Proactive Classroom Management


Understanding classroom management is a prerequisite to becoming a great educator. As a beginning pilot needs skills to fly, so do beginning teachers need skills to get their careers off the ground. When educators create a community of learners who are self-managers, teachers and students both benefit. A well-managed classroom nurtures learning. Like a pilot knowing his instrument control panel teachers must understand the principles and procedures that make a classroom run smoothly.

In part one of this issue, the importance of bonding and connecting and the need for procedures and routines were presented.

This videotape, part two, explains the need for using proactive classroom management, including the teaching of social and emotional behaviors, active student involvement, addressing misbehavior, and using the law of least intervention.

Proactive classroom management provides a structure for new teachers who are winning students over, not winning over them. Proactive classroom management is anticipating problems or interruptions before they occur and finding ways to eliminate or lessen their impact on learning.

Dr. Carol Cummings is a renowned leader in teacher education. She conducts workshops world-wide on classroom management.

“What can I do,” she asks an audience full of educators, “to prevent that from happening or at least minimize it's impact in the classroom? Is it harder to stop misbehavior while it's happening or is it better to prevent it from happening in the first place?"

“First place,” replies an audience member.

“See that's what proactive is,” Dr. Cummings says. “The reactive teacher tries to stop it while it's happening and sometimes it just escalates and has a ripple effect and you don't want that.”

Where possible, mentor teachers assist new teachers. Beginning teachers gain confidence through their experience, get ideas for teaching in their own classrooms, and are less likely to get discouraged.

Mentor 1st through 3rd grade teacher Lisa Campbell works with intern teachers at Vine Elementary School in Cincinnati.

“We decided on everything,” says Carmie Terry of Campbell. “She told us, you know, exactly what we needed to think about and gave lots of suggestions.”

“Just having somebody else there with you every single day to, you know, ask questions, give suggestions, give feedback, give examples of lessons, and so I think that's been a big help in the first year,” adds Jennifer Sabitelli.

“My biggest concern is our new teachers get off on the wrong foot,” says Carol Cummings. “And it's so hard to back track.”

With this concern, Dr. Cummings offers suggestions to mentors or those who will help new teachers.

“If you can say let's brain storm some of the things that typically happen at the Elementary, or typically happen at the Secondary, and look at some of the options that you might consider before they happen, you're giving your new teachers a chance to be pro-active,” she explains. “In many ways, being proactive is simply thinking of things in a different way, spinning a potentially negative situation into a positive one. It is a way of including students, instead of alienating them.”

“We want an invitational classroom,” Cummings continues. “I want an invitational classroom where they feel like they're part of it. In the process of developing expectations, educators do well to let the students take ownership. Personally I don't like the word rule. What does the word rule conjure up in your mind? It says, ‘I'm going to break it.’ You know today's generation of kids: ‘You can't make me, first amendment rights,’ or whatever.”

Lorna Dunsdon of Cedar Way elementary in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, demonstrates developing ownership in among students in her 3rd grade class.

“Number two, go,” she says to a group of students. “I choose to wait nice and quietly, where?

“At my desk,” the students answer in unison, “in a group, in line, and after a signal.”

“Gonna do that today?” Dunsdon asks her students.                                               

“Yes!” they reply.

“Ok! Again,” Dunsdon directs. “Number three. European. European. Let's get sophisticated. Ready? “

“I choose to behave in a manner that creates a positive learning environment,” the students repeat together.

“Are you going to do that today?” Dunsdon asks.                                  

“Yes!” say her students.

“Goodie, goodie, come on!” says Dunsdon. “Again!”

“Instead of having classroom rules,” Dunsdon explains to the camera, “we do affirmations, which is a positive way to set up a positive learning environment. I used to have the kids help me make them up. I feel really comfortable with these, so now we just discuss them.”

“One of my favorites that our teachers do are the 3 R's,” says Cummings. “They just simply call it the 3 R's. Rights, respect and responsibility.”

“That's our right,” says Melody Linton, 4th grade teacher at Hoover Street Elementary in Los Angeles, California, as she demonstrates the use of the 3 R’s in her classroom. “Students take ownership by recognizing their own rights and honoring the rights of others.”

“I have lots of rights in this classroom, don't I?” Cummings states. “What are your rights as a learner in this classroom? And the kids will say, well, I have a right to be listened to. I have a right not to have people mess with my stuff. I have a right not to be made fun of. Then I ask the kids after they develop what their rights are as a learner in the classroom, we go, ‘therefore what is your responsibility?’”

“If I have the right to be treated with respect,” says Cummings, “therefore I have the responsibility to treat others with respect. The three R's can be discussion for the first few days of school, rights, respect and responsibility.

Linton discusses rights with her 4th grade students on the first day of school.

“We're going to learn a lot about rights, respect, and responsibility in this class,” she explains. “We're gonna work together as a team the whole year. Who can tell me how you'd like to be treated this year? George?

“Nice,” George offers.

Nice, ok, for sure,” answers Linton. “I wanted to be treated nicely as well. Anybody else? How about Daniel?”

“Kind?,” Daniel says.

“Kind!” Linton responds. “I love that word. “Yes, most definitely. And that's our right. How about Jacquelyn?”

“Respect?” Jacquelyn says.

“You want to be treated with respect,” Linton affirms. “That's your right as a student in my class. You deserve to be treated with respect, and I promise you I will respect you. Ricardo?”                                                        

“I want to be treated with freedom,” says Ricardo.                                                                      

“With freedom! I love that!” Linton says.                                                                       

For administrators and teachers who want consequences clearly posted in the classroom, it is important to focus on the responsibility of respecting rights.

“I love the word responsibility,” Cummings explains. “You have ownership. Be ready to learn. Be safe and healthy. Be respectful of people and property. Now, if you make good choices, look at the consequences: you'll have self-pride, a good learning environment, rewards and privileges, but if you don't take responsibility you might have to have a gentle reminder, or you might have to write a plan or call home or to the principal.”

“Asking students to visualize what it means to have rights, respect and responsibility is helpful for any occasion throughout the year,” Cummings elaborates. “If they're going off on a field trip, if they're going off to the zoo, for instance they'll sit and have a class meeting and say, ‘what's it going to look like to show respect at the zoo?’ What's it going to look like to take responsibility?”

Teachers can also teach respect by example.

“One of the things that I try to do is respect the child,” says Lyn Hubbard, intervention teacher at Gamble Elementary in Cincinnati, Ohio. “I think that is the basis of all management. Respecting the child, trying to get to know the child, and engaging the child.”

Giving respect is essential for every educator. If students see it in action, they are more likely to show respect to others as well.

I congratulate them on their successes and I encourage them,” says Teresa Griffin, reading intervention teacher, at Gamble Elementary in Cincinnati, Ohio.