Teachers have at least dozens of sources of stress on an average day. It’s enough to cripple a good teacher on any given day. Many of these sources we have little control over as teachers so when one of our major sources of stress can be removed or reduced it is worth learning more about and trying. Effective classroom management can make the other sources of daily teacher stress more manageable or possibly even non-existent.
After a number of email subscribers (sign up to subscribe on the right side) responded that behavior and discipline were major sources of stress in their day I reached out to Michael Linsin of SmartClassRoomManagement.com. Michael was kind enough to answer questions about common issues that teachers face with discipline over a 45 minute Skype call. Within minutes I could tell that Michael was not one of those “experts” that gives advice but doesn’t walk the walk and couldn’t realistically handle your classroom. Michael is someone you’d listen to and would think, “This guy could actually handle MY class!” Michael has taught 24 years of elementary and middle school and 1 year of high school, has authored a number of books and 350 articles on classroom management (with another in the works) and has been coaching struggling teachers through his website SmartClassroomManagement.com.
This may be considered “selfish” by some but I believe that first and foremost teachers should do this for themselves. You being healthier and less stressed is good for you and good for the students. You’ll feel better and the students will have more time on task with clear boundaries and an orderly class.
Below are Michael’s responses, we just got right into the question and answers. Some of Michael’s tips below are going to be game changers for struggling teachers and every teacher can take at least one tip away for their own use.
Michael, how did you get into writing about classroom management and helping other teachers?
As I got further into my career I began noticing how many of my colleagues were stressed-out and struggling with behavior and unmotivated students, and I knew it didn’t need to be that way. So in 2008 I sat down and began writing what became a book called Dream Class. I started the blog shortly thereafter.
Where did you pick up your knowledge about effective classroom management? A college course? A book you read that you found to be effective?
When I was in high school I had an English teacher who inspired me—and many others—to give my very best and work hard in the classroom. He provided a wonderful example for what effective teaching looked like and gave me a leg up when I first began my career.
I also spent my first few years of teaching focusing on classroom management, above all. I tested every method that came down the pike, including the most popular methods still today. In time, I was able to narrow down what really worked into a system that could allow any teacher to effectively manage their classroom.
Michael, Do you have some recommendations for teachers regarding IEP’s, 504’s and providing those students with their protections while maintaining a sense of fairness in the classroom?
You have to follow the IEP, for sure, even if you may not agree with it. It’s the law and part of your job.
But what about the other students who might see different treatment, consequences for some kids?
I’ve found that as long as you’re clear about the rules and boundaries of the class and consistent in enforcing them, then they get it. Without you having to say a word, they understand that there may be different consequences for certain students. However, it’s important to point out that it is the rare IEP that suggests an entirely different set of consequences. Also, I don’t recommend separate or modified consequences for any student (that isn’t specified in an IEP).
What do you recommend for dealing with chronic, but small, misbehaviors in class?
You have to be clear about what is and isn’t okay and have rules that define it. The most effective way to do this is to model your classroom management plan from start to finish, including those small behaviors like turning to whisper to a neighbor or getting up to grab a tissue during a lesson.
How do you handle those parents you just cannot get ahold of via email or phone?
Well, the key is deliverability. I recommend providing parents the facts of a misbehavior only. No opinions or suggestions for how they should handle the problem at home. I’ve found that parents appreciate this approach immensely. It also frees you to simply make sure the information gets to them via a working email address or phone number. If those don’t work, then you may have to speak to a cousin or grandma. It’s worth finding a way. If you’re determined enough, there is always a way. Besides, it’s a parent’s right to know if you’re having any behavior trouble with their child.
What are your experiences using reward systems to manage behavior?
I believe that they very effectively wipe out intrinsic motivation, and there is a lot of research backing me up on this. Rewards turn what is or can be inherently enjoyable into work they deserve to be paid for. I cover this topic in detail in my new book out May 3rd called, The Happy Teacher Habits.
What would you say about teachers who feel too time crunched to try and implement another new (classroom management) program in their teaching?
What I recommend makes life easier, far easier, not harder. I recommend focusing on the just a few core principles that work predictably wherever you work or whoever shows up on your roster. They’re simple and doable for anyone, new teacher or veteran and in the long run save loads of time.
To wrap up, can you explain your overall classroom management philosophy and leave us with some tips we can start implementing right away?
My philosophy is to create a classroom your students love being part of, and then combine it with an unwavering commitment to accountability. It is this combination that holds the secret to effective classroom management. The specifics on how to do this forms the content of my website and all my books.
Two quick tips would be to create a classroom management plan that defends and protects learning, covering every possible misbehavior, and enforce it consistently but unemotionally.
How long would it take to implement all this?
Well, with the right knowledge, you can get it up and running in an hour or so and within a week see a complete transformation of your classroom.
How can teachers learn more about you, your books and your coaching services?
Smartclassroommanagement.com or search for me at Amazon.com.
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