The challenge of classroom management

January 11, 2014

In the first part of this series, we examined three different pathways to teaching. Today, we look at one of the biggest challenges for any new teacher: classroom management.

One veteran of Teach for America (TFA), now in his third year of teaching at a D.C. charter school with a high-poverty population, says that what’s needed for effective classroom management is hours and hours of practice.

Greg (a pseudonym) recommends that training include standing before a “class” of adults pretending to be misbehaving students. When the “students” call out without raising their hands, for example, the teacher-in-training has to dole out a “consequence,” every single time.

“In the classroom things are happening all at once,” Greg says. With so much coming at you, you’re liable to let infractions pass. But, he says, you have to impose some sanction every time a student breaks a rule, or “it goes out of control.” And for a new teacher to be able to do that, it has to become automatic.

Greg didn’t get that kind of training from TFA, which sends its recruits to a summer boot camp before they start teaching, and he says he struggled with classroom management for his first two years.

Even classroom management in a school that doesn’t have a high proportion of low-income kids can be tough. Kylie Hiemstra is a first-year teacher at John Eaton Elementary School in Cleveland Park, on her own with a class of first-graders. Only 18% of the school’s students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced meals, as compared to 99 or 100% at some DCPS schools.

Still, Hiemstra, a recent graduate of the College of William and Mary with a degree in elementary education, says that classroom management “is the most difficult thing.” She had what she describes as a “really awesome” 10-week student teaching experience as part of her undergraduate training, and she’s found it tremendously helpful to observe other teachers at Eaton. But she says she wishes her course on classroom managementwhich met once a week for 5 weekshad been longer.

During her first weeks, she recalls thinking, “I don’t know how to make 26 of you do what I want you to do!”

[Continue reading Natalie Wexler’s post at Greater Greater Education.]

Natalie Wexler is the editor of Greater Greater Education. She is a member of the boards of D.C. Scholars Public Charter School and the nonprofit One World Education. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

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