I met with my two supervising administrators last week to conference about how my semester is going. The meeting went well and they were complimentary about my improvements in classroom management. (They said I looked more “comfortable” this year compared to last year. Which I think is true.)
But this is still an area I need to grow in even though I have made progress.
I was thinking about what changes I was going to make from this semester to next semester since I will get all new classes and a fresh start. (Which honestly has been really nice and has helped my growth as a teacher. Four attempts at starting a class in the first two years of teaching instead of just two attempts has really been great.)
While I was thinking about this I realized that part of the reason I have been frustrated with myself when it comes to classroom management is that I had a belief that once I get it right, once I find the perfect rules, I will never have problems in class. That if I was just a little more consistent and found the exact right rules and expectations and norms, then I would always have good classes.
Which is, of course, wrong.
And I have finally realized that was a rookie mistake. Certainly some rules, expectations, and norms are going to create better and smoother classrooms where more learning will happen than for other rules, but there will always be difficulties. And yes, I am going to get better, and classes will get better. But I’m not going to find the perfect blend that always works.
Classroom misbehaviors are always going to happen. I just need to expect them to happen and know how to respond when they do.
One of my big frustrations the past year and ahalf has been teaching classes where disruptions or misbehavior happen and me wanting to finally have classes where they don’t, but that isn’t the reality of teaching. It doesn’t matter what classes you have. When my administrators said I looked more comfortable, I think part of that comfort was accepting the reality of teaching high schoolers and what they looks like and how I respond when they misbehave.
I had the following conversation with students today:
Student 1: What does WD-40 smell like?
Me: *coming up to check her worksheet*: It smells kinda oily.
Student 1 and 2: *exuberant laughter*
Me: What’s so funny?
Student 1: You just answered so calm and so fast.
Student 3: Mr. Belcher always calm. I want to see him fall down.
Me: What? Why do you want to see me trip and fall?
Student 3: Because you’re so calm all the time. Like if most people fall down they would be like “AHHHH” but I bet you would just like get up and say, “Alright y’all, let’s do some math.”
Me, Student 1, and Student 2: *laughing*
No one was misbehaving there (well, maybe they were a little off task before I walked up) but I found that conversation encouraging because Student 3 actually had me last year during my first year and he still considered me to be a calm person. I am glad that I have created a perception among the students that my responses to them are calm. Yeah, I’ve lost my cool this year before, but it has only been a few times.
I’m going to keep working on improving how I enforce classroom rules, communicate expectations, and build norms with my students, but I know that ultimately this will never completely eliminate the problem. I have to expect misbehavior and be prepared to respond to it.
I’m not good at it yet, but I am working on it.
Thanks for reading.