Hacking Classroom Management: Book review, part 1

Hacking classroom management

As teacher, I always appreciate suggestions on classroom management. Mike Roberts delivers practical advice in his book, Hacking Classroom Management, 10 ideas to help you become the type of teacher that they make movies about.

New teachers and returning teachers all need to focus on good management of their classrooms, especially at the beginning of the year. Roberts begins the book by clearly saying that most of these techniques work best if used from day one. If you are in the middle of the year and having troubles, these techniques will provide only limited relief. Good management takes time. The book deals with 10 different areas. This post will address the first 2 hacks.

Hack #1 It’s a classroom, not a bootcamp.

Control, control, control! You must control your class! This is what is drilled into our heads as teachers. The result of this pressure on the teacher is that we end up running the class like the kids are in the Army. Basically the kids don’t move, or breathe without permission. This seems like the right thing to do. We don’t want the kids running around. They have to listen to us. But, when they are under this high level of control, are they listening? Or, are they just being quiet? Try one or more of the following 4 ideas to loosen things up a bit.

4 ideas to loosen the reins

Don’t make the kids verbally ask to use the bathroom. Have a system that is nonverbal. They can point at the door, or sign out and leave without asking. You can keep an eye on who is over using the hall pass and have a private conversation if you think it is excessive.

Why not let the kids pick their own seats? Most of the kids will settle into a consistent seat and you can create a chart at that point. If a child needs to be assigned a seat, move them. Do not make the entire class move for one or two students.

Call only on students with their hands raised. Do not cold call on kids. Encourage everyone to participate. At times you’ll need to pause for a few more seconds and ask if anyone else would like to give input. Again, remind everyone that participation is required in class.

Lastly, put the basic plan for class on the screen/board. Everyone benefits from knowing what comes next. If you spend too much time on an area, the plan will remind you to get moving. Also, the students can prepare themselves for what is going to happen that day.

Keep in mind that you can have one on one conversations with students that abuse your policies. The entire class doesn’t need to be punished for one or two students.

Hack #2 Expect their best in and out of the classroom

Start the year with an expectation that your kids will give their best. Set the example by modeling what you want to see.

Ways to set an example

Begin each day by dressing up and looking professional. When we dress up it makes us behave differently. Stand at your door as the class enters and say, “hello, or welcome, or good to see you!” Take the time to shake hands, or high five. You will get a read on the emotions of the students as they enter. This can be a great help as the class starts. If they look like something bad has happened before your class then you need to realize that they may struggle to give their best in your class. Talk to them and try to get their heads in the right place.

During class, find ways to show trust. Start small, you don’t need to leave money laying around! You could just tell them that you trust them. Give students classroom responsibilities. Ask the students for feedback on what you can do better. (Use good judgement, don’t do this constantly or it will look like you are insecure.)

When the class is over, thank the students. Tell them that they did well today. Go to the door and tell them to have a great day as they leave. Remember to smile!

It will take concerted effort to accomplish these tasks. The school year can drag on and on some days smiling feels impossible. So, we have to be prepared to fake it and show the students that we are attempting to give our best.

Next week

Next week we’ll look at hack #3 and #4.

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