My grandson is experiencing a couple of firsts this year- he is in first grade with a teacher who’s teaching for the first time.
I imagine that the first year of teaching is filled with trials and triumphs. A whole list of, “I wish I would have done that differently.”
One message I would like to give my grandson’s new teacher is this: “Cut them a little slack. They are, after all, only seven years old.”
My grandson is very social. An inquisitive chlid who’s reading well above his grade level.
The fact that he and nearly all of the boys in his class are on a “contract” to be better classroom citizens tells me that it may not be the first graders, it be the teacher, her expectations, and her classroom management style.
Edutopia recently published a blog post by educator, Rebecca Alber who offers tips on classroom management for new teachers. Here are five wonderful suggestions for better managing classrooms:
#1) Use a normal, natural voice
Raising our voice to get students' attention is not the best approach, and the stress it causes and the vibe it puts in the room just isn't worth it. The students will mirror your voice level, so avoid using that semi-shouting voice.
#2) Speak only when students are quiet and ready
This golden nugget was given to me by a 20-year veteran my first year. She told me that I should just wait. And wait, and then wait some more until all students were quiet.
#3) Use hand signals and other non-verbal communication
Holding one hand in the air, and making eye contact with students is a great way to quiet the class and get their attention on you. It takes awhile for students to get used to this as a routine, but it works wonderfully. Have them raise their hand along with you until all are up. Then lower yours and talk.
With younger students, try clapping your hands three times and teaching the children to quickly clap back twice. This is a fun and active way to get their attention and all eyes on you.
#4) Address behavior issues quickly and wisely
Be sure to address an issue between you and a student or between two students as quickly as possible. Bad feelings -- on your part or the students -- can so quickly grow from molehills into mountains.
Now, for handling those conflicts wisely, you and the student should step away from the other students, just in the doorway of the classroom perhaps. Wait until after instruction if possible, avoiding interruption of the lesson. Ask naive questions such as, "How might I help you?" Don't accuse the child of anything. Act as if you do care, even if you have the opposite feeling at that moment. The student will usually become disarmed because she might be expecting you to be angry and confrontational.
And, if you must address bad behavior during your instruction, always take a positive approach. Say, "It looks like you have a question" rather than, "Why are you off task and talking?"
#5) Always have a well-designed, engaging lesson
This tip is most important of all. Perhaps you've heard the saying, if you don't have a plan for them, they'll have one for you. Always over plan. It's better to run out of time than to run short on a lesson.
I thank Rebecca, all earnest teachers everywhere, and my grandson’s first-year, first grade teacher for tackling a job most of us cannot or will not do. My hope is that you will continue to share your ideas and mentor each other. Our children, and we, cannot succeed with out you.