A week or so ago, I was having a conversation with Lynsay Fabio, the main author on our Classroom Management Course. If you're unfamiliar with it, the CMC is (we think) the straightest, quickest path to understanding and practicing the fundamentals of managing student behavior. And one of the reasons we're confident in its quality is that we developed it in our classrooms while applying ideas from some of the best minds and organizations in the field of classroom group behavior.
Now, a percentage of teachers, when they see the term “classroom management” or the phrase “managing behavior,” wrinkle their noses and they think, “Ugh… how Cro-magnon! Who are we to think that it's our job to manage student behavior? Why must our schools be places of behavior management? Where is the joy and the love and the warmth, for goodness' sake?” And I agree — I don't love the word management either. Stewardship seems better. But if we made a course on something like Classroom Stewardship, guess what? No one would know what we mean. 🙂
Listen: understanding how group behavior works and how to shape it toward productive ends isn't crude or brutish or coercive. It's the difference between hating your job as a teacher and loving it; it turns frustration into flourishing. While there are certainly inhumane ways to manage group behavior, there are also beautiful ones that mix authority with warmth.
Often times, those of us who turn up our noses at the thought of classroom management do so from a privileged position: we've intuited our way to classroom management that's good enough to keep us from going crazy. Or perhaps we've settled on the fact that unruliness in the room is a constant that great teachers learn to dance amidst with aplomb. Or maybe we think, “Every classroom is different, and so every teacher has to find their own way to steward the room.”
Lynsay and I do not share these perspectives.
First, we know the pain of having a class that you just can't seem to manage; we know the feeling you get in your guts when you hear the voices of a group you don't know how to handle approaching your classroom door. I can still picture the card table that stood in my apartment's kitchen during my first year of teaching. I would sit down at that table some nights and literally pray through my class rosters, covered with the highlighted names of children I couldn't seem to get to listen to me. Difficulties with classroom management discolor your experience of teaching like few other things can.
Second, Lynsay and I have experienced the truth that while classroom management is complex, it is not infinitely so. One can actually study and master it. There are ways of using your body and your voice that draw human attention, and every human can understand and physically practice these things until they become automatic. There are plans for stewarding group behavior that you and I can create, introduce, and carry out. We've found that there are principles and strategies that are effective and transferrable to managing groups of all age levels. (See the video below for an example.) In short, we don't believe it's as hopeless as, “Every class is different, and so you're on your own to figure out what works in yours.”
And finally, we've learned that just because so many of us enter the profession not having this knowledge or its attendant skills, that doesn't mean great, coherent thinking on the matter exists. Like almost everything I write about and use in my classroom, I did not invent most of what's in the Classroom Management Course. Neither did Lynsay. We spent years learning from the best thinkers we could find, and we've synthesized all of those sources into something simple and robust. (And for the eager learners, we cite and link to all those sources as “Dig Deeper” resources throughout the course.)
But does classroom management really matter if we're back to remote teaching next year?
I've been thinking about this a fair amount recently as this post has rolled its way around inside of me. I never want to recommend a professional development that I think is going to waste someone's time. And if we end up teaching remotely in a few months, it seems smart to ask: Will classroom management really matter?
While pondering this, I went back through and watched a few of the videos in the course. I watched videos like this one, where Lynsay explains the concept of “authoritative presence” and then invites us to stand up and practice it.
And shortly after that, I went and made a brief instructional video for one of my classes. I found myself thinking afresh about my body, my voice, and my choice of words. Does authoritative presence matter when we're teaching students remotely? Yes.
I zoomed out and considered the course components and themes: things like methodically teaching high-volume procedures, or infusing an authoritative presence with warmth, or mastering the moves that preempt student misbehaviors.
Yes, I concluded. These skills still matter. This knowledge will still help.
So if you're interested in solidifying your classroom stewardship game, check out the course. You can let Lynsay and I know if you have any questions or concerns — just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to get your school to fund your enrollment, please contact us (email@example.com) and let us know a discount level that would make the course affordable. We would love to help.
Now enjoy the weekend. 🙂