Tag Archives: classroom management

school discipline is just not my thing

First, let me review my classroom management skills with you. I taught high school students for 21 years. All grade levels, all sizes, all personalities. I got them all in the elective classes that I taught. I believed that those classes should be so engaging and the students so involved that they didn’t have time nor inclination to get into trouble. I set up the room and the lessons to maximize classroom control. It worked most of the time, but there were occasional miscreants.

I handled those miscreants on my own. Occasionally I moved a belligerent student into another room or made them step outside, where I could still see them, while I continued with the class. When I got to a point where I could step away, then I lit into the kid with the bad behavior, pointing out what they did and what they should have done and were they ready to get back to work OR did I need to call home. My method worked better than 99 percent of the time. I seldom had to send a student to the office, but I did occasionally write up a conduct referral if I thought a good talking to from the vice principal or counselor would make a difference.

The last year I taught was one time I had to call the office for help. I had a kid show up in my advanced multimedia class and insist he was in my class now. Nope. Not on my roll. Go away. He refused to do so. Just sat himself down and would not leave. My students were busy with a website design so they didn’t have time to pay much attention to this character, but he was a little scary in that he continued to loudly insist I give him an assignment. I called the office to send help.

When the campus assistant (CA) showed up, he was rather sheepish. “Did you call for help?”

“Yes, I did,” pointing to the young man. “This kid is insisting he is in this class but he is not enrolled. Please take him away.”

The CA chuckled and got the kid on his feet and headed to the door. “I couldn’t believe it when I got the message that YOU needed someone. You never call for help.”

“Darn tootin. I don’t have time for such nonsense.”

Now fast forward to my days at Columbia Elementary. The office always has kids in there that teachers have sent to the office. I don’t get it. These kids are much smaller than those high school kids. What’s going on? Why can’t the teachers handle these kids? Things have changed, but that much? Who is in charge? Who is the grownup? What is going on in those rooms, curriculum-wise? What are the assignments that these students are trying to escape?

I sit with some of these miscreants and we talk. It all seems easy to me to handle, but I’m not the one in the classroom. I’m not the one whose back is up against the wall to produce higher test scores. I’m not the one who has to answer to parents. As I said in the title, school discipline is not my thing.

Addendum: Maybe teachers would have fewer problems if they had lessons like this one.

Some classroom management tips

I found that my blog had been linked to a site about classroom management. Thought I  would like to add a few points about classroom management as I seldom just list what I did in the classroom:


1. Be confident. Students know if you’re scared and they don’t want you to be scared. They want their teacher to be in charge.


2. Like what you are doing. Smile at the students. Chat with them. Ask them a few questions. Show them that you are glad to be there. Don’t let them hear you grumble.


3. Start on time, every time. Even teenagers don’t want their time wasted. I remember one time when the bell had rung and I was busy getting cameras out for my yearbook student to take, and my marketing students, who were my next class, got very upset that I wasn’t starting on time with them. They were used to my punctuality.


4. Don’t waste class time just talking to be talking. Students want to work (most of the time) and your lecture can get in the way. Students would often ask, “are you done so we can go to work?” when I would keep talking after giving them their task for the day.


5. Say goodbye to the class and wish them well as they go on to the next class. I always told my students to stay out of trouble and they liked that. Make them want to come back the next day and do good work for you.

6. Keep the classroom clean and tidy. Students, like you, don’t want to work in a mess and if you show them you care about the space in which they work, they will care too. This takes a lot of work, however, so be prepared to do it every day.

7. Get rid of troublemakers as soon as possible. Call the counselor, write up conduct referrals, call home, make notations on their records. Don’t let a bad apple jeopardize the learning in your room. The good kids will be so glad to have the bad kid gone. This too will take lots of work so be prepared.


Plan your work; work your plan–part 3 of the teacher story

My success as a teacher came from all that work I did before ever going into education. I had to be able to handle a multitude of projects and personalities on my previous jobs and that flowed into my teaching career. It was a matter of planning and assessing and readjusting, usually every day.

When my mother learned that I was returning to school to get my teaching credential, she was pleased and said I should have done that all along.

“No, sorry Mom, but I couldn’t have been a good teacher at 22.”

After dealing with hundreds of brokers and truck drivers every day, juggling the needs of the customers with the output of the plant, and making it all work, I knew I could do a good job in a classroom. Sure enough, with lots of planning, the classroom ran just about as efficiently as my previous workspace had done. It just changed every nine months.

Planning tools for all those years of teaching

I knew that I wanted to work in a tough school. I wanted to make a difference in kids’ lives so I picked a low-achieving high school in a poor part of town to do my student teaching. My supervisor was not pleased; he had asked me to take a position in the ultra conservative, ultra white school district across town. No, that was not where I was needed. Those kids would succeed with or without me.

He visited me twice during my student teaching and told me, after the second visit, he could not come back as the classes were too disruptive for him to be comfortable. Huh? They really weren’t. The students were well mannered and polite to me (I would see, later in my career, just how great these classes had been) but they did tend to act out with one another. They were noisy when entering or leaving the room, and I did break up a fight or two right outside my door.

I learned to monitor the classroom to make sure work was being accomplished and equipment treated properly. That method of classroom management continued for the next 21 years. My students were always on task, and if they weren’t, I knew it.

It took lots of planning to be successful

I had been successful in school and I wanted my students to be likewise. I had been successful on all of my jobs, doing my work well, and I wanted my students to do that when they went to work. I planned lessons that brought the real world into the classroom and I took students out into the world so they could see what work looked like. Always planning, always preparing, always assessing. It became my life.

Come back and the next time I’ll tell you how I ended up at the inner city school where I spent those 21 years. I will give you a hint: I never applied for the job.

Well, duh

Just read this at another spot about what veteran teachers wished they had known when they started.  This one jumped out at me:

Make classroom management your top priority (because you can’t teach and they won’t learn if you don’t have control of your classroom).

Another teacher hangs it up

Just read about another teacher, this time from New York City, who decided, after six years, that it was time to go.  Don’t know all the details as to what made her finally say, “enough.”  She lamented the lack of interest shown by her principal in her classroom.  Maybe, just maybe, she was doing so well that the principal never felt the need to check in on her.  Sometimes, you have to grab the principal and tell them to come by and see something amazing. Even then, they don’t always come.

Mrs. Zody won’t be in today

I substituted way back, 20 years ago, when I first got my teaching credential. I was young, smart, and had worked in industry before going into teaching so I could take on the world. Also, I think kids were a lot easier 20 years ago. Maybe not. 

Fast forward to 2009: I look for good substitutes for my department (and my own classes), and I usually look for young, high energy, smart people who can take on the world. I like to get a sub who will keep coming back to our department because we are certainly a different species in that we have computer labs that must be maintained. 

I prepare my students for a sub. I am very stern about how they are to treat the sub and how they are to do their assigned work or there will be hell to pay when I return. If the sub leaves a student’s name, I immediately call the parent, and if the violation was bad enough, I write a conduct referral.  My students know to behave, both with me and with subs. 

Because of that preparation, and the lesson plans I leave, I have subs wanting to come back to my classes; some will only sub for me and/or in my department as we are all pretty much on the same page. 

On the other hand, because I teach in a very difficult inner city high school, I have heard of subs who have said they will not return or they would never come in the first place. The school has a very bad reputation amongst subs.  The administration is finally realizing it needs to work on this reputation and help subs with unruly students.   

What do you do when you have to be out of the classroom?