A Preliminary Classroom Management Model

Devising a philosophy of classroom management is quite an introspective task. Given the brevity of my experience in the New Zealand classroom, I can only surmise that whatever rationale I could present should be subject to perpetual revision as I gain more insight into the dynamics of teaching. At the onset, I can certainly affirm that I intend to use classroom management as a flexible means to establish an effective learning environment and not consider it to be the all-in-all when it comes to coordinating the students’ learning. One of my favorite quotes by Steven Covey is: “The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.” Allowing myself to get into a frustrating predicament by over-emphasizing my authoritarian role in the classroom or becoming a sightless and rigid disciplinarian seems a paradigm divorced of the original intention of entering the classroom. In fact, research has determined that the most successful teachers approach management as a means to an end and keep learning in its prevailing perspective (Doyle, 1986; Emmer, 1987; Evertson, 1987; Gettinger, 1988; Good & Brophy, 1995, 1997; Jones, 1996).

As a foundational concept, I would have to consider that a philosophy of classroom management need be supportive of the actual learning I hope to take place under my supervision. Ideally, the desire for learning that I would like to instill in my students would extend well beyond the purview of my assumed jurisdiction. In any case, the constant emphasis here is the actual teaching and learning and the variable factor is the methodology by which an environment conducive to this exchange can be invoked. Put more succinctly: “whatever gets the job done”; although I consider my ideas on classroom management to most closely resemble the social-constructivist views. It is with this in mind that I will outlay a preliminary set of management principles that would allow me to implement such ideals.

Following from this ethos are general guidelines that would address classroom disruption in a preventative rather than a reactive way. On the surface, this might seem to emulate Canter and Canter’s behavioral methodology of assertive teaching. Certainly, this is as deep as I would care to imbibe what I consider to be more or less a lab rat approach to classroom management. Rather than condition my students to respond to particular stimulus of reward and punishment or to salivate when I hold up a lolly (does the name ‘Pavlov’ ring any bells here?), I would hope that I could develop learning tasks that would actively engage their higher cognitive interest thus displacing the tendency towards distraction and misbehaviour. At the same time, I could hand out lollies just to maintain a positive rapport with my students and simply express my genuine appreciation for their cooperative attitude.

The need to be very clear about my expectations at the beginning of the year is evident. Research has identified that this is one procedure that nearly all effective teachers employ (Evertson, 1987; Emmer, 1987). Even in the social-constructivist model the teacher remains the ultimate authority in the classroom and may still need to apply sufficient pressure to compel changes in behaviour when students have failed to respond to more positive methods. However, this guidance emphasizes thoughtful goal-oriented learning and not mindless compliance with a one-size-fits-all mandate.

At this point one may question, “If you are saying that you want to flexibly adapt your classroom methods according to time, place and circumstance how is it possible to be consistent and fair?” This is an important point to address and I personally feel that it is a shortcoming of the purely social-constructivist model. I think that the Canter and Canter model does have a strength in this regard and that I should have some non-negotiable rules stated clearly at the beginning of the year.

It is also important that I am consistent and follow through with whatever disciplinary action may be needed. On my first teaching practice at an all girls school I had a chance to engage in some revealing dialogue with the students there:

“Do you have any other male teachers?”

“Yes. We have two other men that teach us.”

“Do you like them?”

“Yeah … they’re alright. One is really strict and one is a pushover.”

“Which one do you like better,” I asked, “the strict one or the pushover?”

About five girls unanimously responded, “We like the strict one.”

“Why?”

“Because we know he cares about us.”

Much to the chagrin of those ‘free-thinking’ radicals who envision a classroom utopia manifesting via the adoption of an anarchic methodology, these girls all preferred rules that were strictly enforced. I would imagine that those rules reflected concern on the teacher’s behalf for their well-being.

I will now draw up some basic rules for my classroom and I think that it would be intelligent to allow the head of my department or one of my associates to proofread my expectations to ensure they are adaptable in the larger scheme of things at that particular school.

I would start off with my class by stating my intentions and motivations upfront. I think that such a demonstration of transparency would empower those with enough character to support my goals as well as assuage any fears in those with less clarity of perception.

1.) My primary concern is that you become computer literate. (substitute any subject as needed)
2.) In order to achieve this goal we will need to establish some ground rules.
3.) Behaviour that detracts from learning will not be appreciated and will be dealt with in the following ways (short term solutions in red) (long term solutions in blue):
a. Talking amongst yourselves while I am talking (this is my pet-peeve)
short term issue: one warning given then sent out of classroom
long term or reoccurring issue: referral system used
b. Being inattentive when I am talking
short term issue: one warning given then sent out of classroom
long term or reoccurring issue: sent to school councilor
c. Overt unfairness amongst yourselves:
short term issue: referral system used
long term or reoccurring issue: not applicable
i. Name calling
ii. Acts of intended malicious physical violence
1. throwing things at each other
2. hitting, kicking, biting, scratching or any other nonsense
iii. putting anyone down because of race, creed, religion, gender, etc…
d. throwing things around the room
short term issue: one warning given then sent out of classroom
long term or reoccurring issue: referral system used
e. untidiness:
short term issue: will be required to stay after school or during lunch break to clean the room as per my wish
long term or reoccurring issue: same
i. leaving rubbish behind
ii. leaving room in a state of disorder when the bell rings
f. not participating in activities set by myself or agreed upon by the rest of the group
short term issue: one warning given then sent out of classroom
long term or reoccurring issue: letter sent home to parents and/or referral system used
g. disrespect shown to the teacher
short term issue: letter sent home to parents and/or referral system used
long term or reoccurring issue: not applicable
4.) Behaviour that is conducive to learning will be appreciated:
a. Paying attention while I am speaking
b. Treating myself and one another with respect and dignity
c. Being responsible to maintain your learning environment
d. Contributing to the activities in a positive and constructive way
5.) The rewards for such a cooperative attitude will be:
a. A satisfying experience
b. You might actually learn something while you are here!

In summary, I am interested in the social-constructivist model but I think that I would need to be practical enough to have a behaviourist approach to dealing with problems should they occur. This way all disciplinary issues could be dealt with in a straight-forward, consistent and fair way across the board. If my students choose to draw upon their higher nature in my classroom then I aspire to reward them with heartfelt and potent teaching. If the lower nature prevails then I can only attend to such behaviour with a mechanistic and universal set of guidelines.

To conclude I would like to restate that all of the above considerations are subject to revision and adaptation to particular circumstances as needed.

Bibliography

Doyle, W. (1986). Classroom organization and management. In M. Witrock (ed.), Handbook of researching on teaching (3rd ed., pp. 392-431). New York: Macmillan.

Emmer, E. (1987). Classroom management and discipline. In V. Richardson-Koehler (Ed.), Educators’ handbook (pp. 233-256). New York: Longman.

Evertson, C. (1987). Managing classroom: A framework for teachers. In D. Berliner & B. Rosenshine (Eds.), Talks to teachers (pp.54-74). New York: Random House.

Gettinger, M. (1988). Methods of proactive classroom management. School Psychology Review, 17, 227-242.

Good, T., & Brophy, J. (1995). Contemporary educational psychology (5th ed.) White Plains, NY: Longman.

Good, T., & Brophy, J. (1997). Looking in classrooms (7th ed.) New York: Longman.

Jones, V. (1996). Classroom management. In Sikula, T. Buttery, & E. Guyton (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education (Vol. 2, pp. 503-521). New York: Macmillan.


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