Classroom ManagementIt has been my privilege to be in management all of my professional life, whether it was with Wal-Mart as a retail manager, Steven L. Foulston, P.A., as a legal administrator and paralegal, Rubio’s Fresh mexican Grill as a restaurant manager, or UPS, as a shipping and receiving manager. It didn’t matter what type of business it was, I learned the importance of people and how to manage the company effectively. Basically, I learned all of the skills necessary throughout the years through on-the-job-training, i.e. trial by fire, and it has made me a better manager.
Which brings me to my current profession, teaching. I thought that all of my previous management experience would serve me well in this new endeavour; I was right to a certain extent. While my personal skills came in handy, the ability to manage a classroom was a totally new animal, for which I was unprepared.
With that being said, after two years of teaching kindergarten, elementary, middle school and high school students, I have learned the hard way how to manage a classroom. I currently am not a parent, so I was unprepared from the onset of what was required of me from 150 students a day, all different makes and models. However, I think I can safely say that I have achieved success in managing my classroom. Here are some things that I have come up with based on my experience. You have to remember, teaching is trial by error; some things work, and some things don’t, depending on the age level. But, for the most part, these general rules that I follow work for most ages.
First, I develop a rapport with all of my children
. I learn their names (both Korean and english), how old they are, if they have siblings, what they like to do, etc. I have them write a short biography about themselves, so that I can learn something about them personally, as well as see what their english level is. I also participate in parent/teacher conferences, which helps me understand the home environment in which they live. I have found that the more personal contact I have with them, and the more knowledge I have of them, the easier it is to teach them.
Throughout my years of management, the number one thing people have said about me is that I can be very intimidating and that my voice carries, both of which have come to my aid in the classroom. I call this my teacher’s voice. It has an assertive tone to it and it fills the room. I never speak over my students and I use it to recognize appropriate behaviour, as well as to correct behaviour. I always assertively restate my expectations to my students, and I will not argue with them. I mean what I say, and I say what I mean, and, my students know it!
Something else that I have is high expectations from my students; I expect 100% compliance with my directions 100% of the time. However, there is a difference in the world of management, from which I came, to that of the teaching realm, which I didn’t really think about, until I was faced with it. In the real world, if an employee faltered or refused to do what was asked of him/her, there were immediate consequences, leading up to, and sometimes resulting in, termination. There was an exact economic implication to his/her behaviour in the workplace. Not so in education. In today’s American society, children have little or no respect for their teachers. There is nothing that a teacher can do to threaten them that would cause them to correct their behaviour. Absolutely nothing, and the parents don’t care, to top it off. That is the reason why I teach in South Korea, not America. There is still some semblance of respect for adults in this society, as a whole. Teachers hold a very high status in this society and garner much respect for their efforts. I applaud South Korea in that family values are still instilled in today’s youth!
As a teacher expecting 100% compliance, none of my students are allowed to engage in behaviour that is not in their best interests or the best interests of their peers, for any reason. I do not let the “small stuff” slide in my classroom, and I never back down. I, not my students, control my classroom. They know I’m not going away, and that the issue will be resolved right there and then! I also try to avoid excessive praise; that only leads to trouble. I only praise students for something beyond the call of duty, not for what I routinely expect.
As in the business world, there is a certain protocol that has to be established, and rules to be followed, to a “T.” With my kindergarten and elementary students, I have the following rules:
1. Follow directions;
2. Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself; and
3. No teasing or name-calling. (Works for me if it is only done in english.)
4. IF there is a problem, first, I give them a reminder, then, I separate them from the group at different graduating intervals of time.
5. IF the problem persists, then I have the Korean homeroom teacher call the parents, which usually solves the problem.
6. For those extreme cases, I suggest permanent dismissal of the student for the better of the group.
With my middle school and high school students, I have the following rules:
1. Follow directions;
2. Be in the classroom and seated when the bell rings; and
3. Use appropriate language; no put-downs or teasing.
4. IF there is a problem, I follow the above plan as used with my kindergarten and elementary students.
Finally, in everything I have done, I have been pre-emptive; when I see a problem, I address it immediately and get it corrected. The same goes for students. However, with that being said, dealing with Korean society and values can sometimes constrict my ability to deal with wayward children. But, this has only occurred when I was working for a privately owned kindergarten. Just like in any business, we don’t want to offend anyone and lose their business. This same principle applies with private education. However, it has been my experience over the years, that if you get rid of the “bad apple,” a better work environment is created, thus promoting productivity and generating revenue. And, I firmly believe the same relates to the education of our children. The professional gardener calls it pruning. The more a plant is pruned properly, the more the plant will grow and produce.
In conclusion, I am in an entirely different teaching environment than that of the American teacher. I am truly blessed that this society has continued to instil its values and core beliefs into its youth, and I am glad for all of my previous management experiences. It has served me well, in that I understand what the world is truly like, and that I can express this to my students. While classroom management may be something totally different from the real world, I am still working with people, just at an earlier age. And, that, is what counts!