UTA Grad and Sixth-Year Teacher Ali Capasso Shares Advice for New Teachers

Ali Capaso
Ali Capasso is almost done with a Master’s in Literacy Studies from UTA (Fall, ’15)! She focuses in her blog post on the importance of the classroom environment.

“An effective teacher manages a classroom.  An ineffective teacher disciplines a classroom.” -Harry Wong

As you begin your journey as a teacher, you have no doubt encountered a countless number of things to plan for and keep track of.  There are lessons to plan, walls to decorate, tools to buy, and anchor charts to make.  Among the endless amount of things you will be thinking of during your first year, I would like to emphasize one important point: Without a well-managed classroom, none of the other things will matter.

Indeed, the way your students navigate your classroom and expect to behave there will have an incredible impact on both student performance and teacher morale.  A study done in three inner-city schools showed that well managed classrooms had a significant positive effect on student achievement in the areas of math and reading (Freiberg et al., 2009).  According to a 2010 study, (Brackett, et al., 2010) disruptive behavior of students was one of the main reasons that new teachers leave our noble profession behind.  To put it simply, your classroom management can make or break your year!

Whether you are looking forward to your first year or have already begun, it is never too late to put a great classroom management system in place.  Here are some ways to begin building this system today by using time tested advice and valuable online resources.

  • Decide How You Want Your Classroom to Look (Build Routines)

Every teacher is different!  Before your year begins, think about your level of comfort with noise, movement, and different levels of organization.  Check this against what is appropriate for your age group.  Next, develop routines for absolutely EVERYTHING!  These are important things to go over on the first day.  How do students begin the day?  How will they ask to go to the restroom?  Can they sharpen their own pencil?  How should they line up for transitions?  Plan on devoting a little time to each procedure so that students know exactly what you expect them to do at all times of the day.

  • Develop Meaningful Rules/Norms

The rules in your classroom should be a guide for general behavior in your classroom.  In my opinion, the best way to develop this set of standards is to consult your class.  Bring your class together and remind them that the main goal of the group is to create a safe, supportive environment where learning can happen.  Ask for some suggestions and brainstorm a small set of rules to follow.  Have your students sign it in agreement and post it in a high traffic area.  In my lower grades classroom, we recite them at the beginning of each day.

  • Offer Praise and Incentives

There are many different ways to show your class how much you value their hard work.  One of these ways is to offer immediate feedback to students about what you see them doing.  My students know that if they are doing a good job, they receive a special type of post it note on their desk and can expect a positive note home at the end of the day.  There are lots of fun ways to keep track of class behavior.  Class Dojo is an app/website that allows every student to earn points throughout the day.  Points can also be taken away if necessary.  The website offers lots of ways to share progress with parents as well.  Students can always work for a whole class or individual reward using any points system you put into place!

  • Offer Logical Consequences

When students do misbehave, think about an appropriate way to have students make amends.  For instance, a student who runs down the halls instead of walking might need to spend a short amount of time practicing the correct behavior.  Having students understand the problem they had that day and how to fix it is the main goal of any consequence.  Teaching with Love and Logic is a marvelous book to read on this subject!

  • Develop Great Relationships

Students who love you will do just about anything for the good of the classroom.  Take the time to get to know each member of your class.  Talk to them about their interests and hobbies.  Greet your kids at the door every day with these things in mind.  Relationships are especially important in the case of kids with chronic misbehavior.  Often, these are the young people who need a good listener the most.  I am also a strong believer in bringing character lessons into the language arts classroom.  Many quality texts can be used to start discussions about having good character and making good choices.

Above all, remind your students that learning trumps all other things.  Create motivating lessons and excitement for the work ahead so that your students will forget to misbehave altogether.  Each day that work feels like play is a good day!

References:

Freiberg, Huzinec, C. A., &Templeton, S. M. (2009). Classroom management – A pathway to student achievement: A study of fourteen inner-city elementary schools. Elementary School Journal, 110(1), 63-80.

Brackett, M. A., Palomera, R., Mojsa-Kaja, J., Reyes, M., & Salovey, P. (2010). Emotion-regulation ability, burnout, and job satisfaction among British secondary-school teachers. Psychology in the Schools, 47(4), 406-417.

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