I struggle with classroom management. My preferred method of “classroom management” is to get the kids to do what I ask because they like me. This doesn’t work for some kids who either don’t like me or don’t care enough.
This summer I discovered SmartClassroomManagement.com (probably through Pinterest or something). Some guy named Michael Linsin runs the site. I started reading blog posts, looking for stuff that would work at the high school level and trying to avoid paying the $7 for the ebook that describes his high school plan. I’m not a huge fan of his writing style (dude, each sentence does NOT need to be its own paragraph), but his advice appears sound.
A lot of what he says is similar to what you find in the Harry Wong book, but less…I don’t know…condescending? Linsin also emphasizes clear, consistent expectations, which is a reminder I need, but I found his specific advice about specific situations to be helpful. This is the advantage of running a blog over publishing a book – he can write bite-size chunks about specific things and do this as often as he likes.
I read a bunch of posts that were interesting and pretty helpful, then I found two posts about talking to parents. I don’t like talking to parents. I procrastinate then tell myself that I’ve waited too long so there’s no point in calling them now. The posts I read were and “How to Talk to Parents About Their Misbehaving Child” and “How to Talk to Parents Who Just Don’t Care” (the somewhat offensive title is misleading – he handles the topic very well). Specifically, what caught my eye was this advice:
- Tell the parent what happened.
- Tell the parent what you did about it.
- Say, “I thought you’d want to know.”
- End the conversation.
Linsin argues that this structure removes the implication that you’re blaming the parent or asking them to do something about the issue, which is what causes them to get defensive and angry. You’ve already handled the issue so all you’re doing is informing them. I liked this because I suck at phone calls, so having a plan like this is really helpful for me.
At some point I decided that since this advice, that I had gotten for free, was so helpful then maybe it was worth paying $7 for the high school plan. Heck, it was worth paying $7 just for the strategy about talking to parents.
The high school plan is helpful. It gets a little sales-pitchy and there were a couple things that I didn’t agree with so I’m adjusting to suit my preferences, but it’s good. After today, I’m sold.
At one point, Linsin specifies that you should teach students what your consequences look like, including telling them what the “conversation after class” will look like. He says to tell the kids what you’ll say in that conversation: You broke these rules, you lost this many points, goodbye. The point here is to tell the kids they won’t have to sit through a lecture from you or an attempt at a guilt trip or anything else. This is the consequence, have a good day. I like this.
So I told the kids today, “If you continue to break a rule, I’ll ask you to stay after class for a few minutes to talk to me. During that conversation, I’ll say ‘These are the rules you broke, you lost this many points, bye.’ That’s it.”
As I say this, I’m watching them and gauging reactions. Plenty of kids were still pretty blank, but the ones who were reacting were nodding. Nodding that says, “Ok cool.” Like, this kind of nodding:
I get it. They like knowing what to expect. They like knowing that if they break a rule, I’m not going to lecture them, yell at them, guilt-trip them, ask them how they’re going to make sure this never happens again, tell them how disappointed I am…or whatever. I’m sold. Clear expectations, let them know what I want and what will happen when I don’t get what I want – got it.
I think I will still struggle to be consistent. It’s hard for me not to take it personally and get frustrated when misbehavior continues. It’s going to be something I have to remind myself about daily. But it’s something I need to work on, so this is a good time to work on it.