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  • Writer's pictureMs. Bolier

9 Valuable Lessons I Have Learned About Classroom Management as a Middle School Teacher

Updated: Feb 23

Classroom management is one of the most common topics I get questions about. For good reason! classroom management is one of the hardest parts about being a teacher. Especially when you have a room full of hormonal teenagers 🤣

I have not always shared a lot on this topic because, well, if we're being completely honest... I never want to come off as someone who knows it all--cause I don't. I am still learning every day. I am not always perfect. and my classroom does not always run as smooth as I would like it to.

HOWEVER, there is a LOT I have learned. and I think it's time I shared what I have learned in hopes that it helps someone else.

1. Many behavior problems are prevented when you have an engaging lesson. Obviously not EVERY behavior problem will be prevented but in my experience I have found that many are prevented when students aren't bored. Try to get students involved in the lesson and up and moving if possible. When students get bored, that's when they do things you don't want them to. If I have a lesson where it seems there was a lot more behavior problems than usual, I like to reflect and think about how I can make that lesson better in the future. It's one reason why I am so passionate about creating engaging lessons is because it not only is more effective in students being able to learn the content, but it also prevent misbehavior which makes your classroom a more enjoyable place to be!

2. Having classroom procedures + routines from day one creates good habits. Teach classroom procedures/routines for everything from day one!! For the start of class, the end of class, transitions, etc. Having routines in place make such a difference because consistency helps!! Taking away some of the uncertainty allows them to do what they know is expected. Teaching these routines from day one helps them to become habit. Here's some questions to think about... do your students know the answers to these?

  • What do students do when they first come into class? My students know that when they come into class they are to sit in their seat and start writing their bell ringer for the day. You can read this blog post to get more details about how I start every class period with bell ringers.

  • How do you get their attention if they're in the middle of working? Some teachers like having a specific phrase they call out and students respond with another phrase, some teachers like ring a bell, there's lots of ways but find something that works for you so students know what to expect. I simply count down from 5 and get quieter as I go. By the time I get to zero students know to be quiet and looking at me.

  • What do students do if they finish what they're working on early? Some teachers have a specific bin or folder for students to do when they're done early. I have multiple options for my students and I teach them fast finisher options the very first week of class. I always have coloring pages, word searches, and blank paper for drawing available for them. They know they can also be reading a book or working on homework from another class. Sometimes I tell them about a specific activity they can do when done early that isn't a usual fast finisher option but they always know these ones.

  • What do they do at the end of every class before leaving? As someone who really values a clean and organized classroom I take time to teach my students exactly what "clean" looks like. When our 5 minute clean up bell rings, they know it's time to stop and clean up. They know that they are responsible to clean up the area where they were sitting. This includes pushing in the chairs, picking up the floor, cleaning off the tables and even wiping them down if they got markings on them. I have all my classroom supplies clearly labeled so students can put things away in their proper place on their own. If students get all cleaned up then they're allowed to be on their phones. Again, you can figure out what works best for you and your classroom but make it clear to students and get in the habit of it every class!

3. Communicating clearly the expectations for each & every activity decreases misbehavior. Communicate clearly the expectations for each class and every activity. After explaining an assignment or activity, always explain what behavior is expected and what behavior is not allowed during this activity. make it very clear about what it looks like so they have that understanding. It may seem obvious to you what is appropriate behavior or not but even if it seems obvious, clearly explain it. Are they expected to stay in their own seat? Are they expected to talk with neighbors or work silently? Are they expected to have their phones out? If they're working on a chromebook, are they expected to be playing games or using it for other things besides the assignment? Are they expected to be sitting down in a chair? Walking or running around the room? If you're using certain supplies for an activity what are the expectations for using those? Are they expected to finish something by a certain time? All of these details are important to clearly state when giving directions for an assignment or activity. It leaves no question about what they should be doing. And if they do something you discussed it will be easy to remind them and redirect them.

4. Consequences are best when they are predetermined & related to the misbehavior. When possible, have predetermined consequences that are related to the misbehavior. It's best to not have consequences come as a surprise. Create consequences that are related to the behavior. Sometimes you may even discuss with the student(s) what they think a fair related consequence would be if they misbehave. (example: if students are throwing markers, they can no longer use the markers. if students are playing games on their chromebook, you take their chromebook for the class period. if students are breaking pencils in half, you no longer will provide them with a pencil and they'll have to bring their own. if students are ruining a fun activity for everyone, they can go sit in the hall or another classroom and not participate in the activity. if students are gone for 20 minutes when they use the hall pass to go to the "bathroom" they no longer can use the hall pass in your class or they only get a certain amount of minutes to be gone, etc.)

5. Students actually appricate when you follow through with consequences and it allows them to trust you mean what you say. Follow through with consequences!! It does you no good to have predetermined related consequences if you don't actually follow through with them. I know it can be hard to... I struggled with this my first year teaching. I always felt bad when it came down to it and always wanted to give another chance. But if you don't follow through, students will learn that you don't mean what you say and learn that there won't actually be a consequence if they misbehave. So behavior will only get worse. Following through shows not just the students who is receiving the consequence but everyone else in the class too, that you mean what you say. It helps everyone else to actually feel safer in your classroom as well. I have had students tell me they appreciated that I was kind but also had rules with consequences that I followed through with.

6. Keeping parents in the loop about positive behavior helps a lot when you may have to reach out about negative behavior. If you have a student that is having a hard time, don't be afraid to send home an email or make a phone call to a parent about it. Not all students have supportive parents at home but if they do, you will find you can work with parents as a team to help their student do better in class. If they don't have very supportive parents, that gives you some information to maybe better understand the student and why they act the way they do. I also like to try to remember to send home positive emails to parents so that they don't only receive negative ones. If a student who usually struggles has a good day, send an email home about it! It's amazing how if you've been sending home positive email and not just negative emails, things go over so much better when you do have to send home the ones about negative behavior.

7. Reminding students of what appropriate behavior looks like is always better than assuming they remember. Repeatedly remind students of what appropriate behavior looks like. Even when you're doing something you do every class or have done many times before, do not assume students will remember the expectations. remind them again right before so it's fresh in their mind. Repetition is key!! I sometimes remind myself that these kids have a bunch of other teachers with their own classroom policies and expectations and they also have million things running through their mind and may have "zoned out" the last time you explained it. Some things I have repeated so many times that now there's other students in the class who will help to remind other students who forget.

8. When you respect students and show them you care about them, they're more likely to respect and care about you. This means that if you're kind to them, if you show you want them to succeed, then they are probably going to also be kinder to you and care about following your rules/expectations. If you've heard negative things about a student from someone else, don't hold it against them. Give them a chance first. Get to know students, find out something about them NOT related to school. Then remember that detail and ask them about it again later. Getting to know students allows you to build up a positive relationship so that if and when they misbehave and you have to give a consequence, they know you still care about them. It also sometimes lets you in on information that may help you be a little more understanding of their behavior if you can figure out where it may be coming from at home.

9. Giving students a clean slate every class improves behavior much more than "labeling" them & holding onto the past does. Give each student a clean slate every day when they walk into class. I know this is easier said than done. But students can tell when you are holding something against them. And I don't know about you, but I don't ever feel like listening to someone who is upset at me or has given up on me. It will only make things harder in the long run if you hold a grudge against them. You believing that they can behave appropriately is sometimes what they need. I love to remind students that I know they're capable. I know they can do it. Some of my students who I had to give the most consequences to for their behavior are the ones who still come back to visit me. I think this is because even though they "got in trouble" in my class, they also knew that I still cared about them.

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