Classroom Management and Discipline in the Classroom This marks my thirteenth week as a new
This marks my thirteenth week as a new teacher of sixth and seventh grade students, ages eleven to thirteen. I teach history and my class sizes range from twenty-three to twenty-seven, with a total of one hundred and fifty students throughout the day. As one can imagine, classroom management and discipline are extremely important with groups this size and with children in general. In an effort to improve the effectiveness of my current teaching position and to set the tone for my future ESL/EFL classrooms, I consulted the Phi Delta Kappan, an excellent resource for teachers both beginning their careers and those who are seasoned veterans in the field.
Metzger, Margaret (2002). Classroom Management: Learning to Discipline. Phi Delta Kappan 84, 77-84.
Metzger is a life-long English teacher at Brookline High School in Massachusetts and co-teaches a methods course at Harvard University.
As a new teacher, I can relate to everything Margaret Metzger discusses in her letter to novice teachers. The thirteenth week of the school year comes to a close Friday, and I find myself wondering how effective my classroom management is. Her suggestion of writing down the things that you yourself disliked about discipline as student is worth the time. Looking back to my middle school years, I think a lot of discipline issues surfaced as a result of students being under-motivated and feeling like they lacked ownership in their education. There are always the many, many outside influences to take into account as well. Metzger mentions that during one of her most trying teaching years she finally figured out that several students had parents going through divorces, and their resulting anger was brought into the classroom, making her feel she was doing something wrong.
It is important to realize, as the author notes, that one does not master discipline and classroom management in the first school year of teaching. Personally, I am overcoming my need to have quiet and order, allowing students to work in pairs to complete an art and research project that turns the classroom upside down each day for the next week. It seems to be a refreshing departure from tests and bookwork for the students and is actually quite liberating for me as well. Finding ways to make the classroom more lively and interactive benefit any type of teaching assignment. Games and role-playing are becoming favorites of my learners. Metzger's discussion on what constitutes a good or bad day was also useful, in that most of us teachers tend to be hard on ourselves if things do not go according to OUR plan. Some of the best learning happens when spontaneity takes over and there is a bit of noise and excitement in the classroom. Knee-jerk anger as a form of discipline seldom works, and if it does, it is only temporary, and you run the risk of turning students off completely to learning. However, as Metzger explains you need to 'insist on the right to sanity.' Making rules and procedures for your classes should address your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. If tardiness does not truly bother you, then do not harp on students being late and punish them for it. Pick the most crucial rules for you as a teacher to make the most of your class time. Solving the problems that occur over and over and you will eliminate a good portion of time wasted on discipline.
Metzger distributes a memo to her classes at the beginning of the year listing her thoughts on classroom management. For any type of classroom, EFL/ESL included, her list would be especially useful for non-adult students. Number twenty-four on her list emphasizes something that young learners need to hear and understand now. It reads, 'You are not in class for your parents or for your grades. You are here to become an educated person. Your attitude toward education will transform when you understand that you are doing this for yourself.'