By Teachers, For Teachers
We can never take the teacher’s role or extent of impact for granted. While we presume teachers will use classroom management to instruct students on core content and skills, there are other subtler lessons a teacher may be teaching. A lot of what children learn is “Caught rather than taught,” and it’s caught by watching the adults in their life day in and day out. So teachers must ask themselves, “What are the lessons, skills, and characteristics I’m implicitly demonstrating to my students each day?” In addition to what students are learning from their textbooks and what is being assessed for their report cards, students will come away from your class having “Watched” you for an entire year. What will they see? Here are a few simple, passive classroom management ways you can role model some positive characteristics without taking additional planning or instructional time.
OK, so it doesn’t literally have to be in your hand every second, but show students that you are a consistent reader. A reader of what? Of anything! You don’t have to call attention to it every day, but make it a habit to carry what you’re reading around with you. Have it on your desk or display an updated “Currently reading” poster. Read it while students are doing their own reading. Students will see that reading is not just something you tell them to do because you’re a teacher; rather, it’s a habit you personally possess.
I remember I had a science teacher who was telling us about some research he had done over the weekend and was showing us the results. We whispered to each other, “You mean he’s actually interested in this stuff?” It wasn’t said derisively; we were legitimately surprised that our science teacher did, you know, science stuff on his spare time.
Authentic enthusiasm is contagious. When teachers actually enjoy what they’re sharing with students, students pick up on that energy and emulate it themselves. Demonstrate for your students what you love about the different subjects or topics you’re covering. Show them that you’re excited about it not just as a teacher, but as a person. Keep up-to-date on new research and current events related to your topics, and share what you’re continually learning with your students!
You may be the one professional that a student will consistently interact with – show them what it looks like to be a professional. How does one speak and act when engaging with others? Whether you’re speaking with students or colleagues, demonstrate polite and articulate communication skills. You don’t have to sound overly sophisticated or formal, just be yourself. Students will pick up on how you interact with others and have exemplified for them what it means to communicate in a consistently kind, professional manner.
Want your students to be more interested and involved in their school and community? Then you should show an interest in your school and community! Talk about different clubs or events taking place at your school, or bring up broader community opportunities that your students might have a chance to witness. When students see that you, their teacher, pays attention to and participates in what’s going on outside the classroom, they will be much more likely to do the same.
We expect our students to be responsible – they should do their homework on time and complete tasks appropriately during school hours. But do they see this from you? One easy trap to fall into is to pass our own deadlines, drag our feet on certain tasks we have for students, or make excuses for not having something done that we wanted to. Yes, we are busier as teachers than most people realize, but our daily timeliness and preparation shows to students “That’s how we do things.” It is easy for students to observe at our daily example and pick up on this level of responsibility!
We don’t have to pretend like we have it all together as teachers. We definitely have a lot going for us, but it pays to be open to feedback from students and colleagues alike. Show students that you are a good listener and open to their honest, polite feedback. After all, we expect students to take our feedback on their work and behaviors, so demonstrate to them how one should seek feedback and how one should process and respond to it once it’s given.
It is so easy to get stuck in our comfortable patterns. Much of our profession relies on taking what worked previous years and doing it over and over. There’s nothing implicitly wrong with this, but it is worth it to try new things both in our classrooms and beyond. And it’s worth it being open with students about it along the way. Part of students’ education is trying new skills and learning content, and just like we wouldn’t expect them to ace everything new thing along the way, so too can we demonstrate to students this process as adults. Tell students what you’re working on that’s new, and be honest with how it’s going and what your next steps are!
Every day, every conversation, is an opportunity to have an impact on students in a way that transcends the core learning standards and objectives of your class. While the content and skills should remain at the core, we have to keep in our sights the fact that even our most casual behaviors can have a lasting impact on our students. They are watching us each and every day, and they are likely to capture what they see us do and begin to emulate it themselves, often without realizing it. Let’s commit to being cognizant of all our behaviors and leveraging our interactions to have the most positive impact on students as possible.
What do you think about the list above? What classroom management items would you add to it? Tell us what you think in the comments below!
Jordan Catapano taught English for 12 years in a Chicago suburban high school, where he is now an Assistant Principal. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.