Classroom Management: Ten Tips for New Teachers

The following article is from the “New Teacher Bootcamp” archives from the site. Each article is meant to not only empower new teachers but to let them know they are not alone in their struggles. Join us each week for new articles dealing with everything a new teacher would want to know. 

1. Don’t be afraid to be the structured, strict one! Remember: Whether they’d ever admit it or not, students respect structure, consistency, and authority. You should be a positive, supportive role model, but you are not here to be their friend. It will be tempting! As a new teacher, I wanted to inspire from Day One and when they began pushing back, I softened, not wanting to lose their favor. Bad idea: your students will not respect you if they know they can push you around. Good classroom management will “wow” administrators, too, which can’t hurt if you are working toward a continuing contract. Don’t be afraid to be “that teacher” who does things like…

2. Assign seats from the start. This is the absolute easiest way to minimize classroom management problems. Many secondary teachers resist creating a seating chart because students grumble about it, especially if other teachers in the building do not use them. Afraid of grumbling? See #1 on this list! Begin with a randomized seating chart and change it as you learn about students’ behaviors and social tendencies. Seating charts can work both ways: Disruptive students can be split up, but self-conscious, shy students can be seated with friends or especially kind students who might build them up. Change your seating chart periodically and have different seats for different activities–my students currently sit in two different formations during class; one for independent reading and writing time and another for direct instruction. Seating charts also help when you…

3. Expect that students will start class without you. When class begins, expect that each student will enter the room, find his or her seat, gather needed materials, and somehow access (via the board, projector, Internet, etc.) a daily assignment to begin on their own. You’ll need to walk them through the routine for the first few weeks of school, but then back off and begin expecting it without your direction. Praise students who set a good example. This year, my students struggled with getting ready for class and preferred to socialize instead, so I broke out the big guns: I toss a Jolly Rancher to each student who is prepared for class along with a “Nice job.” Colleagues walk by and can’t believe how quiet the room is before the first bell even rings! This practice will definitely help to…

4. Eliminate opportunities for loitering and downtime. Problems begin when students are idle. Make directions clear, and provide them in writing as well as orally. Wheels come off the wagon at the end of class, almost no matter what. Allow students to pack early (they’ll do it anyway!) but not until your cue. Expect that they remain in their seats until the bell rings. Nothing is more frustrating to me (or to administrators!) than walking by a classroom where students are waiting by the door and in the hallway, backpacks on, five full minutes before the bell rings. Not only does this scream “I-have-no-control”, but it speaks poorly to how effectively you are using all of your class time. Establish a routine where students know you’ll let them get ready to leave, but only with enough time to do so. And don’t let them crowd the door–jostling, shoving, and worse happens there. It’s a small, simple, and effective expectation to set. And if they follow directions, it will enable you to…

5. Praise your students absolutely whenever possible. Whether they’d ever admit it, students are desperate for your approval. Absolutely nothing works as well for classroom management as bulding students’ confidence in how you feel about them. Think about how often you receive actual, genuine praise. How much does it make your day when it does happen? Now imagine you are an insecure teen who rarely, if ever, has been complimented, not from home and certainly not in school. Find something every day–whether it’s “Thank you for being the first one ready for class!” to “Thanks for shutting the door for me–that was really helpful” to “Your essay is one I’d like to use as an example–is that okay?” Every little bit helps. Try this tomorrow: Find a moment at the begnning of class to pull your most troublesome student into the hall and give him or her a genuine, several-minute compliment. Re-enter the room and see how that student behaves for the rest of class.

6. When a student becomes defiant, always offer a choice. The last thing you want is a power struggle. Try this.

Teacher: Please put your cell phone over on my desk.

Student: Yeah, right!

Teacher, calmly: Okay, well, you have three choices right now. You can put your phone on my desk, you can step outside the room and talk with me, or you can plan to stay for detention tonight. I’ll give you thirty seconds to decide. Please make a good choice

[walk away].

