Classroom Management: First Things First

The first question the administration needs to ask itself is “why does classroom management matter to us?”  We can take a page from Simon Sinek and his book series including Start With Why (2009).  We need to know why we are going to address the behavior before we begin to tackle the classroom issues.  We often want to jump to the how we are going to do things and the what we are going to do before we have addressed the “why” question.

Each school is different and unique.  Each administrator has a reason for tackling the issue of improving classroom management with its teachers.  That reason may be a significant behavioral issue within the school.  There simply may be a desire to bring all teachers together with the same focus for classroom management.  Possibly, the goal is simply to improve school climate from good to great.  The first step is to identify why you are going to bring time, energy and resources to bear on classroom management.  Identifying you purpose for this will make it easier over time to remind your staff when you are discussing the how and why.

It is valuable to check your own beliefs, and that of the administrative team, about what the school values.  Undoubtedly, you have a discipline policy for the school that states some of these values and consequences for violating these rules.  But, what do you believe about the school climate?  Are there non-negotiables that the administration or school values and expects to be consistent across the school?  What about areas that you feel are not important to enforce?  Are these also identified?  Have you told your staff about the non-negotiables and how they are enforced?  What about the things you don’t feel are critical to the function of the school?  Those are as important to share with the staff.  I would strongly suggest that this is completed with a group of administrators and teachers for the best results.

Once you have set a baseline for expected behaviors, it is far easier to step into the teacher’s classroom to address specific behaviors, or general classroom management.  Not everything is critical in the school, but some things are.  Just like the teacher’s classroom.  Some teachers enjoy noisy teaching spaces while others expect near silence and both classes can be amazing and well managed.  Just like what the administrators’ value, teachers value different expectations class by class.  Your goal is to help teachers develop well managed classrooms that are highly effective, without your own personal biases impacting your decisions.

An administrator who can self-reflect and identify the why behind addressing classroom management issues within the school can clearly articulate this with the staff.  The removal of personal biases from the discipline and management process of the school, while difficult, is a key ingredient to moving forward.  The step helps to eliminate confusion among the teachers and the staff about key issues.  It also helps to clarify what is important for the staff and the students.  This process is not a simple one.  It is a lengthy reflective process that should be a key element in all important decisions in the school.  This is a valuable step in the process which will propel you forward to moving into the classroom with a clear sense of purpose and vision moving ahead.

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio.

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