"I am Not Here to Make Friends"
You are a teacher. Wait, I’m sorry. You are also a counselor, mama/daddy, nurse, confidant, secretary... the list goes on. The point is, you already have a ton on your plate and no time to eat it all. Literally.
Therefore, for the sake of your sanity, you must set expectations. Will there be students who don’t agree and think that you’re being unfair? Yep. Will it take some time, persistence, and patience on your part? Absolutely. But, guess what? You are not there to make friends. Even better, just about everything within the four walls of your classroom belong to YOU.
Now, I know this may sound harsh and probably goes against the grain a bit, but I think you get the point. Your ability to take charge of your classroom affects the social and academic success of your students. So, don’t freely give that authority away.
While there are many, below are 6 practical tips to assist you in managing your classroom:
1. Set your expectations on DAY ONE.
I highly doubt that I am the only [elementary] teacher with an administrator who makes things very clear about “first day” expectations:
1.Get them fed. 2.Be sure that you know how each of them is getting home.
Check and check.
The third thing on my checklist is to set the expectations. After a few Icebreakers and team-building activities, it is time for a “Family Meeting.” My students are gathered together and a PowerPoint presentation is displayed so that they not only hear, but visually see our classroom expectations. These are presented in a very serious tone to ensure that the students understand the importance of these expectations.
2. Be sure that your expectations are clear, concise, and promote
Whether you teach Kindergarten or 12th grade, I believe that this still applies and significantly impact a classroom environment. Do you think any student wants to sit through an hour long lecture of what they better not even think about doing in your classroom? Nope. And, to be honest, you wouldn’t either. Hit the high points in a list of 5-7 expectations. Then, provide the students with an exercise or small group activity to engage them and to drive home those clear and concise expectations.
3. Follow through.
This step is probably the most important when trying to set a tone that will last an entire school year. This is why I suggest that you don’t go overboard with the list of expectations. When students have trouble meeting your expectations, address them and use these as teaching moments. No, this does not mean that you have to do so in a way that will humiliate the student. Instead, you can address your concerns one-on-one, and then let them know that you will be reviewing this expectation with the whole class, just to be sure that you are all on the same page.
4. Don’t let up too early.
Just about every teacher wants their students to feel welcome in the classroom and for their classroom to be a place where students can have fun while learning. This is great. However, a level of respect has to be established in your “house”. If the fun and games begin before the expectations do, you are bound to run into power
struggles. There is not a set time frame for establishing the foundations of your classroom, so use your best judgement. If it is evident that you have a rowdy bunch, spend a couple of extra days reviewing and practicing the expectations until you are confident that your scholars are picking up what you’re putting down.
5. “And that goes for everybody.”
Fair does not always mean equal; especially in the world of education. However, we have to teeter carefully on the line of fair and equal when establishing expectations in our classrooms. Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit to be. If you play favorites and allow some to “get away with murder”, the others will notice. This will certainly taint your classroom climate and could result in a rolling snowball of behavioral issues. Personally, I introduce the meaning of the word GRACE. While my students know that I hold them to a high caliber, they also know that I do not expect perfection. They will mess up; I will mess up, and there is grace for that. Tomorrow is a new day, and the slate will be wiped clean.
6. Develop genuine relationships.
I am a firm believer in the quote, “A student does not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The fact is, we are completely outnumbered by our students. [You are probably vigorously shaking your head in agreement if you teach middle or high school.] It is nearly impossible to know the intricate moments of each of our students’ lives; however, it isn’t impossible to express your genuine sentiments, not only for their academic success, but for their well-being, for their families.
I made this a priority by establishing a routine at the beginning of each school year. This included greeting each of my students as they entered the classroom, asking about the previous night/weekend, and having brief “Family Meetings” each morning. I also created a space in my classroom for students to leave a note about absolutely anything that they needed to talk about privately. I even left sticky notes on my desk to remind myself to read these notes. Do whatever you need to do to let your students know that they are valued.
Each of these practical tips have been useful to me and have contributed to my success with establishing expectations and building relationships with my students. My hope and prayer is that they will do the same for you.
Blog Post By: Bria Jackson
Instagram Handle: @tiredteachertales
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