requisite to teaching. We cannot teach when our classes are inattentive, worse when they are unruly. This is how critical classroom management is.

As classroom managers, we manage resources to facilitate learning. These resources include the 3 Ms Moment, Materials, and Man. In the context of teaching and learning, these are time, teaching materials and other physical features like desks and tables, and the learners themselves.

Below is a list of principles on classroom management backed up by research as cited by James H. Stronge in his book “Qualities of Effective Teachers” (2002)

1. Consistent, proactive discipline is the crux of effective classroom management.

“Prevention is better than cure”, so goes the adage. If we are proactive in our approach to discipline we prevent unnecessary disciplinary problems from cropping up. We have not to wait for disciplinary problems to erupt for us to take a move. It is analogous to picking up a banana peeling when we see one scattered along the sidewalk, before anyone will slip and break his or her bones. We may pick up the banana peeling after the accident but it is quite late for damage has already been done. In short, let us anticipate potential problems and nip them in the bud.

To be consistent in our classroom management, we apply at all times established rules and policies to all pupils/Students regardless of creed, color, economic status, academic standing in class. We do not say this and do another. That will be a blow to our credibility.

2. Establish routines for all daily tasks and needs.

Routinized collection of assignments, passing of papers, and preparation for experiments saves as a lot of time and effort. We have not to explain or instruct our pupils/students on how to pass papers, collect assignments, prepare for experiments day in and day out because we have established, the routines for these everyday tasks. They have become habitual for each member of the class. Students/pupils already know what to do and under what condition. Routine procedures give rise to orderly learning environment and maximum and optimum use of precious time. Doyle says, “routinization makes classroom activities less susceptible to breakdowns and interruptions because students know the normal sequence of events and what is expected of them.” (Ornstein, p.96)

3. Orchestrate smooth transitions and continuity of momentum throughout the day.

Smooth transitions and continuity of momentum throughout the day ensure us that every instructional moment is made use of wisely. No unnecessary lull is created that will breed classroom restlessness, which is the father of disciplinary problems.

4. Strike a balance between variety and challenge in students’ activities.

A variety of student activities will ensure that students’ multiple intelligences and varied learning styles are considered in the conduct of student activities. Most of the time our activities fall under the linguistically intelligent group category. Games that require word use, talking, writing will certainly challenge the linguistically intelligent students but bore the logic and math wizards and other groups of different intelligences. When boredom creeps into the classroom, we have disciplinary problems. in our hands.

An extremely easy learning task does not challenge our pupils and students. Neither does an extremely difficult one. It is the golden mean between the extremes of easy and difficult that will keep our pupils/students reasonably occupied.

5. As classroom manager, be aware of all actions and activities in the classroom.

Our heightened awareness of everything that is happening in our classroom puts our pupils and students on their toes all the time. While our back faces them when we write on the board, our “eyes on the back of our heads” will make our pupils and students feel that we know what they are doing. This is what Kounin calls with-it-ness.

Our visibility in and outside the classroom may serve as a deterrent in the outbreak of untoward students’ behavior. Research findings point that “effective classroom management skills include, the use of space and proximity or movement around the classroom for nearness to trouble spots and to encourage attention.” (Stronge, 2002)

6. Resolve minor inattention and disruption before they become major disruptions.

The old adage “a stitch on time saves nine” aptly applies here. We have not to wait until our class is out of control. Misdemeanor has a “ripple effect” if not checked early. Conflagration begins with a spark. Put out the spark early enough to avoid conflagration. We ought to respond to inappropriate behavior promptly.

7. Reinforce positive behavior.

Be generous with genuine praise. Some teachers are quite stingy with praise. These are the teachers who think will become less when they praise others. They have the so-called “subtraction mentality.” Other teachers are overgenerous with their praises overflow so much that they give praise even when it is not appropriate. For our praise to be genuine it must be given according to merit. It is our way of appreciating and recognizing hard work and good behavior.

8. Treat minor disturbances calmly. (Ornstein, 1990)

“Do not make a mountain out of a mole.” If a stern look or gesture can kill the inappropriate behavior so be it. That’s the end period! Let us not make a fuss about it.

9. Work out a physical arrangement of chairs that facilitates an interactive teaching-learning process.

There is no doubt that the external environment affects us. The most common arrangement of tables and chairs in the classroom is one where the teachers’ table and chairs are in front and the student’s desk or chairs are arranged in rows facing the teacher. This seat arrangement does not always enhance interaction among students. Let us work for a flexible seating arrangement where we can re-arrange seats or desk to suit our learning needs and conditions.

10. Make good use of every instructional moment.

Minimize discipline time to maximize instructional time.