Teaching is a challenging profession with stresses from all directions – administration, parents, government, colleagues and of course our students. Teachers aren’t capable of controlling everything around them, but there are classroom management mistakes that teachers make that if fixed, would greatly improve their teaching.
This article will explain 10 classroom management mistakes that teachers make and how to fix them to make classroom interactions more pleasant and manageable for the teacher and students.
There are five common mistakes inexperienced teachers make when trying to quiet-down a rowdy class. They typically would:
- Try to shout students down;
- Give students the silent treatment;
- Run for help;
- Try gimmicks;
- Concede to the ring leaders.
There are also five other pitfalls that could undermine the effectiveness of a class are: being a buddy; not having classroom rules; not being prepared; poor work ethics and failing at school politics.
Try to shout them down
When you go into class and the students are loud and not listening, some teachers get aggressive and resort to shouting for them to pay attention. That’s a big mistake, because as soon as you have to raise your voice and get angry, you’ve fallen into their trap and they instinctively know that you’ve lost the battle.
Mentally you’ve told yourself to shout and be aggressive to get these students to keep quiet and they’re going to make a game out of it. They’re going to see how far can they push you each time. So, don’t get angry don’t shout, don’t be aggressive. Save that for a desperate situation.
As the teacher and as the adult in the room, you should remain calm. They’re looking towards you for guidance as a leader. Don’t put that negative emotion into your teaching; stare them down with a smile on your face and wait for them to get quiet. There are methods to actually quiet-down a noisy class; it’s part of classroom management which young teachers must implement from day one.
Some teachers get at wit’s end will keep quiet; they’ll go and sit at a desk and say I’m not going to teach you until everybody in this class is quiet. They’re trying to use social leverage to get the class to be quiet. Once again, it might work one time, but it’s a gimmick.
Giving a spouse the silent-treatment may work at home, but not in class. The students won’t fall for it again because there’s a difference between keeping quiet and keeping quiet; waiting for them to calm down. Actually, after that first time students will find it funny and they will make a game out of how far they can push you. The teacher becomes the victim and they are the bullies; once they have that bully mindset no amount of begging and pleading will make them stop.
Run for help
As a teacher, you are always the one in control, you do not want to be arguing and fighting with students. So, don’t send them out in the hallway and don’t punish the entire class for the actions of a few just because you have lost control. It’s not the class’s fault; you’re the one that should be practicing better classroom management.
Another mistake many novice teachers make, is to run out of the classroom to a senior teacher or the principal and bring them back to the class. The message that it sends is: “I can’t handle them, come and help me please!” The principal goes in and asks: “What’s going on in here?” with the teacher following. That is not a place of strength, it shows the students that you’ve lost the plot; they will never respect you because you’ve “run to mommy” to get help, instead of taking responsibility. So, do your best to get them to be quiet yourself.
Remember, one of the important classroom management strategies is to remember to make it about the action and not the student. Make sure that the students understand that their action was wrong, but under no circumstance attack the student personally. Instead of asking: “What’s wrong with you?” Rather say: “I’m upset at that behavior, it’s unacceptable, I will not allow it!” So, the students know that you like them, but you’re not going to put up with that behavior.
There is a difference between creating good habits and routines that students follow in class, and using bad advice and gimmicks from the internet to try and control your class. A common trick is flicking the lights on and off; or using a bell, or using some kind of app to attract the attention of the students.
Some teachers use such “bells and whistles” and it might work if you use it in the correct way, but usually such gimmicks are desperate attempts by teachers with little confidence and power in the classroom. Think about one of the best teachers you’ve ever had; did they use a bell? Or did they need an app to control the classroom? No, they’ve grown in power and they knew exactly how to treat their students. So, you shouldn’t put all your hope into temporary solutions; they’re only band-aids for classroom management.
Concede power to ringleaders
There are one or two difficult students in your class, so you give them some kind of role or authority over the other students. You think it’s a good idea because now you keep them busy and you can teach the rest of the class, but actually you gave away your power!
What you are basically saying is: “I can’t control the class on my own; I’m going to beg the troublemaker to be good so I can teach the rest of the class.” It’s going to work maybe once or twice, but the other students will resent you. And that once the ringleader students get bored of their role, they will start to rebel again in a different way. Novice teachers should rather keep on improving classroom management skills to get the students to quiet down; that way you keep your respect.
Let me be clear – I’m not saying don’t give students roles in class to make them feel like they’re part of a community and to give them responsibility; I’m saying don’t concede your power to students who do not deserve it.
So, what mistakes have you made in your classroom? None of us are perfect and we all have made mistakes in our classroom management; which is why novice teachers must be helped not to repeat these five big mistakes.
Befriending your students at all cost:
Buddying up to students is a common mistake among young teachers. This is maybe more prevalent coming from cultures where children are perceived as young adults. ESL teachers usually teach cross-cultural and must not assume that their personal views are appropriate when teaching foreign students.
Not having Classroom Rules from Day One
Inexperienced teachers often disregard tried-and-proven advice to their own detriment and in the end performance of the students and the school suffers. Some naively view classroom rules and discipline as outdated – underestimating the demands of being a successful teacher.
Being unprepared results in noisy classes
Veteran teachers will vouch that a noisy class is usually symptomatic of an unprepared teacher. Simple human nature will cause students and colleagues to lose their esteem of such a teacher. Students must know exactly what work to start with even before entering the classroom; they must know the rules and know what the teacher is expecting from them.
Poor work ethics reflect in student behavior
The teacher’s poor work ethics soon reflect in the behavior of students; young teachers must learn that good, effective administration is essential to cope with the mountain of paperwork that soon accumulates in a classroom; being pro-active with lesson plans, testing and marking enforces the feeling of being in control of your classroom.
Failing at school politics
Lastly, new teachers may want to must take an active part and immerse themselves into the school’s activities but avoid getting involved in school politics. Don’t isolate yourself, thinking that successful teaching is a nine-to-five job. Be helpful and polite, but avoid gossip like the plague.
New teachers need all the help they can get, but are often thrown in the proverbial lion’s den and must learn to sink or swim. This is not due to malice from management’s side, but purely because of the overwhelming challenges many schools face within society. Avoiding the five major mistakes and the five pitfalls, novice teachers will go a long way in succeeding with healthy class management and surviving those challenging first years of their careers.