HOW TO RUN AN ORDERLY CLASSROOM WITHOUT BEING A TYRANT
Dunce caps and paddlings are fortunately out of fashion in schools. Not quite so fortunately, many teachers struggle to come up with non-dictatorial alternatives. Here are a few:
Keep a Short List of Clear Rules
If you can, let students help make and/or approve classroom rules. Make sure everyone understands what the rules are (keeping rules few and simple will make that easier). Post the list in plain sight and large print, so when someone veers in the wrong direction, you can point to the poster as a gentle reminder.
Show Respect for Your Students
If you want kids to want to please you, first treat them as you’d want to be treated in their shoes.
Provide Periodic Energy-Release Breaks
Even adults don’t like being kept in the same chair for three hours; for children, it’s torture on the level with solitary confinement. It’s not good for anyone’s health, either. So, if you have the same students in the same room more than an hour, schedule regular “breaks” where everyone can stand up and stretch, or even run in place. Be the group’s choreographer/yoga instructor and lead them through a five-minute routine to release pent-up energy and refresh minds for further learning.
Take Responsibility for Holding Class Interest
Many teachers would get seriously antsy themselves if they had a teacher like themselves, and rather than admit it, they scold students for staring out the window. No curriculum is so dull it can’t be jazzed up by visual aids, anecdotes, and a little emotion in your voice. If you’re at a loss for ideas, ask the kids to help you out: young imaginations often come up with the most innovative approaches. (Some students may teach you a few things about the topic. If your astronomy class includes a child of professional astronomers who could write his own book on the planets, you might honor him with a “Teacher for the Day” appointment and have him or his parents make a special presentation.)
Kids, like adults, live up or down to your expectations. The more you give them credit for meaning well, the more they’ll sense it and want to please you. As a bonus, positive expectations will help you enjoy class more yourself—for better student behavior and many other reasons!