InClass

Kicking off your first year as a teacher comes with many nerves and challenges that can feel overwhelming. The last thing you need is to feel stressed out by navigating how to manage your classroom. To help, we put together this handy guide to get you — and your classroom — started out on the right foot.

Jul 31, 2022

Of the many challenging aspects of being a teacher, classroom management wins the top prize. It’s easily the biggest hurdle beginning teachers face, and it remains high on the priority list even for those of us who do have classroom experience.

Working together with your students and building a community will set the tone that all voices are respected and honored in your learning space. In order to create this community, it is vital to establish a few basic classroom commitments that can impact the learning experiences and outcomes for the year.

Here are easy-to-implement management tips that will set you up for the best possible first year as a teacher.

Consider Your Unique Traits

There’s a saying that teachers shouldn’t smile at their students until January. Imagine walking into a store where the employees did not greet you with a smile! That’s ridiculous! Part of teaching is bringing your unique self to the learning, so if you love to smile, share that from day one!

Consider how you can be personal and relatable while also establishing professional boundaries. Caring, supportive, and respectful relationships do not always equal friendships. In order to create a culture of curiosity and respect, be curious about your learners and let them get to know you. This doesn’t mean oversharing about your personal life, but it does mean letting them see that you are human with hobbies and interests, just like them. This might take a few years to figure out what feels comfortable for you, but focusing on it early gives you a head start.

Show Students You’re Interested in Them as Individuals

When students have a strong personal connection with their teacher, they will be excited to add positive contributions to the learning environment. It is truly heartwarming and often translates to student outcomes that far exceed both their own and their family’s expectations of them.

That makes it your job to build those relationships as quickly as possible. Memorize their names (and correct pronunciations) before the first week is over. Write them a welcome letter and ask that they do the same, which will help you to gain insights into their hopes and fears about the upcoming year. Greet them individually at the door so they feel singled out and special. Be sure to intentionally plan time to have a small, informal conversation with each student before the first weekend, and plan for frequent check-ins about how your students learn best and how you can support them.

Pick 2-3 Routines and Stick to Them

Maintaining routines means teaching them and reteaching them many times over. If you ditch the ‘my way or the highway’ mindset, students will begin to understand that they can learn and grow from their mistakes. Modeling this by acknowledging and apologizing for your own mistakes will humanize this learning process.

There might be some non-negotiable routines and expectations set by your school or district, but involving your students in setting other routines and expectations that will impact their learning environment gives students a sense of ownership. Talking through what each expectation looks like and sounds like will give students clarity and sets them up for success. Brainstorm a list of routines and expectations that will help them be successful, and then decide on two or three — for example, cellphone policy, lining up at the door, bathroom policy, transition time, etc. — that you agree to focus on in the first month. Just like we don’t expect students to learn to read in a day, we can’t expect them to master a routine or expectation the first time. Be intentional and remind them what the agreements were when choosing each routine. 

If a student is struggling with a routine, escalating the situation by raising your voice or speaking down to them won’t foster a collaborative environment. Instead, calmly and quietly ask them if you can schedule a time to speak with them one-on-one to develop a plan on how you can support them so they are successful. Setting a respectful tone lets the student know you honor them and are willing to dedicate the time needed to help them master this routine. End the meeting by thanking the student and giving them an action plan that includes both of your commitments. 

Build Your Support System

Be sure to lean on those who are there to support you. Your fellow teachers, coaches, and administrators are rooting for you to have a successful year and want to support you in developing and sticking to your classroom management plan.

Ask them for feedback and support when things don’t seem to be going the way you want them to, and offer yourself some grace. The teaching profession is a practice, and classroom management takes a lot of practice to establish!  And check out the Arizona K12 Center’s new teacher support offerings, which will facilitate professional growth and provide you with critical support through your first year of teaching!

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