by Jennifer Rita Nichols
One of the biggest struggles facing new teachers is figuring out how to effectively manage a classroom.
This is very different from teaching–make no mistake about it! Most of us learn how to teach in our teacher education programs. We learn about the curriculum and standards that must be followed. We also learn about fun and interesting activities for different subjects and how to plan cross-curricular units to make the most out of the time we have in class.
While there may be a class or two where classroom management strategies are discussed, what is taught during those lessons focuses on strategies that can be applied rather easily in an ideal classroom.
Beyond the fact that most new teachers start with far less than an ideal classroom, these strategies are taught to them by teachers with years of experience–teachers who have already figured out the role of ‘classroom manager’. Those teachers know how to implement strategies effectively, and can recognize when a strategy is not effective and needs to be altered or changed entirely.
Eventually all teachers can figure out how to manage, but many don’t stick around long enough to work it all out. There is already a lot of stress involved with being a new teacher. Adding on the effort of having to figure out how to lead can be overwhelming.
While much can be gained from observing master educators, much can also be gained from learning more about business. There are courses for management in the business world that teach excellent strategies for teachers to apply in the classroom. While offices don’t send notes to parents if an employee misbehaves, they do many things worth incorporating into the realm of education!
Here are 8 things that teachers can learn from the business world, as they would be applied in a classroom. Specifically, these traits are from Google’s own highly effective managers 8 Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers.
1) Be a good coach.
Teachers need to be able to provide constructive feedback to students. Feedback cannot just focus on the negative and positive points of student work, but should offer suggestions for improvement – and offer the chance for improvement in cases where it can be permitted. Teachers should regularly meet with students on a one-to-one basis to discuss strengths and solutions to issues as they arise.
2) Empower your (classroom) and don’t micro manage.
A teacher needs to be able to balance giving freedom to students, while still providing guidance and support. Focus on the details that matter to a student’s learning, and step back on ones that don’t. Does that illustration have to be coloured, or does that sheet need to be completed first in order for the student to achieve success in the lesson? If not, then allow them the freedom to decide. Your goal is that they acquire the knowledge that they need and not that they complete work exactly as you would do it!
3) Express authentic interest in (students’) success and well-being.
A teacher needs to get to know their students a people. They have likes and passions, as well as dislikes and tempers. Students need to feel welcomed in the class – all of them, not just the well behaved ones! Some students are very difficult or have interests that greatly differ from their teacher’s. It is still important to show an interest in their lives. Now, it must be stressed that a teacher needs to maintain a professional and authoritative relationship with all of the students, but this can luckily be done in a friendly and approachable manner!
4) Be productive and results-oriented.
Keep the focus on what the ‘team’ of students needs to achieve. Set goals that they are aware of and ensure that classroom activities move the students towards those goals. Students love fun activities and games, but make sure that what is planned for them helps them to develop the skills that they need. Teachers are not tasked with just passing the day with students, but with educating them to specific standards.
5) Be a good communicator and listen to your (classroom).
Explain things clearly and in multiple ways. When a student does not understand, find new and creative ways to guide them to comprehension. Also, a teacher must be approachable. Students need to know that they can ask questions safely and that their concerns matter. Open a dialogue in class where all opinions are valued and listened to. Make sure to set rules for respect, as students can sometimes forget to think their words through before speaking them – but the open environment that is created will be very valuable to the teacher’s success in managing the classroom. Just like with employees, students are happier when they know their thoughts matter.
6) Help your (students) with (human) development.
Help students learn how to create goals for themselves. Not just short-term goals, but ones that may take a while to achieve. Then, guide them towards strategies and resources that can help them work towards accomplishing those goals. If they need extra practice – provide it! These academic goals will one day translate to each student’s ability to set career and personal goals.
7) Have a clear vision and strategies for the (students).
Having clear expectations and strategies that are shared and discussed with students can help to keep things running as smoothly a possible when something goes wrong. All students should know exactly what behaviour is expected of them, as well as have a clear understanding of class rules and consequences for misbehaviours. Consistency is key! Teachers should only alter rules and procedures when really needed. Frequent change can often lead students to believe that the rules are not as important as they should be – or even lead them to forget what is ‘currently’ expected from them.
8) Have key technical skills, so you can help advise the (classroom).
A teacher needs to understand the work being given. Not only that, but a teacher must also understand and anticipate the challenges that students will face when completing the assigned tasks. Then, once those challenges arise, a teacher needs to be able to work with their students to overcome the obstacles that they face. Sometimes a teacher will encounter a missing (yet vital) skill. Other times it may be as simple as a program not working the way that it ‘should’ and needing to troubleshoot. Either way, teachers need to be ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work with their students!
Image attribution flickr user leaflanguages