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What do you do when kids don't listen? I know, it’s a loaded question! Your answer probably will depend on which rules, routines, and classroom management strategies you have put in place in your classroom. Truthfully, I think this is one of those topics that we all are continually working on throughout our entire practice.
Throughout my many years of being an educator, classroom management is still something that I like to keep thinking about and honing my skills in. So if you're a new teacher, and you're just getting started, don't feel bad if you don't feel like you've got it all figured out.
Classroom management is a process. It’s going to take time to really understand how your classroom management will evolve in your own classroom. It's still evolving for me! I'm constantly coming up with really cool ways of thinking about classroom management and creating tools for management that I had never even thought of before.
Taking the time to really think through what you want your classroom management to look like is one of the most important things that you can do to set yourself up for success. However, here is where a lot of new teachers seem to get tripped up. They go into the year with an amazing plan. They know exactly how they want their classroom to run and are so excited to implement it.
There’s just one problem. You discover that you have those students who just don’t follow the rules that you’ve put in place. If you're anything like I was when I first started teaching, this is especially challenging because I had never had children of my own. I didn’t understand how important it was to have a consequence for children when they broke a rule.
To add to that, I didn’t want to come across as a mean teacher. I really struggled to figure out how to deliver natural consequences to my students while also maintaining positive relationships with them. If I’m being really honest, I didn’t even really know what a natural consequence was! Maybe you're feeling this way as well. It’s not only giving the consequences that’s tricky. It’s being consistent with your natural consequences and always following through on them.
I learned that, like anything else in teaching, mastering the art of these classroom management skills is really about how prepared you are. It’s about how much thought you’ve put into it before actually being put in challenging situations with your students.
As an example, picture this. You’ve asked your students to transition from their desk to the reading corner in small groups. You have a routine for this. You’ve practiced this with your class over and over (and over 😅) again. Despite all of that, little Jacob runs to the reading corner instead of walking. Not only does he run, but he jumps over the couch on his way there. What do you do in this moment?
Do you yell? Do you tell him not to do it again and move on with your lesson? Do you ignore it? While every situation and child is different, none of those options is a natural consequence. The natural consequence is surprisingly simple, and that is to direct Jacob back to his seat until all the other students have walked to the reading corner and claimed their spot.
Natural consequences like these can actually help your students feel safe and loved. They take the emotion out of the situation, and they set a precedent for the rest of the class. A quick, immediate natural consequence is the only way to ensure that your classroom runs smoothly and efficiently, and that all of your students remain safe while in your care.
After listening to this episode, I would love to know what part of this episode has been the most helpful for you in terms of thinking about using natural consequences inside your classroom. If you want to share a consequence that has worked for you, please share it with me on Instagram @beginningteachertalk. If you'd like more help with really thinking through the different kinds of consequences that you can use inside your classroom, be sure to listen to next week’s episode (episode 161) because we're going to be talking more about specific examples of consequences, and how to move from gentle reminders to more firm consequences.
I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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