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Five Things I Believe about Classroom Management

March 21, 2012

As I begin to isolate JUST five things I believe about classroom management, I would first like to drop the word management and focus on five important and positive things I believe about our classrooms. I do not believe children can, want or need to be managed. I do believe that it is our obligation as educators to teach children to manage their own behaviors and to support them in becoming caring and productive citizens.

1. I believe in the goodness of all children. A few years ago I was fortunate to attend a presentation by author Alfie Kohn. I will paraphrase, but Kohn essentially advises that if you are a teacher and you believe that children are out to get you or if you do not believe in the innate goodness of all children, you should probably look for a different career. I heartily agree with his assessment. Teaching is not an easy profession. You must believe in what you do and in the possibilities that lie in every child.

Children are innately good, innocent, worthy, and social. What the newborn commences with, by way of human nature, is good. It is not neutral, or indifferent, but good—good in the sense that the child is designed to grow in the ability to love. It is human nurture (or lack thereof) that distorts and confuses.” – Ashley Montagu, British-American Anthropologist and Humanist

2. I believe that teachers must know their students and make every effort to build relationships with them. James Comer put it very well when he said, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” This is a caring, professional relationship where the teacher is invested in the success and growth of all students. Students know which teachers really care about them. This task begins before the first day of school and continues every day. It is as simple as knowing students’ names, their interests, their gifts, and their needs. How can we meet the needs of our students if we do not know those needs?

3. I believe it is essential to create a community in your classroom. A student- centered learning environment encourages social interaction, active engagement, and student motivation. The master teacher is deliberate in establishing a functioning learning community by devoting time and energy to building relationships

4. I believe in positivity. I understand my role in the classroom. I am the adult in charge. While I may rely on the support of many, my students’ success and mine is my responsibility. I believe in the power of positive thinking. Every day it is my choice, and my duty as an educator, to put a smile on my face when I enter my school and classroom. My attitude is a powerful force and has far-reaching effects for every student with whom I come in contact. Many years ago a colleague and friend shared this famous quote by Haim Ginott. It is still one of my favorites and guides my actions every day:

I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.

5. I believe all children deserve a safe classroom. Finally, all of the above beliefs result in a safe and caring learning environment, where each individual is a worthy and valuable member. For many of our students, our classrooms may be the one place where they are completely safe. In our classrooms we celebrate the unique gifts all of our students bring. We honor the relationships and commitments we have made to our students. The classroom community models democratic beliefs and gives our students Voice. In a safe classroom, students are able to become thinkers and problem solvers. They are able to advocate for their needs and those of others as they learn and grow, becoming members of a democratic and global society.

References
Carpenter, L.L., Fontanini, J. J., & Neiman, L. V. (2010). From surviving to thriving: Mastering the art of the elementary classroom. Dayton, OH: Lorenz Educational Press.
Kohn, A. (2006). Beyond discipline: From compliance to community (2nd Ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 
This article by Linda Carpenter was published in the Spring Edition of Reaching Forward: An online publication of the College of Education and Leadership at Cardinal Stritch University http://www.stritch.edu/reachingforward/

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