Classroom Management – how to get control back

Taking control of the classroom on supplyTo some teachers classroom control comes naturally but for the majority, this is a skill which is learnt once they start their first job.  If you have ever struggled with a class or been flawed by one child’s behaviour, hopefully some of the tips I can provide should be of help to you.  As an experienced teacher who has done his fair share of supply work, gaining control quickly is an essential skill particularly for supply teachers who many children see as ‘fair game’.  After leaving teaching I have gone on to run Premier Teachers Ltd which supplies staff to North East schools.  A large number of staff we interview state classroom control as being one of the areas they find hardest to master in a new school setting.

It is commonly felt that if a lesson is well planned and engaging, the requirement for classroom control should be minimal.  However in practice, students want to ‘test out’ new teachers by trying to find out where your boundaries are.  Once you become proficient in Classroom Management you should be able to ensure lessons run smoothly despite disruption from students. The question is ‘how’ can one establish classroom control at the start of the year and maintain that level of control for a whole academic year.  A study by Gootman in 2008 stated that rules give clear direction to students to ensure ‘our expectations become a reality.’ This needs to be backed up by ‘positive consequences when rules are followed and negative consequences when rules are broken, ensuring this is done in a consistent way.’ The rest of this article will look at how to achieve your expectations of a class and how to maintain a good standard of behaviour.

In many ways doing supply work can make even an experienced teacher feel like they are restarting there career and the first day in a new school can be very nerve racking.  The causes of bad behaviour are numerous ranging from poor planning and lack or pace to outside issues such as student being sleep deprived and having issues at home.  We don’t have time to cover all of the techniques in a short article but some messages run through all good lessons that are well controlled.  Children are very good at spotting weaknesses in a teacher’s armour so it is essential to establish control quickly and to lay down some ground rules. 

If you are on supply for a day in a school establishing control quickly can be very difficult.  I would recommend trying to beat the children to the door and managing their entrance.  It is important to smile and be welcoming but don’t be afraid to stop children entering the room who are not behaving appropriately.  Ideally have a seating plan if you are staying in a school so that you are seen as the person in control and if this is not possible you can still direct children where to sit in the room so they are not clustered with their best friends which is rarely a good idea.  If you can establish a seating plan this will help you to learn names quickly and once you know a child’s name they will think twice about misbehaving – there is nothing worse than not knowing a child’s name when they continually misbehave so make sure you know the key characters quickly and don’t forget praise when they are working well.

In summary I would recommend having clear classroom boundaries and assert them regularly.  If students cross them, have a gradual build-up of sanctions.  Use assertive body language and tone and make clear statements such as ‘I need you to be quiet now..’  not ‘would you mind being quiet now’ which implies a choice. Know what the school’s discipline policy is and enforce it rigorously and make sure you know where to send students when they have crossed a line and need to be removed.  If your lessons are interesting, have good pace and are pitched at the right level, over time the respect will come and it will be easier to pinpoint the children who do not follow the rules so then can be brought back into line.  At this point parents usually need to be contacted for a meeting.  On supply, I would always have a back-up lesson in your bag as the cover work may not always arrive on time or be enough to last the lesson.  If you would like to attend one of our courses on ‘Classroom Management please contact Premier Teachers on 0191 556 0133 for further details.

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