There are thirty of them and only one of you. The first time you stand at the front of your classroom you must gain the respect and co-operation of your students, if you’re to do the job you’ve been hired to do: teach the required curriculum for the grade level well enough that the majority of the children will pass the examinations at the end of the year.
Time will pass quickly. The students have only five hours daily, five days a week, for nine months, counting holidays, to learn and practice many new skills. There is a vast store of new knowledge for them to comprehend and memorize.
You must see that they accomplish all this, and you must do it without using physical punishment, without causing them undo stress or anxiety, and preferably without raising your voice.
As you advance in your career, you will amass many strategies for managing your classroom well and practicing effective discipline strategies. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions you may find helpful:
(1).Attach name cards to the desks before the students arrive the first day. Instruct them to sit in the seat with their name on it. If you need to reprimand someone, it’s much easier and more effective if you can address the child by name. Seating arrangements can be adjusted later.
(2). Forget about group seating for the first few weeks at least. Arrange the desks in rows. Children are social beings, and like us, if they’re in a group, they will chat. You want all attention focused on you.
(3) After the first few days rearrange the desks. Place potential behavior problems and those with vision or hearing difficulties at the front of the classroom. Independent workers and more responsible students will be fine near the back.
(4) Ensure that every child has an extra activity in his desk to work on when an assignment is finished: a book, a puzzle, or an Art project. Older children can begin homework. You know the old adage about idle hands…
(5) Most parents can be valuable allies. Alert them by phone when problems occur, but also call them with good news. When a child is working hard, gets good marks on a test, or does something kind for you or a classmate, let them know. It will make their day.
(6) Don’t skip recess or Physical Education activities. Children are naturally active. When they have a chance to burn off excess energy they’ll be better able to focus on schoolwork when they return to the classroom.
(7) Reward good behavior. Monthly certificates for “Best Listener”, “Most Improved”, “Most Responsible”, accompanied by a small prize, will result in a decline in discipline problems.
(8) I found the following strategy to be effective for more persistent behavioral issues. With the principal’s knowledge and permission, issue a request by phone that the parent of the offender visit the class for half a day. Relate truthfully the problem you’re having with the child. When the parent arrives, place Mom or Dad on a chair right beside the child’s desk. You will probably have a very quiet morning or afternoon session.
However, the culprit has been embarrassed in front of his friends, and the parent will be annoyed because he had to miss work, and experience a long, boring half-day. You can be sure he will lay down the law to his offspring when they get home. The other children certainly won’t want a similar fate to befall them. At the very least, you should have a quiet, hard-working class for the next several weeks.
(9) Be aware of the specialized help available to you and don’t hesitate to take advantage of these professionals. Many school boards employ consultants in different areas: literacy experts, an Audio-visual consultant, a Special Education Department, etc. There are also community resources which you can access: Family and Children’s Services, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and Service Clubs for speakers for special occasions.
(10) Make it a point to visit the Staff Room often. It helps to know you’re not alone and that others are experiencing the same problems you are. You’ll share in the solutions your fellow teachers have found. You’ll catch up on happenings in their lives, maybe have a coffee and relax for a few minutes. Laughter, conversation and fellowship are great tonics. You’ll return to the classroom refreshed and ready to put on your “Teacher” hat again.
Your reward will come in June. Most of the children will be going to the next grade, the others will have suitable placements arranged for them in September, the parents will thank you, you’ll have a relaxing vacation ahead, or perhaps an interesting course scheduled, and you’ll probably have a sumptuous “end-of-the-year” dinner planned with your colleagues.
But best of all will be the satisfaction you feel deep inside for having done your best for the thirty children entrusted to you during the past year. You have been an important part of their lives for nine months and you have shared yourself, your efforts and your essence, with them. What you have given, they will carry with them into the future. You can rest assured, Teacher, you have made a difference.