Walk away for thirty seconds, but then…

7. Always, always, ALWAYS follow through on your word. The first time you assign a detention, send someone to the office, confiscate a phone, or have a stern hallway conversation will be scary–but it has to happen. It will not take long for students to realize if you only talk about expectations but never enforce them. If you tell a student that the next time you see his phone, you will need him to put it on your desk, then the next time you see his phone, tell him to put it on your desk. Don’t talk yourself out of it! Have in mind the choices you’ll give him if he refuses, but follow through. In the same vein, if a student is having a bad day, give her a break–but don’t do it by threatening something and not following through. In a case like that, it’s important to…

8. Have frequent hallway conversations. The social pressures of middle and high school are staggering–stop for a minute and remember what it was like. No matter what you need to talk about, there is a gigantic difference between addressing a student in front of his or her peers and doing so in private. Sometimes it is important for your entire class to know you are addressing a misbehavior, but choose these battles and avoid conversing across a quiet, settled room. Calmly ask the student to step outside of the door. If the student is upset, finish what you are doing in the room, giving them a few minutes to cool down (or sweat it out for a few minutes!). Then, join them in the hall and shut the door keeping yourself in a position to look through the window at what’s going on in the room. A big tip: Let the student talk first. “What’s going on with you today?” is a good starter. Sometimes tears will come, and more often than not you will get the whole story (Hint: It’s probably not about you). Listen! Don’t interrupt. Stay calm. Use “I” statements and make clear why the behavior is unacceptable. Sometimes, that’s all you need to do. At other times, a consequence will have to be enacted that upsets the student, and that’s okay–just be glad you’re in the hallway. Sometimes I let the student take a walk and come back cooled off.
I don’t only use hallways conversations for discipline; in fact, a good rule of thumb is that a hallway conversation is appropriate anytime you need to address a student one-on-one, such as when you remember that…

9. If you make a mistake, apologize. You want to be a firm, respectful authority in your classroom, but to keep students’ respect you need to admit it when you are wrong. If you realize that a student is upset with you for good reason, pull them into the hall and apologize. Reiterate that you expect their behavior to be respectful in return, but be sincere in your apology. This will often calm a situation and help a student see that you are just trying to do your best, too.

10. Don’t wait until next year to change something! Students are flexible, and understanding and respecting new expectations is good for them. If you liked an idea here, start doing it tomorrow. If it will make your classroom run more smoothly, help students learn more effectively and help you be more confident in yourself, why wait another day?

If you liked an idea here, start doing it tomorrow. Consider earning an online masters in education to further learn the best classroom management strategies, and also be able to apply them in real time in your classroom.

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  1. Marilyn Time2Teach December 20, 2012 at 1:30 am - Reply

    This was great advice on classroom management! The Teachers rarely if ever receive effective training on strategies to manage student behaviors which constantly interrupt teaching and learning! This lack of training creates chaos in the classroom! I train teachers in classroom strategies which decrease classroom disruptions while increasing time to teach.

  2. Dawn December 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    From a 33 year veteran:
    * protect the interests of those who are working and cooperating rather than catering to the troublemakers.
    * don't issue class-wide punishments when the problem is a cohort or individual
    * it's your room–the students are just passing through. Make the environment what you want it to be.

  3. Classroom Management Ideas February 1, 2013 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    […] Classroom Management: Ten Tips for New Teachers […]

  4. sondance March 7, 2013 at 10:28 am - Reply

    from an 'old school' elementary veteran of 10 years: in an inner city system, defiance is common. choices are limited to two, which often are offered this way: " my choice or one that is less appealing". before that happens though, i usually ask the student to come up with a consequence of their own. that means they are accountable.

  5. […] Compliment the worst-behaved kids as much as you possibly can. As I’ve addressed before with regards to classroom management, compliments are really important. They can be very difficult, though, especially when you are […]

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