Classroom management is not easy. How do you “manage” 32 or more different and restless teenagers in the same room every day, with each one displaying various levels of strengths and/or weaknesses in different subjects? Each teacher has no more than 45 minutes at a time to “manage” all of them, and bring out the best in each of them! It’s not enough for us only to be “well-versed” in the subject that we teach.
Teaching, especially at the secondary level, requires special knowledge and preparation in the area we teach, plus excellent leadership skills. We educators need to be leaders, who are able to coach, manage, and show each student how to improve in his/her area of weakness. Yet, 32 or more different and hormone-raging students do not automatically sit quietly in the same room for 45 minutes at a time, and allow teachers to work with individual students. Parents, you more than anyone else, should appreciate this fact. Think of your very own teenager – all the hassle you go through everyday trying to “get through or put up” with him/her. Now, multiply that times 30 (or more) “in the same room” – 45 minutes at a time, everyday for 6 or more continuous hours. Could you handle that?
Teaching is not easy – but, it can be fun. It requires that we be specially prepared in the subject that we teach, and that we know how to work with young people. Above all else, it requires that we always remain “in control” of the classroom. A disorganized, unkempt, or clutter-filled classroom will send the message to students that poor behavior and middling work habits is acceptable, regardless of how often or how forcefully we say otherwise.
Our classrooms look should match the call for excellence, hard work, and respect; otherwise, we might as well be talking to the wall everyday. Classrooms that are messy and disorganized (books and papers piled on the desks, various materials and resources strewn all over the place, bare and dirty walls) are not conducive to learning. On the other hand, clean, organized, poster-filled classrooms will do wonders for behavior in those rooms.
Order, whether at school, at the office, or at home, commands reverence. Adults and students who walk into a bright, neatly arranged, poster-filled classroom feel like they’re walking into a museum. They enter carefully and admire its peaceful and sacred learning environment. Plus, an attractive classroom encourages students to want to be part of what goes on inside. Don’t we all want to be exclusive? Classrooms should communicate to students that indeed they are exclusive.
More importantly, the manner in which classrooms are kept should show how much a teacher values respect -- the respect students need to have for learning, for each other, and for property. Although students might not verbalize it, they see and feel that sense of respect every time they walk into a classroom. A neat, well-organized, poster-filled classroom has a powerful effect on students – it sweeps away discouragement and mental clutter. It also reminds a teacher that he/she is in control of the classroom.
Creating a classroom that our students enjoy coming to every day is the cornerstone of classroom management. A fresh, appealing room environment contributes to the feeling that being a student is a “special” experience. That, in turn, will influence behavior. We can walk into some classrooms and just know that the teacher expects the best from students. That feeling will ooze from the walls, even if no students are there. How our classrooms look reflect how effective we are as teachers.
Students notice everything -- the way we dress, how we speak, or what our desks look like. If we take pride in our classroom and teach, day after day, with a positive attitude, students will be more likely to follow our lead, and take pride in themselves, their behavior, and their schoolwork. Of course, no school is utopia, and hormone-raging students are unpredictable. Nonetheless, we educators need to set the example everyday!
If a classroom looks like it’s been through a hurricane (cramped, scattered, uncomfortable, distracting, stale, and tense) students in the room are probably unhappy, unruly, and climbing the walls. On the other hand, if a classroom is neat and proudly displays students’ work it allows them to breathe easy and focus on learning.
How a classroom looks has a strong bearing on how students perceive themselves and the expectations we have for them. Therefore, let’s not allow our classrooms to fall into disarray or get swallowed up by accumulated materials or clutter. Armed with a few extra minutes (and a little elbow-grease) everyday, we can maintain well-kept and shining classrooms, and send a powerful and unmistakable message to students: “Excellence is expected.”