We have a few student teachers in my building. They come everyday with big smiles and a gleam in their eye. They have so many questions, eager to learn everything. They’re trying to determine what kind of teacher they will become.
I had a conversation with one of the teachers, after he spent the day observing my classroom. My students are always doing some sort of group work, they are always talking and sometimes it gets loud. The students are always moving from one side of the room to other. It can get very busy. He told me that he enjoys watching the movement and observing the personalities of my students. He went on to share that in some of the classrooms he has observed, the students are quiet and hardly say a word. There is very little movement, or conversion between students. He tries to make small talk and the students rarely engage.
As a teacher, I understand that discipline is important, you can’t teach if there isn’t structure. Students need to know the expectations and meet them. They need to understand why they are important, and how their behavior impacts learning. On the other hand, we can’t allow discipline to stifle growth, or curiosity.
Students need to move around and be comfortable with communicating with each other. They need opportunities to make decisions and learn how to self-regulate. If the teacher is regulating their behavior at every turn, how will they learn this valuable skill.
Teachers are afraid to give freedom in fear that behaviors will get out of control. Teachers need to be confident in their abilities, to diffuse negative behaviors if they arise. Training is needed for teachers on effective classroom management. Teachers will then feel comfortable with allowing students to make decisions for themselves.
There is no magic bullet. Students will have conflicts and demonstrate negative behavior. One thing we do know, punitive measures don’t solve the problem. Threatening punishment will not decrease conflict. There needs to be a proactive approach, not just reacting to the behaviors as they happen.
Focus on building relationships and establishing respect with students. Not just respect for the teacher, respect for each other, and most importantly for the learning that’s happening. Relationships building is the key, to class management. If students understand how much you care about them, and the learning that’s happening. They will begin to regulate their behavior. That’s the one area as teachers we can control.