Would You Want Your Child In This Exquisitely-Managed Classroom?


The First Day Of School In A 9th Grade Classroom That Runs Like Clockwork: A Video Of Classroom Management

We don’t talk much about classroom management here at TeachThought. (Well, sometimes we do.)

First and foremost, our mission is to both think about and enable better ways of learning in highly-connected, 21st century society: critical thinking, principles of mobile learning, self-directed learning, the role of play in learning, and so on. Which means stuff like organization tips, bulletin board ideas, and classroom management strategies aren’t often at the core of our content.

But I recently stumbled across the following video on YouTube, and was strangely mesmerized. In lieu of its length, I sat and watched 35 minutes straight, and tried to do so from a variety of perspectives: teacher, parent, administrator, “change agent,” and education dreamer.

The teacher–a well-dressed male in his mid-to-late 20s–is filmed during the first day of school–presumably to model “best practices” in classroom procedures, interaction with students, and general classroom workflow and management.

It’s the first day of school, and the teacher greets the students at the door with very specific instructions, and clearly states his “expectation” for both action (sit here and do this) and behavior (do not speak under any circumstances). Students wait patiently in line, listen intently to his instructions, and do exactly as they’re told.

They have a safe learning environment, clearly stated expectations, are spoken to respectfully and with positive presuppositions (“I know we’re all here for the right reasons.”), and are given feedback for their levels of compliance (“3rd period, you are constantly meeting my expectations for behavior. Thank you.”)

It’s hard to make an accurate evaluation of this classroom simply by watching the first (or the second) day of school. It’s entirely possible that six weeks into the school year, the classroom explodes to life in a frenzy characterized by curiosity, deep thinking, creativity, and technology. So rather than browbeat or defend, I thought it might make more sense to hear your thoughts:

What do you notice in the video?

Judging by the walls, the teacher’s comments, and other tidbits you pick up, what seem to be the priorities in the classroom?

How do the students react to the efficient and extremely clear instructions?

How do positive presuppositions impact his general tone with the students?

Is this a classroom of the past, or the future?

What’s the lesson here?

If you have children of your own, would you want your son or daughter in this classroom? If so, why? And if not, why not?

A classroom management video


  • gee… wish I had ~20 kids per class… I’d have all the time in the world to meticulously go over procedures also!
    btw… I don’t think I’d want my child in this classroom… she’s too much of a kinesthestic type to sit that long while teacher does all the talking…

  • Wow! Great classroom management. To answer some of your questions, I believe his main objective is respect. He says his expectations, he brags on things they are doing right, he talks with students (quietly in private) when they didn’t follow expectations, and he says please and thank you all the time! I do think this is a video worth watching because even if you only take one of his actions to your classroom, it will be better!

  • I noticed the class is very structured to the point of how to hold your paper. By the comments and what I see the priorities of the classroom are to determine procedures first day, it is hard to judge the efficient clear instructions because it is the first day. I have no idea how the students feel about his positive presuppositions I am not them. This classroom is set in the past, the future would be personalized learning not learning of robots.

    The lesson of the lesson I am not sure of, is the video worth watching…. no, maybe for one person. I would not put my son or daughter in this classroom, personally it is not engaging enough, but just like you said it is only the first day.

  • As a PBL facilitator, I have many students who could not learn in such a teacher focused environment. There are some learners who would benefit from it. Part of what makes my school so successful is having multiple environments for students. If a student struggles in PBL we still have traditional environments.

  • He is calm, clear and consistent. All good things. Perhaps this is a procedural set up for the wild and crazy learning that will happen in the coming months. Or perhaps this is a reflection of the school culture and expectations. I don’t know.

    What I noticed that concerned me:

    The number of times he said silence, silently, me, I or myself.

    “i’m good at making you smarter.”

    “I am better than you.”

    Is this a good video to watch?
    Sure as a starting point for discussion coupled with another video that is a contrast to his style.

  • I immediately identified this as a charter school approach. I did some digging and this particular teacher taught in this class for 1 year. He is now a TFA manager. Even if this was a good approach, it doesn’t matter, he no longer teaches. TFA is a shame.

  • I think I would need to see him mid-year and end of year to make a true judgement. Some of the things he does I like others I really don’t like. He thinks way too highly of himself and is modeling arrogance. I also think he is a control freak and if I was a student I would be afraid of him!

  • I noticed many strategies worth emulating. He praised the class repeatedly. Was it manipulative? Who cares. I manipulate daily, be it a smile, a kind word, a hushed whisper; whatever it takes to keep the students with me and willing to return the next day.

    The teacher gave explicit directions. He gave a directive on what to do when finished and waiting – excellent way to keep students on task. He taught students to respond to a clapping quiet signal. Did you notice that ALL of the students participated?

    I noticed that although the class was regularly directed to be silent, the teacher also gave students time to talk. His timing was spot-on – 10 seconds to think, 20 or 30 seconds to share-out. Clap, clap, clap.

    The teacher also used methods he will repeat once the class forges into curriculum. The use of the KWL chart for students to reflect on what they know about the teacher was structured. He filled in blanks for students by providing extra background information. I heard him tell the students what they could possibly write as well as what they possibly learned about him already… basically setting the class up for complete success, no matter which student was called on for an answer (although he did not do this). I saw this session as a lesson on routines.

    The class settled in quietly, and the teacher was setting up all the rules, behavior, social, and academic expectations. My guess is, due to the teacher’s clapping and “dancing” and talk about skating and other sports – this is his manner of connecting individually to his students. I have no doubt they will respond to him, and they will be able to cover two to three times (if not more) as much as a class without such interaction.

  • I was intrigued by his style–certainly not mine but much that I could learn from him. I think he would very much appeal to some of the students with his first day strategies and would leave others deeply skeptical. That would be ok if he delivers on his promise–to really read the survey and letters to him about each student, pays attention to making this the most exciting engagement with literature and writing, and helps them to not only meet his expectations but also helps them establish their own. I see much potential in where he is going…the details of how he is getting there will shift once he moves into content, I predict. I would surely be happy for my grandchildren to be in his class–at least so far!

    • So great to hear from you Bena!

      I have really struggled with this video. I’m not sure I’ve seen a more clear, efficient, or structured classroom. But it bothers me endlessly somehow.

      Every student–and every student demographic–is unique. What works effectively in one school may not be ideal for another, so it’s really difficult to label something as “good” or “bad”–or even, at times, “best practice.”

      But somehow I can’t reconcile this video–first day of school or not–with a curiosity-driven, data-rich, complex and self-directed classroom that’s focused on deep understanding of self and content. From this very small sample size, it seems like an extraordinary example of a late 1990s classroom. I’ve also worked in schools where this would be a monumental leap forward, so in that context, it’s tremendous.

      But I can’t see this kind of classroom leading learning anywhere. I’ll keep watching it and related videos and continue mulling it over though. Have a hunch I haven’t quite finished my thinking here, which is why I haven’t written more about it.

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