TURNING ADVERSARIES INTO ALLIES
Strategic Teaching Strategies for Success in Classroom Management
“Behavior management doesn’t always go as planned. Some days it’s more like herding cats.” – Author Unknown
I could not have found this quote to be more true than when I chose to work with a group of 30 rising third through fifth grade students during the summer of 2018. It was not too long after discovering this quote. All of my 25 years served as an educator have been involved with middle and high school students. The experience of working with the energetic group of enthusiastic children during the summer, while trying to teach them how to write content and create illustrations in telling their own stories, felt very much like herding cats. I explained to the camp director feeling like I didn’t know anything about classroom management. It was a humorous, humbling, and, at times, humiliating experience feeling powerless to influence their cooperation. By the end of Day 4 I was questioning whether I desired to continue. At the conclusion of Day 6, I felt empowered. What changed between Day 4 and Day 6? I introduced incentives while remaining persistent in remaining patient and communicating my expectations of their cooperation to display and demonstrate respect, self-control, and perseverance in completing their work. It worked, but not without my initiative and willingness to consider how I could be and do better to influence them to do the same.
I was invited to the 2018 Black Educators Rock Conference in Jacksonville, Florida July 11th-15th and had the opportunity to share information from the content of this post about being strategic to influence uncooperative students to become our allies in the classroom. An area, like my experience this summer, that I did not always feel empowered in working with challenging students; I applied best practices learned over the course of my career I present to empower other educators so they may empower their students. Consider the following 3 points to help you and help your students learn to use their personal power to improve their ability to cooperate, engage, and become positive contributors to themselves, their classwork, and the classroom.
#1- The Priority of Self-care
4 Factors of Strategic Classroom Management
Physical Space of Classroom
You as the Classroom Teacher
In our efforts to provide love and support to our students let’s not neglect the increasing importance to love and support ourselves. Too often as educators we do not consider the need to implement self-care strategies to ensure our well-being is being preserved to our own detriment that disables us from consistently giving our optimal best to all of our students. This school year plan to set aside time for you to replenish:
Professional Development that addresses areas of concern
Personal time to recuperate
Positive peer / family encounters
Participation in activities of interest unrelated to work
#2- The Power of Belief
“The good teacher makes the poor student good and the good student superior.”
- Marva Collins
The most important strategy in being an effective strategic classroom manager is your ability to believe you can influence change that facilitates cooperation from your students. I don’t have the ability to make a student behave. I don’t have control of the increasing environmental factors that affect a child’s ability to learn. I don’t always have the ability to address each of my student’s needs while they are in my classroom, but do I still believe I can make a difference despite all of this?
#3- The Practice of Strategic Intervention Strategies
One of my favorite Proverbs I relate to the experience of classroom management is Proverbs 28:2,
“When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a
man of understanding and knowledge maintains order.”
Identify who the students are that would be classified as ‘rulers’
Decide to implement strategies that redirect student(s) to cooperate
Determine best practice strategies that aid in influencing student’s future cooperation
Do consistently what inspires all students to buy-in, engage, and cooperate
As educators it is imperative that we learn to plan for misconduct as we plan our lessons. Experience has taught us, as I learned early in my career; yelling, arguing, demanding, punishing frequently or excessively, ignoring consistently, verbally demeaning, or avoiding conflict with students does not help us, the student, or leave us or the student feeling empowered in a healthy productive way. It is our knowledge and understanding of professional best practices, seeking support from professional colleagues, parents, and administrators that consistently give us the best hope for making a difference with all of our students. The biggest lesson learned from my 25th year of teaching was remembering to ask for help from my colleagues with students I struggled with. Teamwork can go a long way in helping us maintain sanity, allow time and opportunity for gaining clarity in intervening with student, and prevents reoccurring classroom meltdowns by educators and students. Early in my career my mentor told me, ‘The moment you believe you know everything is probably when you should retire.’ Make the choices consistently to acquire the belief and strategies to be empowered in empowering your students to excel and thrive in your classroom.
Cortland Jones is an educator in Prince George’s County Public Schools with over 13 years of experience in facilitating classroom management workshops. Entering his 26th year as an educator, he is the author of Out of the Darkness: A Journey into the Marvelous Light published in 2014 and his book for educators titled Apples of Grace: 31 Days of Inspiration for the Educator is scheduled to be published in September 2018. You can visit his blog for teachers gracetoteach.wordpress.com for more posts about classroom management. To learn more about Black Educators Rock, Inc. visit their website http://blackeducatorsrockinc.com.