As regular readers of this blog and my books know, I love teaching at our school.
Nevertheless, it is not a “walk in the park.” One hundred percent of our students receive a free breakfast and lunch, and many face other challenges inherent in the inner-city. Sometimes those challenges play-out in the classroom.
One of my classes has been a bit challenging classroom management-wise for me recently and it reached a crescendo last week. When one of those days happens, I will typically become frustrated and then angry, and every ounce of my being will want to punish. However, probably the key classroom management lesson I’ve learned over the years is that — more often than not — punishment will make things worse (of course, there are extreme cases when punishment is certainly necessary), so I am usually able to control that impulse.
Instead, I will jettison my lesson plan and redirect students into some less intensive learning activity that I know they will want to do (a game, get into their book discussion groups) and then make arrangements with teachers of the most egregious offenders to pull them out for several minutes the next day during my free period so I can have a one-on-one reflective conversation with them. For example, we’ll talk about what their goals are and how their behavior is hurting or helping to achieve them — if they want to be an Ultimate Fighter, not being able to show self-control is going to create problems. We’ll revisit some of the life skill lessons we’ve done and talk about what they think might help them develop more self-control (change seats, take their work outside if they feel they are “losing it,” get a stress ball, etc.).
Fortunately, these really bad classroom management days don’t happen very often but, when they do, my using this strategy has always worked, and I know it has worked better than what would have happened if I took the punishment route.
It fits into what I consider the best piece of classroom management advice I’ve ever read. It came from Marvin Marshall:
Will what I am about to do or say bring me closer or will it push me away farther from the person with whom I am communicating?
This really brings me to the main point of this post. In reflecting on all this over the past few days as I’ve seen — again — how effective this strategy can be, I thought I’d try putting it into a simple and rough flowchart.
Check it out here and let me know what you think and how it can be improved (I’m not sure if it will come through in an RSS Reader: