What it’s like to be an elementary school teacher – Part 2

A National Board Certified Teacher explains what an educator’s life is really like. The series is a value-added collection of Best ClassAntics Posts EVER! Each post explains something about a teacher’s life and links to ClassAntics posts with relevant teaching tips.

Part Two: Classroom management: our daily struggle against the forces of chaos

Managing a classroom really is a constant fight against the forces of chaos. It takes just one little slip-up for everything to crumble. To prevent all but the most unpredictable problems, I create a million management systems.

Every single thing about our classroom and schedule was engineered by me, the teacher. Before the kids ever set foot in the classroom, I try to have the entire day thought out, the materials ready, organizational systems in place. Then we proceed through our day, following procedures for everything from turning in library books to distributing hand sanitizer.

For example, without a complicated pencil-management system, you have NO pencils when you need them. Kids sharpen pencils just any old time, interrupting lessons. Or kids hoard pencils. Or the pencils are just littering the floor. It’s a mess without…

Pencils, Part One: Managing Your Pencil Supply
Pencils, Part Two: Some Advice About Pencil Sharpening
Pencils, Part Three: The Pencil Drive

A classroom full of kids requires management systems just to keep everyone straight. First, we assign students numbers and use them to organize everything from paperwork to our class line.

Although kids have a designated place to be in line (based on their assigned number), there are still lots of ways for them to make mischief. Five tips for getting kids into line represents hard-earned knowledge on how to avoid the most embarrassing mishaps.

Teachers use student numbers to organize seatwork—but the system depends on kids putting their number on their paper. Heck, the kids need to remember to put their name. Do they? Of course not! The Name and Number Song helps, but the The No-Name Form “intervention” is necessary to deal with the 10-20% of students who constantly forget to label their papers despite having just sung the song.

Everyday decisions provide students with time to hem and haw, argue, jockey for position, and just generally make mischief. After several years of teaching, I learned to Offer a choice of two for pretty much everything.

How do teachers know which students understand the material and which need more help? Whiteboards help—they let kids work out the math problem, then hold up their answer. But whiteboards are expensive. Luckily, teachers learn things like how to make Cheap “whiteboards” for no-budget classrooms.

After a long day, the class might want to kick back with a simple art lesson. But how do you manage the kids who finish early and the ones who take forever? How do you give kids an opportunity to share their art without creating work for yourself in the form of decorating yet another bulletin board? Quick and Easy Classroom Art Gallery is a good system for accomplishing those goals. Such a simple idea—let kids display their work on the whiteboard as they finish—but I had been teaching for five years before another teacher taught me the trick.

Management systems help a lot, but nothing can save us when a bird dive-bombs our window, someone falls out of his chair, or a boy decides to take an impromptu poll of who the class thinks will win the Super Bowl. In each of those cases, the forces of chaos reigned for a while.

Fine by me! I may manage everything, but I wouldn’t want a school day to go by with out a few funny ClassAntics.


 

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